What I learned in France Part 2: Always Have Fun (and clean as you go)

I'm back with part 2 of what I learned in France. If you're not sure where part one is, check it out here. I don't have a recipe to go along with this one but rather some comments about the cooking experience in France. 

Lately I have been feeling like there is not enough time (or light) in the day to accomplish what I want to.  I feel like I'm just cooking because I have to and not feeling very inspired. My hubby's team made it to the NCAA (yay!) so our weekends have been consumed with travel and soccer (not that I'm complaining). This coming weekend we have no real plans and I plan on getting down with my KitchenAid and camera and reconnect with the joy of cooking. 

I've been thinking back to our trip to Provence and wondering why the cooking experience was so great. Aside from always having a glass of rose in hand, being on vacation, and having a chef working with you along the way, there was just something different about the experience of cooking in France. We were never in a fancy kitchen with expensive equipment or appliances. The experience was truly about enjoying each other's company, enjoying the process of cooking, and enjoying the final result with one another. Every meal in France is eaten with such pleasure. The French really take time to enjoy the entire meal process and never rush through it. 

Our last day was definitely one of my favorites. We spent the day cooking with chef Yvan who was a finalist on Top Chef France. I was expecting a rigid cooking class but was oh.so.wrong. As we walked up to Yvan's house, you could hear music BLARING through all the open windows. The yard was overgrown with fresh herbs, flowers, and littered with empty wine bottles. The house was a clean, organized, beautiful mess.

Yvan's house

Yvan's house

Serving dishes were on shelves in the bathroom, bags of grains were scattered in the pantry, and the music continued to blare throughout the entire day...it was perfect! The entire time we were laughing, dancing, drinking and having fun. I tend to get a little focused on the task at hand (see photos below) but Yvan always lightened the mood and kept saying everything was "cool". 

Another thing that all the chefs had in common is that the workspace was always clean and not cluttered (think lots of prep bowls - insert emoji with heart eyes). We were never in a fancy kitchen with tons of counter space but our work area was never messy. Rather than stacking dirty dishes in the sink/counter and cleaning them all at the end, we were constantly wiping down the counters and rinsing our dishes. 

Even though each cooking experience can't be recreated every day back home, there are definitely pieces of the experience I've been trying to recreate. I love putting on my favorite Pandora station while I get busy in the kitchen. I have been making it a point to sit down and eat while enjoying good conversation with company at most meals (no one's perfect, right?!). I have been utilizing all the prep bowls I have in my kitchen which I always hesitated to do since it seemed like more dishes to clean. When I make dinner during the week now, I try to have most of it cleaned up by the time the meal is on the table. While things are simmering or baking, I try to wash the dirty dishes rather than check my Instagram. If I'm making an easy one dish meal, I'll try to do a quick clean out of the fridge rather than watching TV. All of these little things have made a difference in the enjoyment of meal prep and cooking. 

A beautiful chef's kitchen on our last night in Provence

A beautiful chef's kitchen on our last night in Provence

Even though we learned some good new recipes and techniques, there is something priceless about being able to take home the experience of cooking. 

I plan to check in with you guys next week with some last minute Thanksgiving recipes. Until then, may your wine glass always be full, your your dishes always clean, and your kitchen full of laughter! 

Enjoying a picnic lunch!