Three-year-olds in North American day cares play with squishy toys and eat yogurt. Yet as a three-year-old in a French kindergarten, Clément Vandenhove learned to bake a yogurt cake. “We had a small yogurt container, and we used it to measure everything,” he said. This became his go-to cake recipe, one that he still makes and remembers by heart. It also became his entryway into the world of French cooking. Now, Vandenhove is bringing his passion for French cuisine and language to Winnipeg, through special bilingual cooking courses at Alliance Française Winnipeg.
A trained linguist and a French teacher, Vandenhove’s journey to teaching cooking wasn’t entirely clear-cut. He grew up around chickens, butter, and cream in a small town outside of Lille, just minutes from the Belgian border. “I would see my mom doing it, and I’d want to do it. But I would make my recipes,” he said. Later on in life, cooking became a stress reliever. When he arrived in the United States as an exchange student as part of his Bachelor’s degree, he began baking because he missed the familiar flavours of home. “I wanted to make crêpes, gingerbread and the beef stew from my childhood,” he said. So Vandenhove improvised, and found that he could recreate his mother’s kitchen in his new home.
For me, being gay is normal, and I don’t think Pride is normal.
Having lived in the United States, France, and Spain, Vandenhove experienced some growing pains when he arrived during the cold prairie winter of Manitoba. He still has some reservations about some local traditions. “I don’t believe in gay Pride [Festivals],” he said. “For me, being gay is normal, and I don’t think Pride is normal. I’d rather see gay families with children.” Yet he appreciates the high level of GLBT* acceptance he sees here, when compared to his experience in Spain, and would like to stay in Manitoba. “In Spain, it was more hidden,” he said. “I think it’s pretty well accepted here, I wouldn’t feel bad holding someone’s hand.” And he definitely doesn’t feel bad holding a spatula. For more information about upcoming cooking classes or to register, check out Alliance Française du Manitoba’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AFManitoba.
– Ksenia Prints is the editor of OutWords, a student of French, and a lover of foreign cooking. She blogs about her own family’s kitchen at immigrantstable.com.
– Photos by Dylan Bekkering￼
All in a French minute
OutWords asked Clément Vandenhove to share three quick thoughts on food, life back home, and life here.
Three favourite foods:
- gingerbread (“But only my own!”)
Three favourite experiences in France:
- Disneyland Paris (“I worked there.”)
- The markets in the summer in the south of France.
Favourite experiences in Canada:
- Snowshoeing in FortWhyte Alive
- Whale watching in British Columbia
- Sea planing in British Columbia