So you wanna be French? 5 tips on acquiring French nationality

 

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Last week my name was called from a glass covered cubicle. I signed a sheet of paper. And I became French.  There was no pomp or circumstance.  I’ve heard expat urban legends of getting summoned to sing La Marseillaise on the spot. I prepped it just in case, but will need to dramatically perform my new battlefield vocabulary in the privacy of my own home.

It has been 10 years in the making mastering the French language on my own (thank you rosé!), starting a business in France and pushing myself to continually have an open heart and mind in this often dysfunctional, but still cherished adopted home of mine. I fully recognize the privileges that helped me along the way (being married to a French citizen, general white privilege, being American), but immigration is a long, tedious process for anyone.

I’ve compiled a list of some hard-earned tips to help expedite the long process of acquiring French nationality. I don’t get into precise logistics as it varies from Prefecture to Prefecture. But these are all things I wish I had a heads up on when I could only dream of living in France indefinitely.

Courage!

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1.) Integrate. In America, you can come and be who you are. But in France, you must become French.  Shortly after marrying my French spouse, when I began the official immigration process, I had to sign a contract committing to integrate in every way possible.  And the easiest way to do that is to learn the language. It expedites the process of creating a fulfilling life. And really commit to learning the culture (the cult films, the faux-pas, the ’80s French songs that get the crowd up and moving at house parties). I admit I’m much more prone to reading The New York Times than Le Monde, but it’s so easy to be information-isolated these days that it takes conscious effort to engage with the country where you’d like to invest your energy and life.

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2.) Don’t throw anything away…ever! France still runs mostly on paper. My whole nationality process was set back for months by missing 1 electric bill from 2011 (Comment dit-on “Murphy’s law” en français?). It’s always the ONE paper that’s missing that you will need to complete your dossier.  It’s survival of the fittest so buy a 2-ring binder and keep everything as organized as humanly possible.

snail_thefrancofly.com3.) Phone a friend. Let’s face it, there’s a lot that even French people don’t understand about their own system. And a bureaucratic secret is that most anything can be negotiated. Find a generous friend or a French lover to help navigate the process.drapeau_thefrancofly.com4.) You’re not entitled to anything. One of the first lessons I learned in France was that I am no one. Sure, this sounds harsh to coddled Midwestern millennial ears, but nothing about me was inherently special when I moved here. I had no work experience, my diplomas were invalid and I answered yes and no questions with “OK!”. I had to build that up through time, creating a life and fully engaging. I’ve been working on my dossier for French nationality for over 2 years and started thinking that it was a competition of how badly I wanted it. Think of it as Survivor, but the challenges included eating headcheese and having the right amount of 10 centimes coins to print 100 A4 black and white photocopies at Monoprix.

 

 

 

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5.) Have a sense of humor about the whole thing. Usually there’s a hot blooded guy screaming bloody murder at the Prefecture before being escorted out the place. It has a way of bringing out the worst of people, but a lot can be said for being punctual and polite. A good old-fashioned “Bonjour madame / Bonjour monsieur” can go a long way. Take some M&Ms and a good book to ward off any boredom or blood-sugar induced spectacles. At the end of the day, France attracts so many dreamers because of its Old World slow life charm. It runs on its own timeline so find a form of catharsis (start a blog, find expat friends & a bottle of wine) and submit to the process.

Vive la France! I’m celebrating my newfound double nationality by taking up smoking and becoming completely unapproachable (joke!).

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P.S. Teaching my first summer intensive ‘experimental drawing’ at the Paris College of Art from June 11-22 2018. Spots are still available if you’re itching to discover Paris in a whole new way. More info here.

 

 

 

Summer in motion!

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There are two types of Americans in Paris.  Those who go home the month of August and those who stay.  Although I secretly envy those who can binge on a month-long ice cream headache of Americana, my summers are a more local affair, doing a mini Tour de France of friends’ vacation homes throughout this fine country.

I’m pondering what France’s summer traditions are, but I’m blanking.  Oh, yeah the month of August not at home, fleeing to everywhere but here?  Merguez on the grill? Spritz on a terrace? Summer reading and late dinners?  A bottle of chilled rosé on ice?

Ok, these new traditions work just fine for my developing adult tastes.  But I still can’t help but miss those sticky childhood summers at home in Chicago: the twinkling bell of the paletas guy selling my favorite ice pop arroz con leche, shucking the golden husks off sweet corn hot off the Weber grill, the self-inflicted pain of watching daytime tv all day long and the call of arms when the ice cream truck roll through the neighborhood.Although I come from the Klondikian school of frozen treats, the Magnum bar is my good-to Euro replacement.  I quickly learned last summer that “A Magnum-a-day keeps the bikini bod at bay”. But every now and then, it’s the only thing that will do the trick.  Happy Summer!

Pâtisseries et gâteaux d’Amérique

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Here it is! It’s my lovechild and she is due the 29th of April, 2015.

