The solution

from the book, Un Proletariat Rêve © Jean-Claude Seine

“Une seule solution, une manifestation!!!”

That is the first song my five and eight year old children learned when we moved to Paris.  No farms à la Old McDonald, or Little Piggies for this crowd, Parisian kids sing about going on strike!

Once had I finally made friends with these kids’ Moms, a pattern arose; every afternoon, around 4-ish, my phone would ring, with a harried woman asking me, “What are you making for dinner?” Nobody was calling because I have any particular skill at the stove top, they wanted fresh ideas. As a recent immigrant, I was happy to be exploring the French repertoire, excited to be cooking their beloved dishes, dishes they hadn’t thought of in ages. And I had lots of “new” ideas that were standards from my California kitchen. As time went on and I, too, started to loose inspiration, I turned to other European recipes, gleaning ideas from Greek, Italian and Spanish cooking. Then my inner Californian re-emerged and needed some heat. I quickly found supplies for Mexican, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian and just about any other spicy cuisine, maintaining my place as an inspirational source of new cooking ideas in the quartier.

With Picard, Chinatown, Passage Brady and countless other international sources, I was still full of ideas. Then, over a three week span, we moved, combining two households into one. And it was the holidays and my daughter was frantically writing college essays and my French ”mother-in-law” came to stay and wouldn’t leave, and my parents came to town and my Dad got ill and my step-son came for a visit and my brain short circuited and I could not, for the life of me figure out what to make for dinner…

Don’t you just love those humbling moments when you are finally in someone else’s shoes and can not see the forest for the trees any better than they could?

I began to realize that French women have to worry about cooking for the kids every night of the week. With long school days, plenty of homework and late dinner times, family friendly restaurants are really only family friendly on weekends. Take-out is not common and delivery is limited to Pizza Hut and bad sushi. I’d cooked nearly every day for nearly a decade and had not really noticed. Well, I was noticing now and I simply could not go on. SO, I did the French thing… I went on strike! A cooking strike! Heating, yes, but preparing, mixing, sautéing, steaming or roasting were off the negotiating table.

Here is how our family survived the month the chef lost it;
Soups. Pretty much every other night I was heating up a soup. The fish soup, Ile de Ré style from Monoprix, the Thai chicken from Picard or Covent Garden. Carrot, mushroom, and tomato soups, also from Covent Garden. Gaspacho, anyone?
I even found a few take out options that go beyond a slice of quiche from the bakery downstairs, our favorites being;
Clasico – Argentinian empanadas
Evi Evane – Great Greek
Mai Do – Bo Bun

Now I have to worry about the family striking against Mom’s cooking!

* Only one solution, protest!

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8 thoughts on “The solution

  1. Thanks Sylvia, this is a topic that strikes at every woman’s heart ~ what’s for dinner tonight?? Those who are very organized have their meal plans and shopping lists and know what their family will be eating in 4 days for lunch. Most of us wing it, hoping to get inspiration when we open the fridge door or pantry, yearning for something to leap out at us as the obvious choice.

    Me, I try to make big meals on the weekends and live on leftovers for 3-4 nights of the week. But I’m always thinking about our next meal, what will I serve when my daughter, her husband and kids come over on Sunday, what should I bring for lunch tomorrow. Thank goodness hubby helps otherwise I’d have to stage my own manifestation.


  2. I think every woman can Identify with this. I am lucky enough to have a husband who cooks fresh food well but with olive oil and cream…but the result can be, weight gain! So occasionally (like now) when I need to loose weight, I take over the kitchen. I start off well organised with menu plans and shopping lists, but within a couple of weeks I all goes pear shaped and I run out of ideas, AND get all resentful because I am not coming home to a meal ON THE TABLE… What a role reversal that is!

    Unfortunately when I go on strike, he doesn’t notice the dirt in the house and just makes beans on toast!

    Love from Bolton

  3. What a great idea, Sylvia! Let me know when you’re next on strike so that I can join you. No reason that you should have to fight for kitchen equality on your own. Solidarity!

    Thanks for including the links for the empanadas and bo buns.

    Oh, and one last question – what did you make for dinner last night? 😉

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