Like the first week, week two of our COVID-19 confinement in Normandy flew by. Or at least looking back it feels like it did. I think the expression “the days are long but the weeks are short” will probably apply to our time here. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a movie, but luckily it’s a comedy.
Not everything has been easy.
I almost had a breakdown trying to knead the dough for brioche burger buns. Why? I’m not sure. Some days (most days), I wish I was in Dallas confined with my family in our house with our dogs…in English. And in sweatpants.
However, I’ve always been a glass-half-full kind of person, and I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, no matter how cheesy that sounds. So I’m taking this experience and I’m going to get everything out of it that I possibly can. Which hopefully means at the end I’ll be completely fluent in French and cooking like Julia Child.
Settling Into Multi-Generational Living
I managed to dodge living with a random French family when I studied abroad, so now I’m experiencing my own version of a complete French language and lifestyle immersion. Clearly Romain’s family isn’t a random French family, but I’d never spent more than a week with his parents and I’d never met his grandmother before we arrived here. I would’ve never imagined it even being a possibility that we’d all be in confinement in Normandy together, but here we are two weeks in.
I think we spent the first week trying to figure out our own new routines and how to make them work with everyone else’s new routines. It was a bit of a “dance” at first, but in the second week everything started to fall into place. It’s really forcing me to improve my French language skills, cooking skills, and it’s of course shedding lots of light on the cultural differences.
Cooking in Confinement
I have to admit, I was petrified the first time Romain told me it was my turn to cook something for the group. All I had to make was my bolognese sauce. It’s always a favorite and pretty foolproof, but I was so scared they wouldn’t like it. I’d never felt more pressure in my life. Completely irrational.
Luckily I got over that fear and I had a lot of fun cooking during our second week in Normandy. Cooking in confinement has really forced me to get creative and attempt to make things at home that I would’ve never imagined like homemade tortillas and brioche buns. It’s really been fun cooking together and it’s such a positive boost for me personally watching everyone enjoy what I’ve cooked.
A little bit of positive energy goes such a long way in times like this. Something as simple as Romain’s mom buying more frozen chopped spinach for me to remake one of my family’s favorite recipes that she loved made me so happy.
The biggest culinary surprise in week two of cooking in confinement was how much they loved the ribs and homemade BBQ sauce. And the fact that they ate the ribs with their hands. At the end of the meal everyone was dipping their baguettes in the extra BBQ sauce. We had leftover sauce and multiple people asked if we could reheat it and put it on pasta. A bit strange…but I guess BBQ Pizza is a thing so why can’t BBQ pasta be one too?
My Normandy Routine
It’s nice having our days organized. They’re of course centered around two big meals ‘à table.‘ We have a sit down, tablecloth, table set, real napkin, multiple plate, multiple glasses, multi-course lunch and dinner every day.
At first I thought there was no way this was going to be sustainable for six weeks. No way. But I’ve found it really works.
First, it’s nice to take the time to be together and enjoy a meal. Food is served in a precise and specific order. There isn’t a rush, and we take the time to appreciate whatever we’re eating. Every meal together so far has been filled with laughter.
Second, these long meals take up time in the day. We spend a lot of time cooking, setting the table, and of course doing dishes afterwards. I would normally complain about all of this effort for a meal, but I’ve realized the effort has really become a part of our routine.
Romain’s grandmother and I are the early risers of the bunch, and I use the quiet time in the morning to be as productive as possible on my computer. After lunch we work in the garden for a couple of hours, I go on a run, and we start preparing for l’apéro and dinner. It’s simple but it works.
The second week of confinement in Normandy was for the most part smooth sailing. I’m crossing my fingers that it continues to be that way.