Woody’s Wor­ries

Re­luc­tant cook Ruth stresses over the po­ten­tial pit­falls of host­ing

French Property News - - Contents -

My daugh­ter told me to­day she was feel­ing “con­fuz­zled” about her home­work. I knew ex­actly what she meant, as I have been con­fused and puz­zled about many things in my life­time, such as how grav­ity works and why peo­ple love Strictly Come Danc­ing and what to of­fer French peo­ple for din­ner.

Not long after we bought our hol­i­day home in Brit­tany, our neigh­bour Vir­ginie in­vited us round one night for an apéro. I was con­fuz­zled. To me, an apéro was a wine-based drink first in­tro­duced to France to dis­guise the taste of anti-malaria medicine and used ever since by Brits to dis­guise their de­sire to start drink­ing as early as pos­si­ble. But Vir­ginie men­tioned pizza and nib­bles too.

We turned up at 7.30pm to find a ta­ble laid with three piz­zas and a halo of dips, pis­ta­chios, and crisps of ev­ery kind, from crin­kle-cut and cheesy to the crunchy ba­con ones in­ex­pli­ca­bly shaped like bu­gles. It was a rev­e­la­tion! So this was when the French ate crisps! I knew they didn’t stuff their faces in be­tween meals and yet the su­per­mar­ket shelves spoke for them­selves.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to dis­cover there was a place in French cul­ture for sloppy food, that there was hope for a hope­less host like my­self, that I no longer had to fret about what sump­tu­ous feast to rus­tle up for friends and vis­i­tors in our tiny hol­i­day home oven (a combi con­vec­tion mi­crowave) or on our plug-in hob (only one ring works at a time). Boeuf bour­guignon? Bof! We could just bung in a pizza and crack open the Bre­ton cider. I no longer needed to be con­fuz­zled, and that was a great relief be­cause, be­tween you and me, I don’t re­ally like cook­ing. There. I said it. Can’t cook. Will cook. But be­grudg­ingly.

Trusted fam­ily and friends know my ter­ri­ble se­cret, but I had never dared ad­mit it in France, de­spite France be­ing named after tribes of peo­ple who were ad­mired for be­ing frank. How could I ad­mit that I ate to live and didn’t live to eat? It would be like go­ing in for a hug in­stead of a bise or ask­ing for my steak to be well-done.

On our next visit that sum­mer, we in­vited Vir­ginie round for a bar­be­cue. Ge­nius, we thought.

“Ac­tu­ally, I’ve just turned vege­tar­ian,” she said sweetly as we plonked a sausage in a pro­cessed bap on her plate. Oops! The next time, we stuck to pizza and nib­bles. The cider flowed, the crisps were crunched, the pis­ta­chios were shelled and many a con­fes­sion was shared.

“J’ai hor­reur de la cui­sine,” mum­bled Vir­ginie after a few ciders. I burst out laugh­ing. “Moi, aussi!” I con­fessed. “What did she say?” asked Jon. “She hates cook­ing,” I trans­lated, and sighed with relief.

Frank good­ness for that.

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