Years ago, when I told my children that I would become an American citizen, my two oldest daughters who were then in third and fourth grades thought I would be different after the swearing ceremony.
They observed me when I emerged from the crowded room. Did they expect me to look more like their friends’ moms? Maybe I would have left my accent behind.
“No,” one of them said, “we know you’d be the same”.
“But,” her sister added, “now that you’re American, can we buy ketchup and coca cola?”
In addition to ketchup and coca cola, Doritos, sodas, coffee creamers and many other familiar American items were foreign to me, and to this day rarely enter my home.
Not that I am on an anti-junk food crusade or anything like that.
But I believe that the food we eat as children shapes our taste for the rest of our lives. In this aspect, I was lucky. My maman liked to cook and bake. My papa kept a garden where a bounty of produce was available year round.
As important as the type of food are the rituals that surround food. I grew up eating three meals a day, around a table with my family, no snacking in between meals except for the after school gouter that allowed us to wait for dinner never served before 7:30 pm.
My husband shares most of my childhood memories when it comes to food so we naturally fed and still feed our children in the same way.
Of course, we have adopted many American traditions, including eating occasional dinners in front of the TV for a really good movie or a political debate, moving dinner time a little sooner (still late for most Americans), and incorporating more exotic food that plays such a big part in the American food scene.
Thanksgiving is our favorite American holiday but we remain very French when it comes to the Chandeleur, the French version of Groundhog Day.
This is the day the French make crepes instead of waiting for the groundhog’s shadow. No offense it tastes better. Besides, my kids would never forgive me if I stopped making crepes that day.
The funny thing is that, although my son loves cooking and baking, making crepes remain my territory. Watching him and his sister admire the way I flip the crepes the way my maman did when I was a little girl, is a small pleasure I enjoy year after year.
“I have to teach you,” I tell my son. “So you can make crepes for your own kids, someday.”
“No,” his sister says, “you will make them for our kids. And you will speak French to them. You’re much better than us at this kind of stuff.”
Sweeter words than the crepes are, really.
Vive la Chandeleur!