Are French Fries and French Toast French?

It is unclear where French fries originated. Both the French and Belgians have claimed ownership of the invention, which is no surprise given their close proximity to each other and the common language.  Belgian journalist Jo Gérard references the popular side dish in his family manuscript from 1781, stating that in the Meuse Valley (present-day Belgium), potatoes were often deep-fried. They had a custom “of fishing in the Meuse for small fish and frying, especially among the poor, but when the river was frozen and fishing became hazardous, they cut potatoes in the form of small fish and put them in a fryer…”

A Visit to the Université François Rabelais

In 1979, while I worked as an au pair for Dubois’ family at the Château de Montclair, I attended classes at the Université François Rabelais in the nearby town of Tours.

My French Language Challenges

I have always loved the sound of a person speaking French. The words spill out of their mouth with an almost sing-song quality. And don’t get me started with the way the French roll their r’s when they pronounce words like erreur, (error) or rappeler (to call back). Without a doubt, I chose to learn French in 1979 for these reasons.

The Beloved Croque Monsieur

French food has always appealed to me. The sauces, the spices and the aromas draw me in like a pin to a magnet. As a young woman, living in France in 1979 and 1980, I had opportunities to sample many different dishes, but it was the croque monsieur I remember most fondly.

Farmers’ Markets in France

Most villages in France have a farmers’ market once a week during certain times of the year. These markets are often a mix of stands and stalls offering homemade items, cheeses or a full-range of produce straight from the farm. 

Andouillettes? No, Thank You

My trip to France in 1979 opened my eyes to a whole new world, especially with regard to French cooking. Raised in a humble family with very few extravagances, we rarely splurged on anything, including food. Madame Dubois, my patron at the Château de Montclair, and her mother, Madame Moulon, introduced me to some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. There were, however a few dishes I would rather forget.

A Visit to Saint Gatien’s Cathedral

While I lived in France in 1979, working as an au pair, I had a chance to attend mass with the family at Saint Gatien’s Cathedral, the Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral in Tours. My visit to this ancient building, built between 1170 and 1547, was an an unusual experience and I write about it in my memoir, French Illusions, My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley. Here is an excerpt:

“Le Petit Prince” Returns

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My husband and I recently moved to a smaller home in Arizona and this required lots of downsizing. As I rummaged through old boxes, sorting “keep” piles and “give away” piles, I stumbled across my copy of Le Petit Prince from my stay in France in 1980. My heart lurched as I picked up the well-used book, turned to the first page and discovered  an inscription — long forgotten — from my love interest in France. 

Romance on a Train in 1979

When I traveled to France in 1979 to work as an au pair, I brought my trusted Kodak pocket Instamatic camera along so I could capture some special moments. The camera was small enough to fit inside my purse or pocket, hence the name.

A Delectable Memory From 1979

My diary from 1979 recounts my adventures living and working as an au pair at the Château de Montclair, in France. Most of my diary entries revolved around my relationships with the family, but on occasion, I included recipes of favorite drinks or meals I shared with the family.