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Are you French Living?


I admit to struggling with the French life in my twenties, possibly in my thirties as well.  I was married to a Frenchman, running a business called French Living, but my English mannerisms reigned, particularly around food. I loved the meals, adapting really well to crudités, salades composées, Poulet Basquaise and camembert, but I resisted being instructed when to eat them.

I found French Living to be very regimented, demanding my presence at the table for breakfast, lunch (never later than 2pm) and dinner (usually around 7.30pm).

French cuisine is all about fresh, seasonal dishes - plat du jour - dish of the day - freshly made for you! Every French restaurant does it...: Paris Photograph Cafe Sign Petit Dejeuner Breakfast by ParisPlus:

I didn’t get it. My body was not hungry, I was too busy, I only wanted a snack, I didn’t want to sit down….leave me alone I screamed inwardly, like a petulant stubborn child, rebelling for the hell of it! It was a childish rebellion because, once seated, once established within the routine, my body became hungry at those times and it appreciated the time being offered to it for pleasure, digestion and relaxation. By eating in this ordered way, I was unwittingly nurturing my body, re-establishing a long, lost connection.

And now, after all these years of French Living, I discover through my yoga practice why I feel so good! Eating at noon is the best time, because this is when our digestive system secretes the highest concention of digestive juices. My “digestive fire” or Agni as it is called in Sanskrit must be burning strong. A nod of thanks to my French Living routine. Breakfast, lunch and dinner – regular, punctual, and delicious – a routine that regulates the body and its digestive juices. 24 hour snacking and grazing or  skipping meals altogether is the plague of our society, and will only lead to a confused digestive system, and ultimately to unwelcome health problems. So, I recommend to you all to start French Living!

Watercolour of our beautiful French restaurant: Since opening back in 1994 French Living has resisted change. We continue to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, at breakfast, lunch and dinner times only, at tables and chairs, with real plates and cutlery. It’s a formula not only designed for your pleasure, but also for your healthy well-being. Bon Appetit!


Our bodies are most able to digest food at midday, when we are active. As studies have found, our digestive system secretes the highest concentration of “digestive juices” around noon, making this the best time to eat our largest meal. In the evening, our bodies are slowing down and preparing for sleep. If we eat our biggest meal at dinner, when our digestive fire is weaker, we will feel heavy and bloated and will be more likely to have difficulty falling asleep. – See more at: http://www.chopra.com/ccl/6-ayurvedic-practices-to-improve-your-digestion#sthash.yRFSE6mj.dpuf

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Catering and Hospitality

I’ve been invited to a careers workshop day at my old school, and I’ve been allocated the slot of Catering and Hospitality!!

What a responsibility! How on earth do I encourage young people to enter a world of hot, sweaty kitchens, long hours, split shifts, demanding customers….a world dominated by corporate chains, industrially mass-produced food, standardised and stereotypical, a life of strict rules and regulations?

At 18 I would have by-passed this sector, even though back then, the world of restaurants was less fast-food and chain-oriented. I note that the school is not offering a workshop on music, performing arts or writing and design? Interesting, because this was my first love. A week-end audition at the Bristol Old Vic however, soon demonstrated that I wasn’t prepared to be unemployed for 90% of the time, but the desire to perform, to share music, to interact with people remained.

By clinging on to these passions, drawing them out slowly, after many years of family, friends, schools, teachers insisting that they would not serve me well, they helped my husband and I create a business within catering & hospitality!!

Running a restaurant is a performance. You are like a conductor of a wonderful orchestra, knowing the moment to up the tempo when customers start flooding in, as well as slowing things down to allow diners to enjoy each others company.

You artistically blend the spit and sizzle of the kitchen with the chat and jabber of the dining room. You are an artist!

Passion is the buzz word. Discovering ones own passions is the key to choosing the most comfortable life path.The catering and hospitality sector could desperately do with an injection of passion, emotion and human spirit to cut through the monotony and artificial corporate environment they have created.

