When you move to another country and pretty much everything you bring with you fits in 4 suitcases and 2 backpacks, you’re going to have to buy a lot once you arrive and get settled in. We sold our house in the US fully furnished, down to the silverware and plates, so we needed a place here that had everything included. We achieved that during our first year by renting a house normally used by weekly vacationers so everything we left behind was suddenly available to us once again. Because it was a compact (read “small”) place, anything new we bought had to have more than one function since storage was limited. I wrote about it in Double or Nothing and we’ve been able to stick with that ideal for the most part. Then we bought our own house and the rules got relaxed a bit.
When you’re starting from scratch to furnish your home, naturally many items are only going to serve one function but I suppose with creative thinking you could say that some things have a dual purpose. Our dining table does also serve as our computer desk, the top of one of our wine racks (yes, we have two—this is wine country) is a book shelf, and our sofa makes a great place for a nap. We have a dishwasher but cooking a turkey in it as seen on several videos on the Internet is taking it too far.
One of our very first purchases that still gets daily use is an automatic coffee machine that grinds the beans, tamps down the grounds and forces hot water through them to make the perfect espresso. It even steams the milk if you want a cappuccino. Neighbors drop by frequently just to chat for a few minutes and nothing says “welcome” like a petit café. If it’s later in the day then the coffee turns to wine and if we happen to have decanted a bottle then we need a way to dry out the decanter once it’s empty. I didn’t even know they made them.
Each area of France has its own signature dish and in our region it’s cassoulet, a hearty bean, duck, and sausage stew that’s cooked and served in its own special bowl. They are hand made in a family run pottery located about half an hour from here. How convenient is that?
While we’re on the subject of artisans, there’s a husband and wife glass making team who have a shop seasonally in Carcassonne’s medieval walled Cité who make small serving dishes that are the perfect size for the tables beside that double purpose sofa we use for guests when it’s not occupied for an afternoon siesta. Bill insisted we needed the knife rests that match the plates.
Since all of the measurements here are metric, we had to have all new measuring cups, spoons, and pitchers. With that we could then make the always popular dessert, crème brûlée that needs its own miniature blowtorch for that final crunchy touch. What’s more famous as the start of a nice French meal than foie gras and how else are you going to cut it than with a special knife? Yep, we have one of those too.
A common thread runs through all of these items: entertainment. Whether it’s spontaneous visits or dinners planned a week in advance we’re lucky to have found a “village” even if it is a street in the middle of the city. Funny enough, the French word for “foreigner” is étranger that looks a lot like the English “stranger”. Happily, here, that does not apply.
PS: That hedgehog at the top of this post? You’re supposed to stick olives or sausage slices on his toothpick spines, but we just leave him out as decoration. One more artisan creation, this time from the Marché de Noël (Christmas Market).