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For the Love of French Cuisine

The Inspired Series

Anyone who has spent time with River City Lifestyle photographer Sarah Bell knows that she is French, through and through. Being in her presence is magical for many reasons, but her lyrical accent is probably at the top of the list. Everything Sarah says takes on an added sophistication as she mixes French and English words while her sentences glide into one another. When she asks me to fix someone’s hair for a photo shoot, it feels exotic and important.

Love of French food is a natural extension of Sarah’s affinity for her home country. “Growing up in Corsica, my mom cooked a lot. Her signature dishes were boeuf bourguignon and beignet de courgettes, or zucchini beignets. In the fall when I was a kid we would eat what was seasonal. I remember eating clementines and loving the smell when you opened one. Now when I eat one it brings me back to my childhood.” Corsica is full of chestnut trees, the nuts from these trees are also referred to as breadfruit. “Cooking with chestnut flour is a tradition and widely used in French recipes. It is naturally sweet and gluten free. It brings flavors to cakes and pancake batter and is also used for savory dishes like polenta. It is sweet, hearty and a tiny bit smoky,” says Sarah.

Recently, Sarah took a trip to Paris and was able to immerse herself once again in true French cuisine. “After being gone for several years, I was drawn to simple food like warm bread with butter and crunchy radishes that they serve you before you choose the menu. I love to eat leeks in vinaigrette and foie gras torchon served with toasted brioche. I did not used to like snails but I am thoroughly enjoying escargot now – here and in France.”

Sarah loves the creative approach that our local restaurants take to serving French cuisine. Bishop, located in Memphis Central Station on South Main, serves escargot two ways: country fried escargot with watermelon rind pickle and hot sauce and escargot persillade with country ham, lemon butter and popovers.

River Oaks Restaurant has also impressed Sarah with its southern interpretation of some French cuisine favorites. Housemade whipped ricotta with toasted bread and olive oil is reminiscent of the warm bread served at the beginning of a traditional French meal. When she is missing steak frites, she satisfies that craving with River Oaks’ version which includes green peppercorn sauce.

After living in the United States for 15 years, Sarah says it is sometimes difficult to still feel French. Being able to enjoy the wide assortment of wonderful French restaurants here in Memphis and in other American cities she visits has become an increasingly important connection to her heritage.

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