So how about I remind these young people about the vital role of restaurants in keeping people healthy? A gentle reminder of their key role in providing a meeting place where food can be shared with others. This has become an essential social need in today’s technological world, one that is becoming increasingly important as we sink further into a solitary world of news-feed, messenger, and email, hiding anonymously behind a plethora of screens.But in order for restaurants to fulfil this role, the human touch has to be injected. I often eat out with my husband Stéphane, and the food is often beautifully designed and presented, the decor equally immaculately designed and thought-out, but we leave feeling a little empty, something is missing. After much discussion on this subject, we have identified the missing piece as the “human side”. Serving staff are polite, efficient but they are performing a task, like a machine. There is no story, no connection, no authentic sharing. This is the difference.

Of course the quality of the food provided is also important. A return to simplicity in the kitchen would not go amiss. Simple, honest, home-cooked fare in a human, warm, individual environment would go a long way to improving the health and well-being of our stressed nation.

If I manage to touch the spirit of one young person during my work-shop, then there is hope for the future of this mis-guided industry. As human beings we require the real thing – real food, real human contact, the personal touch. Let’s hope I can deliver.

Read all posts since 2007 in http://www.frenchlivingdiaries.blogspot.co.uk

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Radish, le radis, a sign of Spring!

Mention Spring, and we confidently cite lamb, chocolate eggs, tulips and of course daffodils, in fact anything yellow becomes the symbol of re-birth, re-warmth and re-living, as we freshen up the home, shaking away the dusty rugs of Winter.

This is why I remember being taken aback one Spring in Paris when my mother-in-law brought to the table a surprising triplet – radishes, sea salt and unsalted butter.

She proceeded to dab a tiny piece of butter on the radish and then dipped it into the sea-salt, before popping it into her mouth. As was my usual habit at this naive, youthful time of life, I simply copied. Wow, what an extraordinary combination – sweet and crunchy radish – at its best in Spring – not too hot, bitter and over-bearing, blended with a tiny amount of butter and salt. From that moment onwards, I now anticiptate eagerly the Spring-time arrival of the first radishes.

The radishes should be young, fresh and small. When buying radishes get them with the leafy tops still attached. Not only are they good to eat in their own right, but they are a valuable indicator of freshness. The leaves start wilting as soon as the radish is picked, so if they’re still looking pretty perky, the chances are that the radishes beneath will be full of life, too.

As well as eaten whole with butter and salt as an apetiser or aperitif nibble, radishes also make a wonderful component in a spread of salads, their leaves can be added to soups and they can also be roasted and cooked.

When I find myself with a really crisp, juicy, fresh bunch of radishes, though, I simply cannot resist devouring them whole the French way, with butter and salt.

I did find a recipe for Glazed Radishes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall which sounds interesting. Now Spring is here, I may give this a go…

Glazed radishes (V)

A nice way to treat radishes that are not quite as super-fresh as you’d like them to be. It makes a great side dish for a roast. Serves three to four.

25g butter

250g radishes, trimmed and washed

1 tsp caster sugar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

About 150ml stock

Chopped parsley, to serve

Melt the butter over a medium heat in a deep frying pan or a saucepan large enough to take the radishes in a single layer. Add the radishes, sugar, a good pinch of salt and enough stock to come halfway up the radishes. Bring to a simmer and cook gently, uncovered, giving the pan a shake or a stir every now and then, until the radishes are just tender but still with some resistance to the bite – around 15 minutes. Remove the radishes with a slotted spoon, transfer to a warmed dish and keep warm.

Raise the heat under the pan and rapidly boil the remaining liquid until reduced to a thick glaze (it may well need little or no extra cooking). Return the radishes to the pan, turn to coat them in the glaze, season again and serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

 Read all posts since 2007 in http://www.frenchlivingdiaries.blogspot.co.uk

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The Power of Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a powerful force within us all, conjuring up emotions from the depths of our souls, feelings that we didn’t even realise existed.

