Friday, March 29, 2013

France et Moi with author Jill Colonna


Welcome to ‘France et Moi’ where this week I’m talking to author and ace macaron baker Jill Colonna about what France means to her.

French village diaries France et Moi Jill Colonna macarons
Photo from http://madaboutmacarons.com/
Jill, who is passionate about macarons has lived in Paris for twenty years and is author of Mad About Macarons! a fun and stylish book that helps you to overcome your fears and achieve the perfect macarons, just like the French.

First question, I think France is a special place and it is famed for many things including its cheese, wine and diverse holiday locations plus, dare I say it strikes and dog poo littered streets. What do you think makes France so very unique and ‘French’?

Jill: I love their obsession with good food and yet they don’t let it affect their waistline. ‘French’ is seasonal and fresh; what makes them unique is how they show it off so stylishly in their pâtisseries, épiceries and farmers’ markets.

2) What is your first memory of a trip to France?

Jill: Dad driving us from Scotland to the South of France when my brother and I were little. The car trip was long with no air-conditioning but I loved looking at the long avenues of trees and stopping off for salads of pâté and gherkins so I could tease my brother they were frogs’ legs.

3) When you first arrived in France what was the best thing about being immersed in French life and the scariest thing?

Jill: It’s hard to believe it was 20 years ago! I loved carrying a baguette as if it was a fashion accessory plus being able to stock up on powerful cheeses and eat garlic without friends thinking I was potty. The scary part was the language: everyone spoke so fast as words just merged into oblivion.

4) Having lived in France and spoken French for many years do you have any top tips for my readers on how to learn French?

Jill: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just talk and get it out – gradually the mistakes will disappear but it’s important to gain confidence by practicing and don’t speak a word of English. Watch films in French with French subtitles – in the early days I found it helpful watching films I knew already and picked up some cool phrases like “grosse légume” (bigwig). That’s something you can’t get from textbooks!

5) Do you have any embarrassing language mishaps you are happy to share?

Jill: When I first arrived, I told my boss I could speak fluent French, ahem. On my first week in an international organisation, I took a telephone call from the Canadian Delegation and didn’t understand a word they said, especially as their accents were so different. I remember crying as soon as I put the ‘phone down, as I hadn’t a clue what I’d just agreed to. Then came the Belgian accents next day…

6) Imagine you are sitting outside a French café at 10.00am on a sunny morning watching the world go by, what do you order from the waiter?

Jill: That sounds wonderful. It would just be a small ‘Noisette’ espresso coffee with a dash of warmed milk. If I hadn’t had breakfast yet, I’d go for a plain but extra buttery croissant, once I’d checked them out at the next table if they were top notch, otherwise it’s not worth eating the calories.

7) Where did your love of the macaron start?

Jill: In the chic 16th in Paris, at the top floor restaurant of a posh ladies’ fashion store in rue de Passy with colleagues one lunchtime. Most ladies had a little dog sous la table while sur la table, little pastel-coloured macarons were de rigueur. When I tried one, it was love at first bite.

8) Every region in France has it’s own culinary specialty, do you have a favourite regional dish?

Jill: That’s difficult, as I love them all! In this chilly weather, perhaps the Blanquette de Veau from Ile-de-France does it for me, especially as I adore Condrieu wine, a partnership which makes the toes curl.

9) France has many different cheeses, a silly question, but which French cheese are you? A hard and mature Tome, a soft, fresh and lively goat cheese, the creamy and rich Camembert or maybe the salty and serious Roquefort?

Jill: Would you believe I’m teased at home for being like Bree in Desperate Housewives. Perhaps you could call me a French brie, then?

10) Do you have any current projects you would like to tell my readers about?

Jill: I’m excited about a short video that’s currently doing the rounds on Facebook via American Express, ‘The Simple Pleasure of Macarons’. I’m also trying to finalise a couple of manuscripts for my publisher as a sequel to Mad About Macarons, but I keep hesitating. Long story. Hopefully by the end of the year, I’ll have something concrete to share.

Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about France and you.

Jill: Thank you for having me over on French Village Diaries, Jacqueline!  It has been a pleasure.

You can follow Jill’s blog here and Mad About Macarons! on Facebook here. Mad About Macarons! is available from Amazon and other booksellers.