With her new program, My Life in France, currently airing on Lifestyle FOOD, we spoke to Sarah Sharratt about life in her new homeland.
Packing up your family and moving to the French countryside is a fantasy many of us have conjured. However, American woman Sarah Sharratt actually went through with this life-changing plan.
Sarah, her husband and their two kids, Robbie and Madeleine, moved to south-east France in 2014 and haven't looked back. They've adopted three Bernese Mountain dogs, nine chickens and a whole new way of life in their stunning French chateau.
For Sarah, growing up in an American city and later relocating to London to study at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, made the move to the country all the more surprising.
"Everything slows down in the countryside," she told Lifestyle. "I had to learn to relax and not be in such a rush. When you live in rural France, you realise that people here place a lot of value on relationships. Going to the post office or the bakery is a social event, it’s not about ticking chores off your list."
In her television series, My Life in France (known internationally as UpRooted), Sarah talks about the lack of one-stop-shop supermarkets. Instead, her weekly shop involves visiting a series of specialists: the butcher, the baker, the cheese maker.
This produce-led approach is one of the reasons - there are, in fact, countless! - why French cooking and cuisine is held in such high esteem worldwide.
We spoke to Sarah to discover some of the other things she's learned about French life and food since her big move:
What do you think the French do better than other countries? And what do they do not-as well?
In my experience, I feel the French are very good at eating seasonally and improvising. For instance, they love to go to the market on Saturday morning and plan their weekend meals around what is in season and what looks good. Whereas, many Americans, Canadians and British I know have their meals planned in advance of shopping and there isn’t much going “off list”.
The result, however, is that often things aren’t as organised as they could be! There have been more than a few French dinner parties that become very late nights. The “laissez-faire” attitude and pulling it all together on the spot is very French. Of course, it always does look beautiful and tastes delicious. With some good French wine in hand, I am learning to just relax and enjoy the late nights!
What struck you as something particularly interesting or different about France?
I am fascinated by the breadth of food that French children eat. I guess it is true what they say about starting young. You often find duck breast or fish as options on kids’ menus. I have even seen foie gras listed too!
What do you think defines French cuisine?
For me what defines French cuisine is the idea of building blocks. There are basic recipes that serve as the foundation for French cooking – e.g., stocks, roux, pastries. If you understand these fundamentals, you are then free to create a lot of exciting dishes using all different sorts of ingredients.
What are five ingredients every aspiring French cook must have in their pantry or fridge?
- Unsalted butter
- Fresh herbs
- Chicken stock
- White wine - for cooking and for enjoying while you cook!
What is your favourite French dish?
This is a very tough question! I would have to say Coq au Vin. When done right, this is the king of all chicken dishes. And don’t forget the crusty bread for mopping up all that delicious sauce!