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Sara Kate On: A Trip to France

Fri, October 6, 2017

My love for France began years ago. My grandmother was raised in New Orleans and often shared many stories from her French heritage, which I found fascinating. And learning about their great cuisine, history, and culture, I was always intrigued.

About four years ago, my mom surprised me with a trip abroad – and I got to pick the place. (Must have been the endless “hinting” I had been doing. Or was it complaining?) So, of course, I chose France. It was an amazing trip – we went Paris, spending mornings at local cafés, seeing the beautiful art and architecture and even visiting Monet’s house in Giverny. I instantly fell in love. From the moment our plane landed back in the states, I wanted to go back. Since that trip, I joke that that living in France is on my bucket list. But the reality is, I would live there in a heartbeat.

Ever since that first trip, I constantly dreamed of going back. Every Bastille Day I celebrate at our local French café and I always try my hand at a French-inspired meal whenever I can. So for my last birthday, Mom again surprised me with a trip back to France, but this time with my sister Kyle. And she even gifted us with an amazing experience to go with our gift. She has long admired a blogger, Mimi Thorrison, who lived in the French countryside of Medoc and discovered she was opening her home for a photography and cooking workshop. And since Kyle and I spend a lot of time at work preparing for and doing photo shoots, this class was right up our alley.

Unlike the trip I took with my mom 2014, this was a completely different trip. Kyle and I were on our own a bit. It was like living the French life I had always dreamed of. Everything from renting a car, driving to Mimi’s house and staying in a beautiful chateau, we learned so much being independent and on our own. I certainly didn’t feel like a tourist this trip.

The next few days at the workshop studying under Mimi and her photographer husband, Oddur, was amazing. There were about a dozen of us at the workshop, and from all walks of life. Anything from couples, bloggers, photographers, editors, you name it. Our days were spent embracing the culture and soaking up anything we could learn. From plucking the pigeons for dinner, strolling to the boulangerie to pick up bread, picking fresh ingredients from the garden for lunch to taking a trip to the farmers market and exploring vineyards with a glass of wine in hand. It truly didn’t feel like we were visitors or tourists that week, it felt like we were staying and visiting with close friends.

After our week with Mimi and her family, I was already planning my next trip back. But until that next trip, I’ll try and pretend like I’m living in the French countryside. Here are a few things I’ve learned from Mimi and Oddur that help me live like I’m in my favorite country every day.

How to live like Mimi Thorrison:

  1. Throw away all your oven mitts and replace with rustic dishtowels. I’ve since done this in my own home. Oven mitts never photograph well anyways. And I hardly ever saw a paper napkin or towel being used. It made me think of all the waste I produce every day!
  2. Invest in pretty vintage silverware. It just makes a table setting that much more interesting, don’t you think? Take out your wedding silver and use them for lunch, or your grandmother’s favorite cake server to serve that quiche. You aren’t going to hurt the silverware, I pinkie swear. 
  3. Own half white aprons. Trust me. They look better than you think and they are so useful for when you spill duck liver into your lap. And yes, I might be speaking from experience just for the record.
  4. Make sure none of the clocks work in your house. Mimi and Oddur had about a dozen beautiful antique clocks all around their home, I don’t think I heard a single one ticking. Why? Well, because they are all probably from the 18th century and don’t run on Duracell. But ALSO because to live in the grace and charm of the French countryside, time simply does not matter, people come and go and do as they please.
  5. Use crates to store fresh produce. French countryside chic. Tres chic, non?
  6. If you can’t buy from a farmer’s market, remove all packaging from everything before storing it away in the pantry or fridge. That is something Oddur said over and over again to me, “no plastic, no packaging. If you must buy plastic, remove the items from the plastic and keep in fine china and glass jars.” I mean, the man kept mustard in beautiful old amber medicine jars, for goodness sake! And lemme tell you, it looked chic and put together.
  7. Own a wine decanter and use all the time.  Find me something that makes you feel classier than drinking a shiraz/cabernet blend poured from a decanter, I dare you.
  8. Believe me when I say this: radishes, butter, and salt are a great appetizer.
  9. Have help and company in the kitchen while you cook. Tuck a stereo in there, play some music, draw people in instead of shooing them out. Make it a party. Ask a friend to taste your sauce and see what they think, or have someone grate some cheese, keep an eye on the bread, or give those noodles a good stir. It gets people involved and talking, cooking is all about bringing people together. The first thing I did when arriving at Mimi’s was to help shell a huge bowl of fava beans. I felt like I was already her best friend helping her whip something up for the rest of the guests.
  10. Dine al fresco. And as often as you can! Set a table with white tablecloths, linen napkins and a bottle of rose and you’re set. Nothing in the world beats a meal in the shade on a breezy afternoon or under the stars on a clear night. It helps take your mind temporarily off life’s other responsibilities, like that huge stack of dirty dishes in the sink. Out of sight, out of mind.

Au revior! And stay chic.

- Sara Kate

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