Once upon a time, about five years ago, I used to stare out my office window, through the layer of grime that covered the pane, and gaze at a smog-filled sky, the filled parking lot below, and a series of Communist cereal box buildings, each blockier than the last. I was living in Beijing at the time and, though I appreciated the vibrant, futuristic hum of China, I dreamed of living in France.
One day, surfing the web at lunch, I found a blog, French Word-a-Day, which offered delightful French vocabulary lessons in the form of vignettes. The writer, Kristin Espinasse, shared her stories of life as an American in the south of France so charmingly that each post felt like a cyber-vacation. I shared Kristin’s blog with an editor friend at Simon and Schuster and I was thrilled to bits when her blog became a book, Words in a French Life!
Of course, at the time, I never dreamed I would move to Paris, or have the opportunity to become fluent in French. But five years later, my French dream has become a reality. Like many fantasies, the reality hasn’t turned out quite the way I expected, but one of the biggest highlights of living here has been meeting Kristin and her husband, Jean-Marc, and tasting the silky wine they produce at their vineyard, the Domaine Rouge-Bleu. Recently, Kristin plugged Kitchen Chinese on her blog and her lovely post, along with the comments from her loyal readers, moved me to tears.
I sometimes think how lucky I was to live in China, to be inspired by a cuisine and culture that is ethnically my own, and to have the opportunity to write Kitchen Chinese. But living in Beijing gave me some unexpected gifts — it taught me how to be a better visitor in a foreign place, and introduced me to my first internet friend. And for that, and so much more, I will always be grateful.
P.S. Kitchen Chinese is now shamelessly promoting itself on Facebook. Become a fan!