So here I am in France. Last summer in Italy I did not have the wherewithal but this year I can blog from my terrace here in sunny Lanquedoc. So you can enjoy bits of my holiday with me. Lucky you. (I must just point out though that Blogger is in French and the spell check throws up everything that is English. So apologies in advance for my spelling.)
I am feeling calm because the main obstacle to my holiday relaxation has been overcome, at least for the time being. It's not the travelling that I find challenging, nor the language issues. It's not even the joys of reminding my husband to drive on the right. It's the food.
We arrived yesterday - a Sunday so no shops were open. I happen to agree with a shop free day but it's not terribly convenient when you arrive with nothing and four children. The lady who owns the villa had kindly left some pasta and sauce, a baguette and a bottle of wine so I wasn't unduly concerned when I was at home planning our trip. However, I had failed to take into account that the airport queues would be so long as to prevent the purchase of breakfast or indeed anything.
Carcassonne airport consists of a runway and baggage reclaim and we only saw a MacDonalds on the way here. Then, when we arrived nothing was open around our villa so the pasta had to do for breakfast, lunch and dinner with wine gums, that I had packed as emergency child soothers, for pudding. Nutritious I'm sure you'll agree.
So this morning we set off to the Carrefour for our first big shop. Now, my dream is to come to France, wander around some small town market with a wicker basket and a head scarf like some latter day Grace Kelly, tasting produce at will and returning home with a cornucopia of exquisite delicacies with which to rustle up a delicious lunch.
In reality, I am standing in a neon-lit hanger filled with plastic wrapped food and four ravenous children. I panic. Like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights I freeze as the dream and the reality fight for space in my head. And then, because I have to do something, I move into automatic pilot and begin filling my trolley with items as similar to what I would buy in Sainsbury's as possible.
I face a number of difficulties with food abroad. Firstly, my kids have a limited palate and there is almost nothing that all four of them will eat with certainty. Secondly, having to produce three meals a day from a standing start means that you have to think of everything. It's not just the main ingredients. You need oil and salt and herbs and foil and, well, all those things that are just there in the cupboards at home. Thirdly, I am on holiday. Food production is a major part of my job at home and I don't want to spend any more time in the kitchen here than is entirely necessary.
So this year I have decided to adopt a new approach. I will purchase two lots of shopping. Endless French bread, Nutella, plastic ham and pizza for the kids. Interesting cured meats, sardines, olives, salads, cheese and wine for us. I simply refuse to spend another two weeks cooking and consequently having to eat the stuff the kids will eat. I know we are supposed to eat together in one big happy family feast but we just aren't there yet. The children will not starve and there is always an outside chance that they will have their interest piqued and try something new. And in the meantime my husband and I will enjoy a little piece of France. Why did I never think of this before?