In 2015, for our back-to-school adventure, I booked the four of us for a glassblowing class at a studio in Santa Cruz. And, after reading Blown Out of Proportion: Misadventures of a Glassblower in
France by Rachel Caldecott*, I decided to dig out some photos. Even though Caldecott's book has them living in Lodève because of her husband's glassblowing business, the narration is much more about a foreigner's misadventures in France than about the actual process of blowing glass. Still, I am going to share these photos because we had so much fun doing it.
On the Page
Rachel and Chris uproot their family from Bradford-on-Avon and settle in Lodève. In this memoir she details the mishaps that can occur when you do not speak the language fluently and you do not conform to what society expects from you. Someone emailed her, "I can well imagine that you are threatening to some people, some expats particularly, as your lifestyle would be seen as rather eccentric, and to some of those shallow, boring, wealthier expats, they will fit it uncouth; the way you endlessly collect stuff for refugees, the way you present yourself, the way Chris and you appear 'bohemian' and particularly the way (they can sense it even if they don't know the details) the way you live on a shoestring. That will be distasteful to those people."
They encounter a parade of issues with schools, with landlords, with neighbors, with medical institutions, and with French bureaucrats. But where situations might have had others fleeing for their homeland, Rachel details the happenings with humor and candor. This is not your typical 'move to France' memoir that includes renovating a farmhouse and growing into being a respected winemaker! But how the family triumphs - and fully embraces their life in France - is admirable. Worth the read just for that! She ends with this: "I don’t know whether we’d all have been better off staying in Bradford-on-Avon. But I do know we would have missed out on some wonderful experiences if we hadn’t made the move. I can’t advise anyone else to leave everything and settle abroad, but I can say that life is for living; and sometimes you’ve just got to take risks to really live it" (pg. 300).
Just a few more passages to give you a taste of her writing...
"I had always been grateful for the fact that whenever she
ate a McDonald’s hamburger she threw up. I wasn’t happy that the poor girl
up-chucked, but it did mean that she never asked to go there for a meal,
‘Happy’ or otherwise" (pg. 62).
"France loves its festivals. Everything can be turned into an
excuse to party. The gathering of chestnuts, the finding of truffles, the glory
of local food, the change of a particular season, the birth or death date of a
local saint. We attended many of these little fêtes over the first few years" (pg. 81).
On the Plate
And I was inspired by the passage where Rachel writes about someone mistaking the words champignons and champions. The first would be the topping for a pizza - mushrooms - and the other is, well, a cognate.
"It is entertaining to watch foreigners struggle with a new
language. I challenge anyone to deny that. It may not be very kind or sporting
to do so, but let’s face it, we all enjoy feeling slightly smug at the expense
of someone else while we have the chance. English tourists ordering pizza with
lots of extra champions instead of mushrooms made Florence and Stan giggle for
days. The pizza guy smirked a bit too. “Zidane or Beckham, monsieur?'" (pg. 258)
I myself made an embarrassing gaff at the fish market when I asked for pesche (peaches) instead of pesci(fish). It was early in my year of living in Italy, but I will never forget how mortified I was.
So, despite one family member being fungi-averse, pizza with lots of extra champignons is one of my favorites! You can view my recipe in this post.
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Click to see what everyone else read in August 2021: here.
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