Elizabeth Lind: From France with lots of love

By Colleen Thorpe


In a beautifully crafted book, New Zealander Elizabeth Lind tells the story of how she and husband Mike turned their love of France and its food into a thriving business. It's more than just a recipe book - it's a tale of love, travel and food. Colleen Thorpe asks Elizabeth about her passions.


WHERE DOES THE TITLE OF YOUR NEW BOOK, LA CIGALE COME FROM?


La Cigale is the name of our French-inspired shop, cafe, bistro and market. In 1997, after a family holiday in France and looking for a new direction, my husband Mike and I came home and wrote a one-page plan for what was to become La Cigale. The name means cicada in French, the emblem of Provence where many of our first products came from. Also on our first trip to France in 1980, La Cigale, a small bistro in Paris, was one of the first places we ate at.


WHERE CAN WE FIND LA CIGALE?


We're hidden away down a driveway off St Georges Bay Rd in the central Auckland suburb of Parnell. Although we are difficult to find, once you get there we have plenty of parking and space for our weekend market.

WHAT MAKES THE FRENCH MARKET STAND OUT FROM OTHERS?


Our inspiration for the La Cigale French Market is the markets in France. We'd always loved the feel of those markets, the fantastic fresh food from growers and artisan producers and the fact that they are an important part of local communities, even in the hearts of many cities. We decided that a French crepe stand and a paella stand were essential and, most importantly, we had to cook and sell rotisserie chickens. The smell of chickens cooking is a quintessential part of any French market. Unlike many markets in New Zealand we decided not to call ourselves a farmers' market as we wanted to include imported food such as French cheeses, as well as great produce from growers from all over New Zealand.

WHAT ARE THREE TIPS ABOUT EATING IN A DIFFERENT COUNTRY YOU CAN GIVE OUR READERS?


Be adventurous and be prepared to try new things, even if you don't know what they are. If you're uncertain, ask, or do some homework before starting out so you know what foods to expect.

Do as the locals do. Search out places to eat that are off the tourist routes. If you're shopping in a market it's fine to ask for a small taste before buying. Smile, be polite and don't get grumpy when people don't know what you're asking for. If you ask for a flat white in most countries you'll get a blank look.

TRAVEL OR FOOD - WHAT'S YOUR PASSION?


That's a difficult question as I'm passionate about both. Probably overall I'd say food. Every day I think about what the next meal will be.

I feel disappointed if I eat something ordinary (a waste of stomach space). It doesn't have to be complicated or time consuming to prepare but it needs to be fresh.

WHAT IS YOUR FIRST MEMORY OF FOOD?


When I was about 4 - eating fresh fish caught by my father and grandfather then very lightly battered and cooked by my step grandmother. Delicious!

WHO WAS THE MAJOR INFLUENCE IN YOUR LOVE OF COOKING?


My mother. As well as the New Zealand staple of meat and three vegetables, my mother cooked dishes inspired by meals she and my father had eaten in some of the countries they travelled to. She wasn't afraid to try new things.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DISH?


Also a difficult question as I love so many dishes. However, I think it must be kina souffle. Back in the 1980s when in Paris we'd catch up with friends from university days. They lived near Rue Cler in the 7th arrondissement so we'd eat nearby in a tiny bistro. One evening I ordered oursin souffle - a delectable and delicate kina souffle cooked and served in the spiky sea urchin shells. After eating that I was determined to come up with my own version. I did and it quickly became the family favourite.

WHAT CELEBRITY WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO COOK FOR?


Rick Stein because he's been a big influence in how I cook fish and seafood.

HAVE YOU A GUILTY PLEASURE?


On Monday or Tuesday (my days off), if it's a cold or wet day, I stay in bed reading until lunchtime having consumed a toasted Comte cheese and onion sandwich (made with Pukeko Bakery's German rye bread) and plenty of coffee for breakfast.

WHAT THREE NZ FOODS ARE TOP OF YOUR LIST?


This changes regularly but at the moment it's fish, fish and fish, particularly the lesser-known and eaten species.

TELL US THREE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW OR MAY BE SURPRISED TO LEARN


I'm often asked if I have French heritage but I'm very much a New Zealander with some Samoan blood.

As a child I loved unusual foods, for example frogs' legs toasted sandwiches. My father likes hunting out different things and found a shop in Auckland selling tinned frogs' legs imported from France, along with other delicacies. On Saturday or Sunday morning my mother would use the frogs' legs as filling for our toasted sandwiches.

I am hoping to find time to complete a BA in Art History. I started studying part time with my daughter Emma six years ago and have only five papers to go. I really enjoy being a "mature student".


La Cigale

By Elizabeth Lind, Random House, $55

- Hamilton News

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