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  • Writer's pictureShannon Elisabeth


Every summer, since Wlady and I married, we've traveled to France with our children to visit Grand-Mère, enriching Wlady's two dual-citizen boys and introducing my daughter and two young boys to the french culture. Now they are older and have heads full of delicious french memories: jellyfish stings along the Côte d'Azur, swimming in underwear in Bretagne, suffocating without air-conditioning in Grand-Mère's Mercedes, and wrangling one another for the last piece of baguette. We've always insisted that they try to eat everything just once, whether frog legs, snails, pungent camembert cheese, or rabbit. Our priority was to raise good eaters instead of one's who only ate pizza, hamburgers, and tacos. They are now young adults, and we'd like to think they are bi-cultural, considering France their second home. Some are even plotting to move here for good.

Since our children have grown and they now have numerous fishing rods, skateboards, girlfriends and we have a young dog who thinks she's our child, we've decided that we've outgrown Grand-Mère's apartment and quite frankly, it exhausts her to have too many to cook and clean for at her age. So, we bought a small country house deep in the hilly forests of Bourgogne along the Yonne River in a village with a classy name. It has been in neglect for some time, with peeling walls, a heating system that froze last winter when temperatures plummeted to 3 degrees Fahrenheit for two weeks. Overgrown vines crept and gnarled right through the cement, peeling walls, mismatched tiling, and lazy patchwork. But we couldn't love it more. And Wlady said, "we're going to do right by her bring her back to her glory." (La Maison is a feminine noun). That's his love language. Although he used to be an I.T. network manager/Accounting brainiac, he truly loves repairing, fixing, and making things whole again. (Maybe that's why he was attracted to me? I was indeed a bit broken when we met.)

Besides spending time with our bustling family and dog, we will host future chocolate workshops for our sweet-tooth customers. Because people have asked us how we create a line of 50+ chocolates and desserts since we opened La Châtelaine Chocolat Co, eleven years ago, it's only fitting to bring them here. We are going to show them the entire process from initial inspiration to tempering as we did at our last workshop in Provence in May. We'd also like to involve Grand-Mère, the most excellent french cook I've eaten. She has cooked three-course meals for our family all these years, and the kids have begged us to write down her "recettes"/recipes.

p.s. There is a French word that reminds me of what France has done for my life: s' épanouir. I would like to see it do the same for others.

The Larousse dictionary defines the word this way:

to blossom;

Taking full and harmonious forms, achieving a full and happy stage of development;

To acquire the fullness of his intellectual or physical faculties; and

being well in his skin, in his body.

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