When I first moved to France and learned that when I got home from work, too tired to think about cooking, I couldn't simply scoot down to the local chinese takeaway joint and get chicken and cashews with fried rice and a sesame prawn toast, I realised that I had to do it myself. I'd always enjoyed cooking, but didn't really need to learn how to make a butter chicken when I could simply go down to the Curry Company and get a butter chicken with a side of rice and some garlic naan for less than $10 (or about 6 euros).
I missed all those marvellous sorts of foods that I could find in Melbourne - places usually not too far away, with a wide variety, of good quality, and really cheap (especially in comparison to Paris).
One might wonder why I didn't just stuff myself silly with crêpes and other wonderous French foods. Well, I did, but there's only so many crêpes you can eat, and when you're really feeling far away from everything that is familiar, nothing makes you feel better like food from home (hence my obsession with Tim Tams).
So with Sylvain as my enthusiastic sidekick, we embarked on an culinary adventure. But we had our ups and downs.
Our downs included a lemon chicken that nearly set the kitchen on fire. A seafood yakiudon that had to be thrown in the bin because of an apparent misprint in my cookbook. A meat pie that tasted far too floury and with chunks of meat that we had to chew on for five minutes to get down. But our ups were far more frequent. And I can proudly say that now, amongst other things, we can cook a darn good butter chicken from scratch, a kick arse red prawn curry, a mouth-watering moroccan chicken, the most veluptuous leek and mussel chowder, and my seafood yakiudon makes your knees wobble.
6 years later and I'm still experimenting, honing, perfecting. I move around the kitchen, chopping and dicing, a running commentary going on in my head as I prepare this or that, as if I'm in my own cooking show (I know I'm not the only one to do this).
This weekend, I made pad thai (I've figured out just the right amount of lime needed for it to be juicy but not overpowering), nasi goreng (I need to source some better peanuts and I think I overcooked the rice) and vietnamese prawn crêpe (certainly wasn't as good as what you'd get on Victoria Street if you're lucky to live five minutes walk away, but we'll work it out in the end).
Living in another country is all about embracing local culture, but I think, more than anything, it teaches you about where you came from.
Now if only I could figure out how to make a meat pie like the one that was sold in the bakery near where I grew up...
Speaking about where I come from, here are 4 Australians whose blogs you should be reading, if you're not already :
- Pink Ukulele, my sister. She is also obsessed with shoes, forgets to wear underwear sometimes, and likes to eat delicious things too.
- Oh Susanna, my mum. She talks far too much about football for my liking, but sometimes she has unfortunate incidents regarding underclothes too. I think the inexplicable need to tell these stories to the internet runs in the family.
- Alexisland, a wonderful friend. Her blog is more a stream of consciousness than anything else, and she thinks faster than she types, her fingers struggle to keep up and so there are lots of spelling mistakes, but she really is hilarious and she always says it like it is.
- Tracey, another Melbourne girl, has a travel blog with her French husband Pierre, and they write about their adventures as they travel across the world, from Paris to Melbourne by train. Written half in French and half in English, they've both got a wonderful way of expressing themselves (even if the keyboards they find don't always "do" accents), and it's almost enough to make you want to shed off your life and follow them.