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When I moved back to Paris 4 years ago, the city was on the verge of American over-saturation.  Le Camion Qui Fume scandalized as it smoked up the museum-quality streets of Paris.  I was shocked to discover Marshmallow Fluff and Easy Cheese filling an aisle of a nearby bookshop.   At my most vulnerable, I ate “authentic” cupcakes as dense as butter cookies.   Nevertheless I was seeing my culture impersonated and regurgitated into a 10 euro jar of Jif.  The demand was flattering, but not exactly what I had left back in the States.

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Seeing the lack of authentic American cookbooks, I have been trying to get one off the ground for several years now.  American baking is not all about reconstituting processed ingredients like in the books I had seen in the French cookbook market.   In my new book Pâtisseries et gâteaux d’Amérique, I focused on recipes that have the same respect for quality ingredients that even the French could revere. And thanks to Marabout for helping me make it happen.  Pâtisseries et gâteaux d’Amérique has over 64 pages of colorful, step-by-step recipes.  And the American desserts that I know and love.

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Pre-order a copy today on Amazon.

Note: The book is written in French, but generously illustrated in watercolor.  It’s still a belle objet that can be shared with anyone.

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Pâtisseries et gâteaux d’Amérique (Editions Marabout) 599.

Gingerbread!

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I just turned in my manuscript for a very exciting book coming out in May chez Marabout!  But more on that soon.  Nevertheless, I’ve been knee-deep in powdered sugar since September, testing recipes and reinterpreting my research into watercolor. Although I could make fortune investing in butter, I promised myself I would swear off baking until the New Year. But an impulse buy Christmas tree and a string of (very French) strobe LED Christmas lights led little to the imagination.  Like any normal human being, I had to make gingerbread ornaments. Here’s my recipe for a spicy gingerbread cookie open to any royal icing self-expression…

ingredients

Ingredients:

2 sticks softened butter / 225 g de beurre à temperature ambiante

1 cup packed brown sugar / 180 g de sucre vergeoise

1 cup molasses / 300 g de melasse

3 oeufs

1 teaspoon clementine zest / 1 cuillère à café de zeste de clementine

5 ½ cups all-purpose flour/ 760 g de farine type 65

1 teaspoon baking soda/ 1 cuillère à café de bicarbonate de soude

1/2 teaspoon salt / 1 cuillère à café de sel

4 teaspoons cinnamon / 4 cuillère à café de cannelle moulu

4 teaspoons ground ginger / 4 cuillère à café de gingembre moulu

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg / 1 cuillère à café de noix muscade moulu

½ teaspoon ground pepper / ½ cuillère à café de poivre moulu

beatit

Beat the butter and brown sugar 3 minutes until light and fluffy. / Dans un saladier, battre le beurre et le sucre 3 minutes en un mélange mousseux.

beat

Add the eggs one by one and beat until combined.  Add the molasses and clementine zest and beat until well incorporated. / Ajouter les oeufs puis la mélasse et le zeste de clementine.  Mélanger bien.
sifting

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and pepper.  Add little by little in the wet ingredients.  Mix until just combined. / Tamiser ensemble la farine, le bicarbonate de soude, le sel, la cannelle, le gingembre, le noix muscade et le poivre.  Ajouter en pluie dans le saladier.  Mélanger jusqu’à l’obtention d’une pâte homogène. 

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Divide the dough into three balls.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.  / Diviser la pâte dans 3 boules.  Couvrir avec le filme plastique.  Mettre au frais 1 heure ou jusqu’à 2 jours.  

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Roll out the dough to 1/2 centimetre in height.  / Rouler la pâte 1/2 centimetre en hauteur. 

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Preheat oven to 350° F.  Cut out shapes using cookie cutters.  Place on a cookie sheet covered with parchement paper. If making ornaments, cut a hole on the top of each cookie using a skewer.  Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.  / Préchauffer le four à 180°C. Couper la pâte à l’aide d’emporte-pièce.  Placer les gateaux sur un plaque de cuisson couvrir avec une feuille de papier sulfurisé.  Mettre au congelateur 15 minutes. 

cookies

Bake cookies 12-14 minutes until the cookies are firm and lightly colored around the edges.  Cool cookies on a wire rack. / Enfourner et cuire 12-14 minutes.  Laisser refroidir.

powdered sugar

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To make the icing, beat 1 cup of powdered sugar with 1 egg white until a thick icing forms.  Add more powdered sugar for a thicker consistency. Pour icing in piping bag with 2 millimeter round nozzle. / Pour la glacage, battre 125 g de sucre glace avec 1 blanc d’oeuf jusqu’a l’obtention d’un glacage homogène.  Verser la préparation dans une poche douille avec une douille ronde de 2 millimetres.

icing

Decorate cookies with the icing and colorful sprinkles.  Let the icing set 1 hour before serving. / Décorer les gâteaux avec la glaçage et le sucre coloré. Attendre 1 heure avant servir.