A creamy, milky fish pie with a hard-boiled egg inside whisks me back to my teens, to Mum’s weekly Friday tea! Quite strangely, I also hold fond memories of Birds instant custard, Angel Delight and twiglets!!

These commercial chemical foods are intrinsically linked to happy family times, creating this narcotic effect of nostalgia, one which has a powerful, mood-altering influence.

At French Living, we observe these transformations in many of our customers. Holiday memories are frequently re-kindled with the smell of a garlicky cassoulet or the salty odour of the sea in a bowlful of mussels. However, it is not simply smell that provokes these happy feelings. Our perception of scents are also affected by the setting, which is why a waft of our pungent cheese while dining next to the cheese fridge is, for most customers, a pleasant memory-packed scent.

The same smell emanating from a bin or even from your own fridge at home is anything but pleasant!!

And so, there is French music, foreign chatter, photos of sun-soaked beaches, which we subtlety blend with those recognisable French foods, and then witness the nostalgic magic it creates.

On another level, French Living also provides a nostalgia-inducing experience for French nationals living in Nottingham. Our comforting boeuf bourguignon is for many the equivalent of my mum’s fish pie.

Our role as a restaurant, therefore, definitely goes beyond simply selling meals; it is an experience designed to alter moods, generate healthy, feel-good emotions, increased sense of continuity and social connectedness.

So why not take a leap to the un-known, step inside and lose yourself to nostalgia!

PS; I had fun losing myself to holiday memories with my new Pinterest board, please take a look – Souvenirs from France

Read all posts since 2007 in http://www.frenchlivingdiaries.blogspot.co.uk

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De l’eau, de l’air, la vie

De l’eau, de l’air, la vie

I have a friend in Malawi, Africa who called with happy news. It had rained. He was overjoyed because there was now water in the taps once again. He had spent the last month and a half walking for an hour to the bore-hole to fetch water, with a return trip that took even longer trying not to spill a drop. He was praying that it would rain again to keep the water flowing.Later that day, I joined the Post Office queue where talk of the weather was animated, particularly after last night’s frost.
“At least its not raining” was the final declaration.

What a strange world we live in. One of such division and contrast – one half with an abundance of everything – money, food and water – and another with very little.
Maybe we should all have a friend in Africa to remind us of the riches of rain.

I am guilty of taking for granted our constant, rich flow of fresh, clean tap water (that we also like to complain about  when the taste is not to our liking), but let’s not forget the plethora of mineral waters filling our shelves, keeping us hydrated, happy and healthy.
France is a nation that has loved its mineral water, long before we Brits began to discover its charms. Who would have thought that water could have so many different personalities?

At French Living we have chosen three contrasting classics:

Evian – soft and gentle, pure and natural, keeping you young….which is why it is associated with babies! I love the French advertising for this brand. Have you seen this one? http://adsoftheworld.com/media/tv/evian_baby_me 

Perrier – loud, vivacious, very sparkly and celebrating 150 years. Perrier has always used art in its advertising which is why many of its campaigns have become iconic pieces of art. Street-art is the theme for this key celebratory year. www.youtube.com/user/perrier

Perrier Tray in Deli Corner

Badoit – a sophisticated, subtle personality and associated with French gastronomy – its latest campaigns have teamed up with French chef Thierry Marx www.youtube.com/user/badoit

Perrier’s tag-line; de l’eau, de l’air, la vie – reminds us of water’s vital lifeforce  – water, air, life!! Whichever brand you choose this Christmas to keep you hydrated, give thanks, and savour each precious drop.

Joyeux Noel a Tous!

Read all posts since 2007 in http://www.frenchlivingdiaries.blogspot.co.uk

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We are not an illusion!

A customer alerted us to the arrival of a French chain on to the Nottingham restaurant scene.

“Well it’s not French” declares Stephane “it’s another English chain – another concept restaurant, offering the illusion of French cooking.”

What is it about restaurant chains that appeals so much to the English diner? A quick glance at the market research data outlining the structure of the UK restaurant market and I am astonished that French Living has survived 20 years! Independents do not feature very highly at all!!

