It’s the afternoon of the move, and this older woman, who carries my middle name as her first, Nicole Demonteix, greets me. After our ride to her home that neighbors an enchanting, yet France casual, jardin, she shows me around. Man, I had my own private area equipped with a salle de bains, mini fridge (for my peanut butter), a window, and freakishly low ceilings. I rise from my ‘palace’ curious to what will grace these plates. Sole meuniere? Coq au vin? Boeuf bourguignon?! I sit, and I’ll be damned. For our very first meal, she had the audacity to serve tomatoes. I hate tomatoes.
I loathe- tomatoes. Is this foreshadow for my YEAR stay?
Our advisor just explained how we could never not eat what’s offered. Excuse me Father, did I offend you in a past life?
“She’ll love these” she had to think. Or even simpler, “It’s time to eat these.”
You know how in movies the girl and guy meet, have a one-night stand, try being friends, get past the weird phase, and then finally share their 1st real kiss while the screen fades black, firecracker colors explode in an uberly dramatic fashion, and nothing else matters? In that moment, those tomatoes were to me like Bill Hader to Amy Schumer in Trainwreck. They gave me born-again after 20 years of “miseducation” Lauryn Hill life! Nicole’s tomatoes were real. They weren’t Ketchup-mush at all. First lesson noted: there’s a culinary vault of secrets, and I should be so grateful to ever have a peek inside. Forget those fake red posers in the stores; I had never had a real tomato. How food is cared for matters. The dish was simple: Nicole’s home grown tomatoes, oil & vinegar, salt, and black pepper. On occasion, she added salade and gruyère. And now, I dare to highlight the same, but nothing will ever be close to our first time together. Thank you to whomever I offended in my past life that led to the point where I find myself breaking my first rule: Until you get to know your host mom, don’t go for seconds unless they are offered.