My French Adventure … in Sydney

Totally the latest of late posts ever … it’s been a bit busy the last few weeks, so much so that for literally one weekend (ok, more than one weekend), I curled up into a ball, shut my eyes and slept my life away. It was both amazing and frightening.

What constitutes a panic attack?

But I digress.

Since starting this online space I’ve noticed that I’ve been more attuned to various cultural activities in Sydney. Yes, there’s no greater feeling than getting on a plane and flying far far away (all the while singing Fly Away by Lenny Kravitz as the plane takes off), but then there’s the joy of finding little pockets of the world in your own little local world.  Case in point, of late, was France.

Tuesday, 14th July was Bastille Day, and whilst it was being celebrated in France in the warmth of summer, it was still an excuse for French-Australians, Francophiles or even visiting French tourists to embrace their French-ness and head out to celebrate.  I’d previously mentioned two events to commemorate this year’s Bastille Day, so off I trotted earlier this month to the BBR French World Festival (held over the weekend of Friday, 10th July, to Sunday, 12th July), and then, on the actual Bastille Day, to the Bastille Day celebration at The Argyle, organised by Alliance Française de Sydney.

BBR French World Festival

Right. First thing’s first. I hadn’t previously considered Sydney to be a city that was so big on French culture and cuisine, yet there it was, spread out around Circular Quay and outside Customs House, like a hot crepe on a hot plate.  The BBR French World Festival people had kind of pulled out all the stops. Everything French you could possibly thing of.  Correction – everything French could possibly think of.  When I went there on the Friday arvo to attend a French Cooking Masterclass, there were stalls upon stalls upon stalls of cooked food, wine, produce, cakes, homewares, even a Renault car (I am not a vehicular kind of person so all I thought was, “oooh … shiny”).  I also really appreciated that there were stalls from French-influenced regions of the world like Canada, Belgium and Switzerland.  I went back there again on the Sunday, the last day of the festival, and my friend and her partner, whose father is Swiss, spent a bit of time at the Swiss tent.  Bless.

There’s the joy of finding little pockets of the world in your own little local world

But again, I’m digressing.  The Masterclass.  I have never once attempted to cook any French food, so this was my first time attempting it.  It was run by French catering crew ChefUp, who specialise in bringing French cuisine to your home/workplace/event/whatever.  Present on the day were two of the three ChefUp’ers, Xavier and Mat.  There was a bit of “technical difficulty” in the makeshift (but pretty well kitted-out) tent that housed the masterclass (in that the oven just crapped out), but the stove top still worked so there was that.  Plus, you know, butter, garlic etc.  All good.

In the end, we made a mix of escargot, garlic, cherry tomatoes and goat’s cheese.  Escargot, not surprisingly, has the same consistency as mushrooms, once fried and garlic’d up.  However, escargot, surprisingly (surprised me slightly), is something vegetarians can’t eat. Obviously.  Here are a few choice pics I took of the masterclass:

ChefUp-Sydney-BBR-French-World-Festival-Cooking-Masterclass-My-Local-World-img1

Chefs Xavier (with beard) and Mat (not with beard lol) instructing the class on French cuisine.

Mat (on the left) dishing out fois gras on little toasted bread pieces.  He was very careful to explain what fois gras was.  I was cool with it.  Xavier on the right at work with the escargot.

Mat (on the left) dishing out fois gras on little toasted bread pieces. He was very careful to explain what fois gras was. I was cool with it. Xavier on the right at work with the escargot.

The guys from ChefUp were great, really funny, very knowledgeable.  We made escargot sauteed in garlic with cherry tomatoes and a bit of goat's cheese.

The guys from ChefUp were great, really funny, very knowledgeable. We made escargot sauteed in garlic with cherry tomatoes and a bit of goat’s cheese.

 

Bastille Day celebrations at The Argyle

Aaaaand then Bastille Day rolled around right after that very Frenchy weekend.  Coming off a particulary French-filled high, I rocked up to The Argyle right after work on Tuesday 14th with my friend to check out the action that the Alliance Française de Sydney folk had put together.

I don’t know why I thought it would be like some kind of childhood school fete with the International Food section cordoned off in the corner of the playground.  I just wasn’t expecting there to be such a great show of French … Frenchness.  I’ve grown up in Sydney and I thought I knew it like the back of my hand.  But either I don’t know the back of my hand like I thought I did, or I really under-estimated the French culture in Sydney because The Argyle that night looked GREAT.  Naturally there were again little stalls in the courtyard area outside the main building, of course cheeses, crepes, but inside the building looked amazing.  French flags were hanging from the ceiling.  French music played over the sound system.  Even the people in attendance (and there were a lot of them!) were dressed appropriately.  Stripes, berets, you name it.  It was like the way people would dress for St. Patrick’s Day if you wanted to celebrate it … but this time it was French.

It made me really a lot more aware of French culture in Australia, and I can’t express the love for this city any more because I am so proud that there are so many different groups of people here.  I would have never thought French would have such a great presence in Sydney, and maybe it’s because it came out in full force for Bastille Day, but it was still great to be a part of it.  Pics below are from my mate Jonaline’s camera, because I was too busy eating.  FYI we had a LOT of cheese.  We decided to split a cheese platter and I’m kind of glad we did!

Here are a couple of pics (and my shoddy recording of a crepe making minute) from the night:

Crepe Making at the Bastille Day event in The Argyle, Sydney from Erica Enriquez Clemente on Vimeo.

Of COURSE I had crepes on Bastille Day and of COURSE they were great.

The crepe makers doing their crepe making thing ...

The crepe makers doing their crepe making thing …

Man that cheese platter was amazing ...

Man that cheese platter was amazing …

I think this is called a Poulet Basquaise.  It's was definitely hearty.  It was definitely tasty.  It was definitely welcome on a cold winter night.  Ironic, as Bastille Day is a summer thing for most people ...

I think this is called a Poulet Basquaise. It’s was definitely hearty. It was definitely tasty. It was definitely welcome on a cold winter night. Ironic, as Bastille Day is a summer thing for most people …

What my fake week in France taught me

Like I said earlier, I thought I knew Sydney pretty well.  Lots of Asian stuff coz of our proximity to Asia.  Italians and Greeks in the Inner West.  Vietnamese in Cabramatta.  Lebanese in Bankstown. Filipinos in Blacktown.  Pockets of Latinos and Africans.  I thought I knew Sydney.  The week I spent celebrating France taught me that there is so much about Sydney I don’t know, so many people that make up Sydney.  So many things to try in Sydney.  I love that there’s always something more I can learn about this city, and I’m eager to try more.

Oh, and the other thing I learnt? I love French food.  I made French Onion Soup recently, and I’m going to give more French cooking a go.  God help us all.

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