Apparently the British consumer is looking for value and convenience.

A chain can certainly provide value, being able to negotiate competitive prices from its suppliers. It can also provide the glitz and decor, the image and marketing support to draw in the masses. It seems to me that when looking at the dining out equation, food has become almost secondary. Concepts, trends, design, convenience in terms of non-stop service, however, have assumed considerable importance.

On the other hand, the French diner wants quality, which explains why France still remains dominated by independent restaurants, with only 4% of restaurants being chains. Chains do exist, but they tend to be steak houses/grillades – Buffalo Grill, Courte Paille, Hippopotamus and La Boucherie – which are generally used as quick, cheap lunch-time options for city centre office workers.

Independents continue to rule in France, lots of French Living equivalents scattering the high streets and market squares with a plethora of home-cooked, freshly made classic dishes.


Variations and choice usually come in the form of regional specialities – for example a Breton creperie, an Alsace restaurant specialising in choucroute, a Toulousain serving menus from the South West. This is why French Living is the perfect concept for the French market, but it is one that sometimes struggles to be understood in a British market over-run with standardised, safe chains.

“I wish these British chains would create British concepts” moans Stephane. It’s true that there would be more authencity and honesty in creating a concept with fresh modern British cuisine, rather than a clicheed, watered down attempt at French food.

I reassure Stephane with the thought that this new Nottingham French chain won’t make hand-cut fries like ours, they won’t have an irreverent, passionate Corsican to entertain diners, they won’t create loyal, long-term friends, share family recipes, possess a wide and varied French play-list like ours, translate customers letters, organise travel itineraries to Paris and Corsica……

French Living is not an illusion. We are real, a loving, caring heart-beat of a restaurant whose truth will continue to shine for many more years to come.

Read all posts since 2007 in http://www.frenchlivingdiaries.blogspot.co.uk

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Shop & Dine

A handful of customers have ingeniously created a new form of shopping, unwittingly maybe, but nevertheless a concept that is distinctly true to French Living form!

Stephane reported that more and more customers would call him over, generally in between courses, and proceed to order cheese, not for immediate consumption, but as part of their grocery shopping list.

“Can you cut me a piece of brie? About this much” they say, placing their cutlery into a triangle wedge shape to demonstrate the size.

“And a chunk of rillettes” they continue.

“About this much?” enquires Stephane, holding out his fist.

“Two fistfuls please” giggles the customer, enjoying the novel game of shopping charades.

As the customer sits back, sips his wine and relishes a plat du jour, his cheese order is prepared, wrapped and preserved in the cool shelves of the display fridge.

Stephane cannot resist broadening our customer’s cheese repertoire beyond the safe and ever popular brie, by bringing across a slither of something new.

“Wow, what’s that?” they exclaim, genuinely surprised that their taste-buds could possibly enjoy a cheese with a luminous orange rind.

“Livarot” he proudly announces “good isn’t it?”

And he then launches into its origins, the manufacturing process of a washed rind cheese, not forgetting instructions on how it should be cut and eaten.

When lunch is over, still seated, relaxing and digesting, the customer pays his bill, which includes his brie, rillettes (and of course the Livarot). Stephane hands back the credit card along with a French Living bag of lovingly cut and wrapped cheese.

I have a feeling this could catch on, particularly when our deli corner dresser is transformed into an Alladin’s cave of Christmas gift ideas from the Brocante’s of Paris to the kitchens of Corsica. Dining and shopping at French Living is like walking the markets of France, full of aroma, tempting and real. In a world of internet shopping, express check-out machines and impersonal superstores, we all need some real human contact. Shopping should be a pleasure, like dining, sharing each others company, so blend them all together into a wonderful French Living experience. Be inspired and take a look at our French Markets board on Pinterest. http://uk.pinterest.com/louiseluiggi/french-markets/

All posts since 2007 are on http://www.frenchlivingdiaries.blogspot.co.uk/