In so many ways this culture is the antithesis of everything I am. There is no air conditioning, so in the summer months I am forced to feel the truth of the outside instead of chilling myself indoors. The produce is seasonal, so I cannot get stone fruits in the winter or citrus in the summer. The culture exposes the parts of me that want to control my world and forces me into its rhythm. The element where this is most needed in my life, the lesson I most do not want to learn, is to be slow.
It’s a common inside joke among expats in France that everything in France is slow. The lines at the grocery store, the time it takes to get your utilities set up in a new apartment, service at a restaurant – everything here takes longer than it does at home. For someone who likes to hurry, who likes to be first in line, who finds her value in the amount she can get done in a day, slow is the worst thing that can happen.
The first time I sat around a table with friends for hours upon hours, I began to understand the beauty in the slow. It wasn’t about going from one thing to the next as quickly as possible. It was about fully drinking in the moment, this moment, the one we will never have again, with these exact friends and this exact food at this exact place. The food won’t last forever, nor will the company, so while we are in it, we must slow down and savor it.
France has taught me to savor. It is known for its cuisine, yes, and for good reason. You have never had even simple foods that taste so good – and it is often because they are prepared so slowly. And that slow pace finds its way from the kitchen to the table, where no one is in a rush. Where that first bite makes you stop and close your eyes and give thanks that God has given us such exquisitely good gifts in this life. It is in savoring that we remember grace. It is in savoring that we slow down enough to remember that delicious food and wonderful friends are a gift.
I can’t adequately describe to you the feeling of breaking off the end of a baguette on my walk home and chewing through the crust into the soft interior. I can’t tell you the joy in sneaking out first thing in the morning to the bakery and returning with an almond croissant to have with my coffee. There are difficult moments here, of course, but there are so many opportunities to stop and breathe in the goodness of God. I believe that wherever you are, there are moments to be found like these.
I am still too fast-paced. I still like to run ahead of my problems and if I am honest, sometimes I eat lunch over my sink to get to the next thing instead of enjoying a leisurely lunch with a friend. But I am learning to slow down, to savor, to find beauty and joy in the quiet moments.
(One of my favorite savory moments when the weather turns here in France is French lentil soup. It is so easy to make or to whip up at a moment’s notice. I am no cook-blogger with the fancy pictures and perfect recipe, but here I’ll offer you one of my favorite ways to slow down. We can buy big cans of lentils here, so if you can find a can, great, otherwise cook up a couple cups!)
French Lentil Soup
2 c cooked green lentils
1 onion, diced
A few carrots, sliced
8 oz chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp Cumin
Sauté the onions and carrots in olive oil until soft. Add the can of tomatoes and cumin and sauté over high heat for a few minutes (until tomatoes cook down a bit). Add chicken broth, lentils, and salt and pepper (add or subtract chicken broth based on how watery you want the soup). Simmer until hot. Serve with greek yogurt, bacon crumbles, and diced tomatoes. Don’t forget some warm bread on the side.
What moments in your life call you to stop and savor? How are you at taking advantage of these moments? What gifts in your life are you grateful for this week?