When I was eleven or so, my parents discussed the thought that our family holiday may be spent in France. The continent was opening up again after the war - recovered enough after a decade to welcome the tourist money. I wanted to go of course I did, hadn't I always wanted to travel? Then Dad decided it was too early, I wouldn’t appreciate the experience, the food would be a problem.
I was not only devastated, I was shocked to the core. What had my eating tastes have to do with hopping on that ferry and chugging across the Channel?
It was explained.
The food would be flavoured differently,
Strange food may be offered and
They were not going to take someone who would not only be very hungry after a fortnight but would show them up by pushing her food around. It wasn’t polite.We would go to Cornwall as normal.
I had moments only to decide the course of my culinary life.
'I promise.' I pleaded.
I promised to eat everything put in front of me.
With no complaint,
With no complaint.
Cross my heart and hope to die.
Please, please, can we go.'
Now, had I been bribed? I still wonder:(
We went. I was seasick on the ferry. I discovered my Achilles heel to my future wanderings, the sea and me do not get on.
I did so enjoy Brittany. The beaches, the sunshine (we would have had both in Cornwall, it wasn't after all so far from home:)the rapidity of French and I had a brand new swimsuit silver blue. A proper one, no shirring elastic, no little pouches. A proper swimming costume.
And the food. Looking back I think my parents were kind to me. I was never offered frog’s legs, I wouldn't have been able to eat them, I loved frogs too much, I was never offered snails I couldn't have eaten them either, I had spent too much of my childhood studying them.
I had to eat garlic, impossible not to, olive oil! very strange that foodstuff! it was only ever used for cleaning ears where I came from, bought from the chemist in tiny bottles. Strange dressings and far more salads than I was used to. The seasonings were different but not by so much, the order of food and dealings with cutlery were different, but fun to learn.
Their puddings were different but just as delicious, their cakes the same. The milk tasted different, the cheese took a bit of getting used to, their breakfasts had strangely insubstantial bread. Not slice-able. Croissants the same. I didn’t dislike them but I never adopted them either.
The meat tasted a little different - cooking method or animal I was too young to question, not knowing other countries ate different meat sometimes. The flavourings in the stews were intriguing once one accepted this was an adventure.
Because, this is how I sold myself on this holiday. My ambition since I could read was to be a wanderer, I wanted adventures in far flung lands and eating appeared to be part of that. I never looked back. It was that fortnight which enabled me to pack my passport and travel the world many years later.
When we returned my father drew up a small, but impressive, certificate announcing to the world my achievement; it had the correct amount of official words such as wherefore, certify and hence, to satisfy me. My name was handwritten in to the type, it was a proper document. Clever Dad.
I hadn't expected this, travelling to France had been enough but I treasured that piece of paper.More than any other I had.
I had done it.
Of course, everyone else in the family had wanted to go to France and I was the only impediment. This was certainly a bribe but not offered as one. I had made the conditions. They certainly knew how much I would want to go and clever parents that they were, the trap was baited and I jumped in. Did they wonder later, when it appeared, I would never return from my travels, whether that had been such a good idea:)