I read a great article on “My French Life – Ma Vie Française” about finding your true self-identity while living in another country.
In “France: a place where you can become yourself?” Australian writer Lina Vale writes about finding oneself by living in a foreign country. She notes that France seems to be a place where individualism is embraced and creativity expressed.
Interestingly, it’s a conversation I’ve had with myself frequently since moving to France. I’ve often thought that moving outside of my native culture into a totally different environment has forced me to reflect on who I am, what I believe, and what’s really important to me.
Vale writes about reinventing oneself in a new culture, and while some may choose to do so, I don’t believe it’s about reinvention, but about self discovery.
It may be that living outside of one’s native culture strips away the outer layer of superficialness and reveals the true inner self. Perhaps being faced with an environment completely different from one’s own forces one to question one’s self, priorities, and beliefs. This has certainly been true for me.
When everything familiar is removed, it forces one to question, who am I, and how do I fit into this place? It may be this process that reveals true identity.
Based on conversations with persons who have travelled outside of their countries, a similar experience may occur. Anytime we move through unfamiliar territory it can open new perspectives to us. I recall my daughter talking about this after a trip to Peru. She met people who had very little in the way of material possessions, yet she said they seemed so happy, were so affectionate and caring. It changed her perspective about what was really important to her.
Have you had a similar experience living or traveling in another country? Post your comments. I would love to hear about your experiences.
This post is a bit delayed, but I wanted to post anyway, just because it was such a memorable evening. Sifting through photos this week reminded me and made me laugh. (Click photos to enlarge)
No, Thanksgiving is not a French holiday (obviously), but I did celebrate this historical American holiday in November with my French family and friends. I invited my French guests for a true American Thanksgiving feast. They loved it. First, my very French brother-in-law showed up wearing a red, white and blue striped American flag button-shirt. His daughter had found a flag skirt somewhere, which she coupled with black sequined ballet shoes. Her school friend wore a flag T-shirt. Then the rest of the guests arrived–some good friends. The ladies were wearing matching red cowboy hats decorated with red glitter stars. Everyone was ready for the American dinner party. Just for fun, I had decorated the table and dining room in all of the flag paraphernalia I own, including some things I had picked up at the dollar store during my last visit to the States, just for such an occasion. On the menu: baked turkey breast (I couldn’t find a whole turkey), butternut squash soup, greenbean casserole, rice and cornbread dressing (made with chicken and it’s stock), cranberry-orange relish, sweet potato casserole, cinnamon applesauce, spiced fruit bread and chocolate covered gingerbread. The favorite was definitely the sweet potato casserole (Paul Dean recipe. I didn’t bother trying to explain Paula Dean). This was quite a surprise to me, because the French don’t usually eat what they call sugar-salty. Sugar is NEVER eaten before the meal and the cheese. By the way, I did not serve cheese after the meal… and no one complained! Several guests asked for the sweet potato casserole recipe and someone even asked for the dressing recipe. Oh my! I have arrived! I’ve never been asked for a recipe in the three years I’ve lived here. I even played classic Christmas music in the background–rather boring compared to the live guitars and Spanish and French music we usually enjoy on our dinner occasions. It was a nice evening, and for the first time since I’ve lived in France, it felt like Thanksgiving. Even if it was a bit bizarre.
In the South of France, in the western region of the Cote d’Azure, bullfights are a way of life. They are, in fact, to frenchmen, what football is to Americans.
The serious aficionados are faithful followers of the Spanish version of this sport; but for those who can’t stomach the kill at the end, the French have a milder version: the Course Camarguaise.
Recently, I visited the Arenes d’Arles to watch the Course Camarguaise, professional version, with two American girlfriends. We called it a girls night out and took great pleasure in attending a bullfight without our men tagging along. We had many laughs and gasps watching more than 100 young guys try to capture pom poms from the bulls’ horns, running around in the their white costumes, jumping fences to escape the bulls’ charges, and even ripping their pants when the bull got a piece of white fabric.
Literally translated, the Course Camarguaise is a “Camargue Race.” The participants, dressed in white slacks and shirts, enter the arena with the bull and play a game we might recognize as Capture the Flag.
In the Course Camarguaise, the bull, or toro, has a cord tied around his horns, a pom pom hanging from each horn, and a ribbon on his back to mark his earlier award in the judging of the bulls themselves. In the arena, the participants take turns approaching the bull at a run and attempting to remove the various attachments from the horns. Sponsors donate money toward the race, and the participants win the money as they “capture” the bull’s ornaments.
As the game progresses, the monetary stakes get higher, and the participants take more risks in approaching the bull.
As evidence that this is truly a sport that women can enjoy, the opening and closing ceremonies included choreographed dances and processionals from the Arlesiennes –women dressed in old-fashioned clothes and sporting parasols. The opening dances included choreography with horses and their Camarguaise Guardian. And at the end of the games, the Arlesiennes lined up with their parasols to salute the winners of the games. (Video of Arlesiennes, Arenes d’Arles, June 2013).
Here’s a link to a video that shows you the game in action:
FERIA ALÈS 2013 – Course camarguaise
When I posted a photo of Salmon Tiramisu, or tiramisu au saumon, to Facebook, I received some interesting comments from my American friends. They simply could not imagine eating this as an entre with salmon.
First of all, salmon tiramisu is heavenly. And there’s nothing sweet and sugary about it. The French don’t eat sugar before a meal (as in never; it’s a sacrilege). They eat something salty, and salmon tiramisu satisfies that taste.
The Italian dessert tiramisu is made with mascarpone cheese, egg yolks and sugar. The cake-like ladyfingers layer are dipped coffee.
Salmon tiramisu is also made with mascarpone cheese and egg yolks, but rather than adding sugar, salt is added.
Tiramisu literally means “pick me up” in Italian and has the idea of something that makes you happy. There are several legends floating around about the origin of the Italian dessert. One refers to Venetian women who ate the dessert to give them energy for a long night of lovemaking.
Salmon tiramisu definitely makes me happy. It’s my new favorite entre.
Recipe for Salmon Tiramisu:
250g mascarpone cheese
4 slices smoked salmon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped chives
4 sprigs chives
Chop salmon into small pieces, about 1/2 inch thin. Lightly saute in olive oil. Add salt and pepper, and let it cool. Separate the yolks from the egg whites. Beat the egg yolks and add to mascarpone with a little salt and pepper and chives. Beat and fold in the egg whites. Place cooled salmon pieces in the bottom of a glass dessert dish. Drizzle a little lemon juice. Top with mascarpone mixture. Garnish with slivered almonds and a few sprigs of chives. Refrigerate for 12 hours. Serve cold.
Alternatively, you could use the same recipe with blinis. Toast blinis and spread mascarpone mixture on top. Garnish with smoked salmon and chives. Makes a great appetizer.