Although the French consulate, in all their bureaucratic wisdom, has to make me fill out a tonne of paperwork and jump through hoops in order to make it happen, technically I am only allowed to pass my French nationality on to my unborn child.
I am half-English, a British citizen for many years now, and many would testify I usually fall more under the English stereotypes than the French. However, having been born in France to a French mother, technically that is my ‘primary’ nationality.
I’m ok with that. I am proud of being française and fully expect to raise my child bilingual as I was raised.
One of the great perks of being French is there is a certain natural “slow food” culture ingrained in us. I learned to cook, and especially bake, from scratch early on. My mother enjoys recounting to me the story of the time I kicked her out of the kitchen as a toddler in my desire to make a gâteau au chocolat on my own. Although the walls were a slightly different shade and the sink was overflowing with items I could not possibly have needed by the time I had finished, the result, I am assured, was not a bad one!
Packaged and pre-prepared foods have never been a major feature of my diet, and a love of cooking and baking has flourished as a result of that.
One of the first things often taught to young French children when teaching them to bake is gâteau au yaourt (yogurt cake), which uses a pot of yogurt to measure out all the ingredients and is therefore very straightforward, easily adaptable to encourage creativity, and yummy!
The French are known for eating long meals spread out over several small courses, and are generally not snackers (something I wish I had adopted a little more!). But the goûter or quatres heures (4 o’clock) is a family tradition in many Francophone countries: a 4 o’clock snack when the kids get home from school. Again, this is usually baked from scratch together as a family at the weekend and then consumed slowly and deliberately over the week.
“Cake au Chocolat”
Adapted from a recipe in Petits Goûters des Écoliers.
Makes 1 loaf, serves 6-8
30cl (full-fat) milk
250g unrefined sugar (I used a mixture of unrefined cane sugar and dark muscovado)
1 tsp vanilla extract (or scrape out 1 vanilla pod)
200g plain, all-purpose flour
1/2 packet dried yeast (about 6g)
zest of 1 lemon
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. In a bowl, mix the cocoa powder and milk. In a larger bowl, mix the eggs and sugar with the vanilla. Add the flour and yeast to the egg mixture, followed by the oil, lemon zest and cocoa.
3. Pour batter into a greased loaf tin and bake for 45-50 mins.
4. Let the cake cool slightly before removing from the tin, then serve warm or cold. Dust with icing sugar if you want to add decoration.