Schooling My Gigi
By Chef Joey
France – Education, the basis of our lives, the foundation, the learning from the start: the good manners, healthful eating habits, discipline such as making your bed, clean-up after games and chores. Basically, following the regimen that we build upon to further ourselves in the big old world.
Then comes the new “Education Center” School, where a whole new world of faces, noises, smells, accents comes to play, and then there is COVID 19 that eliminates that possibility so for the new kids on the block, home school via an I-Pad or lap top is the new norm. Frightening for some parents, easier for others, but the kids have this – technology is what the school motto was years ago – they know this walking in or “logging in” now.
The pre-designated lesson plans are geared to get the student through the day: a little reading, math, music, art and, of course, lunch breaks. Then there are parents like me that blow through the whole day in two hours and get it done and take on another project for my daughter Gigi, like cursive writing and memorization.
The trouble is in our Worcester home there is one parent working from home at the home office on the dining room table, and then there is the school department on the island in the kitchen (we all source the same wi-fi). And when there is a virtual classroom or a teacher meeting Gigi and I are definitely in a loud room, not unlike the stock market! Toss in a few dogs and the mailman ringing the doorbell, and BOOM!!
There was only one logical solution: someone had to leave – our bedrooms are at capacity with furniture and bedding … the next step was to escape back to France. So, we did.
I contacted our French school, got Gigi reenrolled for the 2020-21 school year and showed up on September 23 for our first day of classes. A tad different, as everyone was a little taller than last year, and the classrooms are mixed up with new students, students that did not attend Pre-K …plus other new residents.
In any case, it is all sanitized, infrared lighting at the doors, temperature checks all day long. The best part, besides the education, is the organic lunches that by the end of the year are going to be completely vegan/vegetarian so they can teach this new generation of children the importance of sustainable food, eating healthy, and getting back to basics … Insurance is a key part to keeping France healthy.
There are strong government restrictions on the amount of fat, calories portion size among other things that need to be in place, or the product is pulled from the market.
It is against the law to add artificial colorings and GMO’s to food, and pretty much everything is borderline organic with certified “BIO” for biological food available everywhere at normal prices.
I just bought certified organic veggies. The carrots were (in Euros) 1.99 for a kilo (2 pounds) potatoes 10 Kilos (20 pounds) were 3.49 and red peppers were 1.59 for 3! Cooked beets are a huge item here and a 3 pack of organic beets is about 2 Euros – right now a Euro is about $1.20 so 2 Euros is $2.40 – still a bargain compared to what I was paying in the states.
Seafood is aplenty, especially here in Cannes, especially because we are on the Mediterranean and there is a constant supply, not to mention the proximity to Italy and Spain. So we enjoy their treats as well!
France is socialized medicine and it works – it’s affordable without insurance and free with insurance. All prescriptions are the same price no matter where you get them, it’s the law. Lab results are within hours, I had an MRI and by the time I got dressed I had a copy of the disc and a written report of that was wrong signed by the doctor in my hands. All at an out of o=pocket cost of $100 for a $400 procedure on the newest quietest and smallest MRI machine I had ever seen.
I am not saying France is better than the USA. However, the medical system is governed, as well as the food by the Government. The European Union is the pretty much the same. Costs are important … every full-time working citizen has 5 weeks’ vacation a year, no matter what your profession. You pay heavy in payroll taxes; however, education and health insurance are free, a small price to pay. I know I pay thousands a year for a system that thankfully I do not use.
I am so lucky that my parents were from Europe and have the opportunity to live here with Gigi, so she can go to school, learn a second language and enjoy warm weather until at least December.
As far as food goes, my grandparents also taught me to shop frugally and healthy, I have written about it many times, dried beans and legumes go a long way, and buying marked down meats and other items as the expire is a smart way to shop -we have freezers to prolong the use. I personally make it a part of my routine to pop into the market at least once every other day to see what markdowns I can get – yoghurt is always available and one of the best kids, and adult snacks around …
Joey bakes his family homemade muffins