Garance Doré on How to Live With Style
I’m a 40-year-old French woman, but let’s be honest here: I’m not a real Parisian. I come from Corsica, and I have to tell you, in the South of France, we do it better. We invented the slow life—leisurely meals, rosé en terrasse, comfortable homes, easy style.
I’ve been living in New York City for about five years, and it’s been quite an adjustment. In that time I’ve learned everything there is to know about multitasking, networking, power dressing, and restaurant hopping. Unfortunately, in the process, I also unlearned some precious things. It dawned on me recently that I had let go of some parts of my French identity. I didn’t cook anymore, didn’t spend any time at home, and although I’d made many new friends, I’d lost my sense of hospitality. Where I come from, a home is always filled with people. There is always a chilled bottle of wine in the fridge and an extra toothbrush should anyone decide to stay the night. But it wasn’t like that in New York.
So I decided to reclaim my Southern Frenchness and bring that spirit to my life in America. I made the effort to tell friends the door is open all the time by sending last-minute texts: “Hey, I’m making some crepes. Wanna come over?” (It’s funny to see the appeal of any sort of homemade food and an open, no-pressure invitation.) Anyone can embrace that laid-back sense of hospitality with these easy tips.
Let’s start by talking about cooking…
Where I come from, everyone cooks. Making food at home is the norm in France; going to a restaurant is an exception. And Seamless? Ha! The only thing being delivered in Corsica is the mail. Instead, we cook the simplest of things, with the best ingredients. Fresh tomato with salt and olive oil on a slice of bread can make the most satisfying lunch. Where do we get these ingredients? It’s a whole lifestyle. We buy bread every day (a baguette is a daily thing; people picture us walking around with a baguette because we do). And everyone shops for food on the weekends at the market. My ideal Saturday morning: Grab a wicker basket, smell the tomatoes, find the perfect eggplant, and nab the best deal for fish. Then I sit at the café with friends comparing groceries and talking about soccer.
Now, in New York, I always try to have fresh groceries at home for last-minute meals with just a few ingredients. Pasta and zucchini, for example, is delicious with only olive oil, salt, and pepper. Or I’ll bake fish stuffed with sliced fennel. (Make diagonal slices about an inch deep on each side of a whole fish and insert the fennel. Then add lemon slices, olive oil, and salt on top, and put it in the oven for 20 minutes at 400°F. In the meantime, cook some rice.) Voilà, a simple and yummy dinner!
For good food, you’ll need these essentials:
A kitchen isn’t a kitchen without…
Olive oil. Get a simple one for cooking and the best you can find for salad dressing.
Herbs. My top three? Basil, parsley, and mint, grown in pots right at home. They make the room smell like heaven.
Salt. Beautiful sea salt flakes will take your food from great to amazing.
Pasta. You should always have pasta in your kitchen. And always cook it al dente.
Garlic. Because if you have garlic, pasta, olive oil, and salt, you will have everything to make the most delicious pasta there is.
And the more people the better. In the South of France friends drop by for aperitifs (our famous predinner drinks) or for the entire evening. Everybody socializes and sips while cooking (no snacking until the food’s ready!). Assign tasks to people: chopping vegetables, washing herbs, and stirring the pasta. Remember, the cook is the commander and nobody can say no.
And don’t forget about lunch!
What’s up with eating in front of your computer? I remember being floored the first day I saw that in New York. I believe in taking a break—even a short one—to recharge. In Corsica some people still go home for lunch! That might be a little extreme, but I do recommend…
Sitting in a park. Being in nature, away from phone calls, makes a huge difference.
Taking a team break. Join coworkers at a common table for food and jokes.
Trying a fast nap. Seriously! I used to squeeze in 10 minutes of sleep in an empty conference room, or rest on my desk.
Reading your favorite book. The idea is to disconnect from the office in order to come back refreshed and creative.
Calling your mom. People in the South of France talk to their mothers every day. It might not be as relaxing as a nap, but it will definitely take your mind off work.
How to Use Your Phone With Style
In an excerpt from her book, Love Style Life, Doré lays some ground rules for politeness in the age of social media. We’re all guilty sometimes, she says, but beware the following!
Things that make people never call us again: Checking your phone on a date, in a business meeting, at a job interview, dinner, or a wedding. Basically, taking your phone out when you should be focused on the people present—during sex included—is wrong.
Things that make people hate us:
Sending texts during a movie. Having a crazy Jaws ring tone. Reading Twitter jokes out loud (oops, I do that all the time). Listening to loud music with earphones and thinking nobody else can hear it.
Things that make us look stupid:
Taking your phone to the bathroom in a restaurant. It will eventually fall in the water, and you’ll have to ask the waiter for a glass of uncooked rice to put your phone in. (Yes, it sucks up the humidity. You didn’t get that from me.)
Garance Doré’s Home Essentials
Channel your inner French blogger with these inspired finds.
For your desk: Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. colored pencils and holder set ($76, schoolhouseelectric.com)
For your kitchen: Sal de Ibiza sea salt ($23, cybercucina.com)
For your couch: Williams-Sonoma Home pillow ($79, wshome.com)
For your coffee table: Love Style Life, by Garance Doré ($30, garancedore.fr)