French For A Day

French For A Day


Although it had
been only nine months since our first trip, my daughter and I were
returning to Paris. We had visited most of the top “tourist” sites and
were now interested in delving beneath the surface for more interaction
with people rather than buildings–difficult to do without fluency in
the language. So, we thought “cooking class;” we needn’t talk to cook
and eat.

Both of us are quite adequate cooks, but we were not
looking for a chef-level or chef-priced multiple-day course. Intimate
and casual would fit our needs. I had seen a mention of Sue Young as an
(English speaking) cooking instructor and found the “French for a Day”
program operated by Ms. Young and Irene Adamian. As their website
explains, they met in 1995 and decided to combine their cooking and
shopping services into a one-day program with several hours devoted to
each specialty. A little bit of “this and that” sounded ideal—a
generalized taste to whet our appetites and encourage us to return
again. At 185 Euros (at that time $160) each, it was a bit of a splurge
but, after all, we were on vacation!

On our assigned day, we met
our guide, Christine, a warm, delightful doctor’s wife with excellent
English to offset our nearly non-existent French, at the Hotel Lutetia.
Although not officially part of the day’s tour, the hotel was well
worth seeing, and I encourage you to walk through the public areas.

group consisted of six American women (below the stated minimum of
eight); we rather naturally broke into “threes” and were led down rue
de Sevres toward the Bon Marché la Grand Epicerie where
we were free for a brief period to buy to our heart’s content. Most of
what appealed to me was in heavy glass containers (mustards, jams,
olive oils) so I sadly left those items on the shelves and consoled
myself with boxed sweets!

Our next stop was the Poilane
boulangerie at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi. After a brief and convincing chat
with the manager, Christine was able to gain us access to the basement
ovens. This entré alone would have made the day memorable. All that
wonderful bread is kneaded by hand, set aside in wicker baskets to
rise, and then baked in a brick, wood stoked oven. One drying rack was
filled with loaves shaped as feet with ankles. If there was an
explanation, I missed it – bread feet? Does one eat it toe by toe? Is
it an honor to be given one toe rather than another?

ourselves away from the calorie-laden bakery shelves, we shopped
several of the wonderful stores in the area: Mis en Demeure for
beautiful quilts and linens and its private brand perfume, Diners en
Ville for flat- and table-ware, and a garden supply and ornament shop
(Parisians love their flowers, even if they need to be potted). Upon
special request, we made an unscheduled stop at La Tuile a’loup,
which is crowded with handmade artisan-quality pottery, baskets,
textiles and the like. All the while, Christine cheerfully answered
questions and chatted about her own travel and visits to the U.S.

a quick Métro ride, we strolled the length of the market on Rue
Mouffetard, a feast for both the palate and the eyes–tomatoes sold on
their stems, every conceivable herb, and cuts of meat seldom seen in
the U.S. Lunch would not be for several hours–we first had to prepare
and cook it–so we stopped for coffee and cake (included in the program
cost) while being serenaded by a street violinist standing under a
trompe l‘oeil vine-covered storefront.

Finally, it was time to
go to nearby rue Censier, and settle into the demonstration kitchen of
Laurence Guarneri, our chef for the day since Sue Young had been
unexpectedly detained in the south of France. Laurence (visit her site)
explained that she’d spent months finding just the right location for
her custom-designed cooking school; the kitchen was well lit, planned
for optimum efficiency, with every conceivable gadget and appliance. I
enviously thought, “If I had a kitchen like this, I too could be a
French chef.” Although it was not her home, she had included a bathroom
and sleeping area on the second level for use after late evening

six were joined around the extensive cooking island by a lone Frenchman
and two young French television videographers who taped the kitchen and
cooking demonstration as a test for future commercial use. Laurence,
both herself and through our interpreter, explained the recipes as she
chopped and cut the vegetables and lamb for our braised lamb with
pickled tomato and gremolata with lemon soufflé with Banvuls cherries
for dessert. Recipes were provided in both French and English. We were
allowed to do as much or as little of the preparation as we wished.
Most of us opted to chop some of the vegetables and then peel and
squeeze the lemons for both the gremolata (parsley, garlic and lemon
peel) and the soufflé. During this, we all shared what we had done and
planned to do during the rest of our stays, traded notes on hotels and
apartments, took home addresses, and settled down for the final
presentation of lunch, which needless to say was delectable.

day was a delight–the shops were elegant but affordable; our guide a
chic, friendly woman; our chef superb; and the food fresh and
delicious. There were, however, some minor deviations from (our
interpretation of) the advertised schedule, in that our shopping was
prior to the lunch (of no major consequence); we didn’t actually shop
for the luncheon ingredients–the marketing was just a leisurely walk
through the street; and no wine was served with the meal as stated (a

But, for me, the bakery tour will remain unique and special (Poilane died
just months later), and the camaraderie and food shared in Laurence’s
kitchen an experience not to be duplicated. Your “French for a Day”
will most likely be different in its “ingredients,” but it will
certainly be a day to remember. Sated with food, good cheer,
conversation and new personal contacts (three of us walked the city
together the following day), we were escorted by Christine to the
nearest Métro entrance and handed tickets for our return ride (included
in the cost), no longer “French” but again visitors in a very special

Elizabeth Weathers
lives in the Maryland suburbs and works in Washington DC as personal
assistant to a white-collar criminal defense attorney. Her love of
travel began in the early 60s when she and a friend spent a month
visiting the major capitals of western Europe. She subsequently
continued her travels as a U.S. Marine officer’s wife. Despite multiple
trips to England on painting excursions and attending her exchange
“daughter’s” graduation in Sweden, forty years passed between her first
and second visits to Paris. It was love at second sight, and she has
returned each of the three years since, just recently having introduced
her young granddaughter to the delights of the city. She is an artist,
photographer and doting grandmother of four.


This completely renovated apartment is located on charming Rue Elzévir
in the historic Marais district of Paris, France.
Contact:[email protected], or visit out our
paris apartment for rent web site.

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