Rosalyn Chapman grew up in the Midlands area of England and now lives in Sixt Sur Aff, South Brittany in France with her husband Paul. Her two sons Daniel and Michael live near by, and she’s a grandmother to Michael’s son Kenzo.
- What do you remember about family meals and your mother’s cooking style when I was growing up? As one of six kids I remember we always had our meals round the dinner table, we couldn’t always afford to have a joint of meat, buying lamp or pork chops would be too expensive to feed eight of us, except on a Sunday where there would always be a roast, rarely beef. There was always a traditional Sunday lunch of some description, and during the week Mom would cook sausages, liver and onions, stews with dumplings (my Mom made the best dumplings ever!), or corned beef, always with two veg and potatoes. Always a pudding, tapioca, semolina, my Nan was a great baker, so every weekend there was a pie, apple, pear, we used to go out regularly in season to pick fruits, us kids would go scrumping for apples and pears, we used to wrap each apple and pear in newspaper and store them in barrels. I remember eating rabbit, my Nan knew some poachers who used to give her game. My Nan actually comes from noble birth, a member of the DeSauss family, originally from Switzerland and France, the family fortune long gone before my Nan had chance to inherit anything. So to answer (eventually) the question, good wholesome food, served on a tight budget. Simple foods, but served in a lively environment.
- How is your cooking style different from your mother’s? A lot less frantic, but what I have continued is eating round the dinner table, as a family, without TV. Really there’s a pre France and France. In the UK I went out to work, shops were near by and a lot of my work was cash, so I could shop daily, so I did buy a lot of convenience foods, things that I could serve quickly but always with vegetables and potatoes, my kids thought it normal to eat at the table and I could never understand why others didn’t do the same, my lads have always been allowed an opinion and the freedom to express it, so sitting at a table together, without outside interruption meant that we talked, this carried on till they left home. Sunday lunches a roast; but I suppose the main difference between my Mother’s style of cooking and mine was purely a financial one, I often cooked the same things that my mother cooked, but I could also afford a joint of beef or lamb, so yes there would be apple pie but mine would have been bought at the shop! I was at work during the day, I had a family to feed so it made sense to buy prepared food. Living in France my style has changed considerably, I rarely buy any processed foods preferring to make my own, I prepare foods to suit the seasons, pot au feu or tartiflete in the winter, salads and fruit in the summer.
- What is your favourite gadget? I don’t really have gadgets, I have tools I use, to me gadgets are something you buy then put away in the cupboard never to be seen again. How many people have a fondue set put away somewhere? My favourite tool will always be my bottle opener, but I wouldn’t be without my blender, I make a lot of soups, I may go shopping and find (for example) carrots on special offer, so will buy loads and make and freeze carrot soup.
- Do you entertain, and in what circumstances? What is the biggest party or meal you have hosted to date? Yes I do, often a reason is not needed, often entertaining is not planned. I can start cooking a meal for Paul and I and then get a call from Dan, Mike or both saying they’re coming over. Often we will invite people over for aperitifs, normally an hour for a pastis and a few snacks, olives, little snacks of anchovies on bread, a little saucisse or such like. Or it could be a planned meal for four or five or six! I’ve cooked a complete meal, four or more courses for ten, I’ve had a summer BBQ, although Paul runs the BBQ, but I’ve prepared the salads, made the coleslaw, quiche and other foods for thirty.
- Can you share a typical daily menu? Weekly menu? Just Paul and myself eating, this time of the year, Breakfast of croissants and pain au Chocolate. Lunch, Home made soup with crusty bread, dinner, a starter of Coq St Jaques followed by Tartiflette, Home made Tiramasu. The recipes for all these is on my kitchen blog.
But could be fresh prawns with a Marie Rose sauce, chicken stuffed with cheese, the chicken coming from our own garden, or one of my ducks, grilled with an orange sauce, I don’t really have a typical menu. As a snack I might cook a Camembert cheese in the oven and eat it with a fresh baguette.
- How has your cooking style evolved over the years? I’m in danger of repeating my self from an earlier question. But simply I’ve learned to cook, I’ve learned to take basic foodstuffs and turning in to something that gives me pride. I’m always learning, I see something in a book or on the TV, I will try it, but I’m then looking to make it mine, changing things or using the basic method but using a completely different ingredients. I buy foods on sale and in season, I rarely look in the freezer section except to buy frozen peas or to make sure I have a good just in case stock. In my freezer I have home-raised and killed chickens, a turkey and a goose, trout that my son caught, or potatoes grown here, there’s a few bags of soups and a bag of beef stock, there’s even a small bag of fish stock. I’ve also learned from my French daughters-in-law Veronique and Violaine who have had recipes passed down to them, these are recipes that I would probably never hear of without them.
- Can you recommend any cookbooks, TV shows or websites that have inspired you? Yes, my food gurus are Hugh Fernley Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver, Jamie with his simplistic attitude to cooking, taking away the mystique that some chefs try to show and demonstrating that we can all cook. Hugh because of his attitude towards the basic ingredients, I love River Cottage, I know I will never create what he did, but I have started on my own road to River Cottage. Books, The River Cottage “Everyday”, The Good Granny cookbook, The Women’s Institute “650 Everyday Recipes”, Pat Chapman’s Indian cookbooks, but I have lots more books, including a reprint of the 1852 book by Charles Elmé Francatelli book “Cookery for the Working Classes” I also have a note book from my Nan.
- What is the most unusual dish you’ve ever made? Not unusual really, but something different for me, Tongue, takes so long to cook but I remember my Nan used to cook it and I was in the local super market and was looking at the tongue and almost daring my self to buy one, which I did, tasted as good as I remember and will cook it again.
- What is the oldest item in your kitchen? The newest? Oldest, my Nans bread knife, the newest my Raclette Grill, going back to the gadget question, I like my raclette and use it.
- What would you like to change about your cooking style in the coming year? I want to learn to cook more different styles of cookery, Indian and Pakistani for example, as long as they are in English or French I will look at them, so I often join or read websites that offer something different.
Roz Chapman writes An English Rose in France, and posts her blog’s recipes at Rosie’s Kitchen. Although she’s keen to make the blog interesting to others, it makes a great diary and an easy way for her family around the world to stay in touch and follow Kenzo’s progress.