Hiya! A couple months have passed since the dramatic recounting of our botched weekend, so here are some updates: We’ve been experiencing some of the coldest winter days in recent French history (which of course compared to many of our friends who endure extreme cold and blizzards makes us big fat crybabies, so… I’m not complaining!) While some of the freakishly driven townspeople have kept up their routine of a perky morning run, I have been holed up in our cocoon of an apartment without so much as the motivation to stretch. I have however been gorging on series like The Mind of a Chef and Making a Murderer. You know, a little of this, a little of that.
Oh! And we had a friend from the states come visit! Mathias has been diligently working at his new job for the past three months, which means being without him for 12 to 13 hours each day (boooo!) and probably explains my bipolar television viewing habits. Anyway, I asked him if he’d like to take a day off to spend with our friend and he replied that if he took a day off it should probably be spent on administrative stuff that needs to get done. (Boooo! again, am I right?) So i told him that’s nuts – I said it nicely – and encouraged him to take a day off that would have absolutely nothing to do with visas or paperwork in any form. And he agreed! So we spent the day in Chantilly.
Being there reminded us of the times we spent apartment sitting for our friends who were thoughtful enough to invite us to stay while they were away, aware as they were that living with my in-laws did not provide us much time alone. Their place was an oasis for us; perfectly typical of the area, artfully decorated with loads of books, complete with an upright piano (swoon) and right in the heart of the area with the famous picturesque castle a stone’s throw away. I mean… if you’re really, really good at stone throwing. But seriously, gorgeous Chantilly castle a mere leisurely walk away. We loved it.
And THIS reminded me (bear with me here) of what it was like throwing meals together when you’re staying at someone else’s place.
If you’ve never house-sat for someone let me tell you there is an art to it. At least, there’s an art to being invited to do so again. You want to inhabit their space and feel at ease while still respecting that this is their home and should be treated as such (no snooping) and if at all possible left in better condition after your departure than upon your arrival. This was not so easily done with our Chantilly-inhabiting friends, seeing as they left their place immaculate. But we tried!
And then there’s the food. We would never rummage through pantry items unless specifically told to, but staples like oil and vinegar were usually at the ready. Fridge or fresh items either opened, leftover, or clearly marked with expiration dates that encompass your stay are not only acceptable to use but welcomed. Waste not want not and all that. (No home owner wants to come back to rotting molding mystery items left in their fridge.) Unless its fancy. Don’t take liberties with the fancy stuff. Unless said fancy items were left as a gift to you, like our Chantilly peeps left for us, cause they’re awesome.
One of my favorite things about setting up shop in someone else’s place is getting to cook in a new space with new equipment. Even the most sparsely equipped kitchens will still have little tools I’ve never used or don’t use regularly and it’s fun to take over someone’s culinary world for awhile! It’s fascinating to me how even the things I cook or the way I cook will alter according to the style of the full-time occupants or space itself. It breeds inspiration, really. And I’m a big fan of inspiration.
So this home in Chantilly is resided by a lovely down to earth couple who are conscientious about their health but not obnoxiously so. Their place is rustic and honest and pure, with unexpected soul and funkiness.
You still with me?
So here’s a dish we made up while staying at their place. It was earthy and vibrant and approachable, and yummy to boot!
there are no measurements, vary according to your taste
pre-cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
pitted green olives, halved
softened mushrooms, halved
splash of lemon juice
spoonful of balsamic
sprinkle of herbes de Provence
generous heap of grated Parmesan!
Believe it or not, the Parmesan was what brought this simple dish together. When I saw it in our friends’ fridge I was so excited because I hadn’t used any in a long time. I reread the welcome note to make sure they had in fact insisted we use their cheese, and they had! The mushrooms I softened by gently poaching in salted water. Make sure to drain mushrooms of excess liquid. Mix it all together and serve with warm crusty bread or as a side to your main.
House-sitting provided an oasis for us during some difficult times, but we’ve got our own little oasis now, and I can’t wait to share more dishes from our very own kitchen!