We were first introduced to Marie C. and her love of sourdough when she sent us an email as a fan of the site! After looking her up, and watching the first episode of her web-series, My Life in Sourdough, I was hooked. Inevitably, I then binge-watched all three seasons. And, it didn’t even feel like a binge—it felt like eating a slice of warm bread topped with whipped ricotta, the perfect snack you didn’t even realize you needed. Another thing that I love about Marie and her show is how perfectly aligned her vision feels to ours here at the Atelier! The series spans both New York and Paris (geographically, narratively, and linguistically!) and is part rom-com, part recipe how-to. And the visuals are gorgeous. As I watched, I became more and more inspired to try out the simply elegant, French girl style (which has never been my look) and to seriously take up baking (which I have never done besides for throwing pre-packaged cookie dough in the oven). Watch for yourself—I promise you’ll feel the same! And below, Marie shares more with us about the series, her favorite baking memories, her love for Nora Ephron, and the differences between NYC and Parisian cultures.
The melding of romance with cooking & baking feels like such a natural pairing. Why do you think that is?
Melding romance with cooking feels very natural to me. I think food starts with love – and love starts with food. There is a notion of intimacy both in love and in cooking. When you cook with love, your food tastes better. And when you cook for someone, love inevitably comes into play. I see the kitchen as the heart of a house, that private place with a pulse, the space where everything is possible.
I felt reminded of Nora Ephron’s (an Atelier fave!) work while watching your series. She’s another woman who focused her creative career on the exploration of both love/ relationships and cooking. The juxtaposition between stereotypical femininity/ domesticity and intellectualism/ cosmopolitan life feels present in both your work. Is exploring this duality important to you in your work and life? How is “My Life in Sourdough” a rom-com for 2018?
I love Nora Ephron – the tone and humor of Heartburn are brilliant (and When Harry Met Sally is one of the best written romantic comedies of all time)! Clearly, being a woman and loving being in the kitchen can be seen as a bit of a stereotype. To me, I find cooking and baking bread very relaxing; I don’t see it as a chore. It’s something I do even after a long day on a film set. I let my mind wonder, take pictures, listen to the radio. I love to create something and seeing a result pretty fast – compared to relentlessly tweaking the edit of a film.
Cooking has always been a big part of my life and now it has become part of my work too. To me, blurring the lines between life and work, reality and fiction gives an authentic quality to a film, that often ends up resonating with more people.
I love playing with stereotypes: My life in sourdough blends baking with feminism so I’d say it’s definitely a rom com for 2018! The main character, Jeanne, spends most of her time in the kitchen: real men have proven so disappointing to her, that turning to a jar of yeast has become the next best thing. At this point, Jeanne makes her own rules and decides to date her sourdough starter – which can definitely be construed as a feminist move.
When did you start baking? Do you have a particularly emotive childhood or adolescent (or even romantic!) memory of an experience in the kitchen?
I grew up in a family where both of my parents cooked. My mum is never intimidated by a recipe and can embark on days of red currant jelly making. My dad taught me the art of improvising, turning a half red pepper and a spring onion sleeping in the fridge into something delicious. Even when I didn’t know how to cook, I would “style” cheese boards: picking stems of parsley straight into Brie and Comte cheeses.
When I started baking on my own at about 8, my parents would just come into the kitchen to turn on the gas oven before leaving me by myself. The kitchen quickly became my zone to relax, to experiment and to leave piles of bowls in the sink! My Romanian grandmother was also a great source of inspiration. As a political refugee, she had picked up recipes from all the European countries she lived in: Romania, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Germany, France. I love this idea that food brings people together, not only at the table, but also because every dish has a story. When I travel somewhere new, the first thing I do is to go to an outdoor market, tasting new things and feeling the pulse of the place.
As for a memory in the kitchen: a while back, I lived in LA for a year and I missed bread so much I decided to work in a bakery in Paris the summer I came back. I had this very romantic idea that I would talk about bread and test new recipes with the baker. I ended up behind the counter, dealing with very rude Parisian customers who were constantly asking for undercooked bread, while getting a lot of finger cuts from baguettes. What could have been a romantic experience ended up being a big reality check. Then my friend Clotilde (from the blog Chocolate & t) gave me a little bit of her sourdough starter. And a very serious love affair ensued!
Your site and the later episodes of your series have such a particular aesthetic and stylization. It’s beautiful! What were the inspirations for the visual language of your project? Who/ what are your influences?
Thank you so much for noticing! I really wanted the website to be in line with the style / color palette I had established. The directors of photography I started this project with really imparted their mark on the aesthetic of the series and inspired me to develop a distinct visual style that evolved and became more polished over time (as you can see if you watch all 3 seasons back to back). Playing with colors, cropping dishes so that they appeared off centre, and playing with a very shallow depth of field are a few of the techniques we used to create the style.
As it is often the case, the look of My life in sourdough also grew from limitations. Having very limited resources, daylight became my best friend and my main source of lighting – all episodes and food videos are shot in daylight (or with available light). My apartments became my locations, and the series also heavily relied on my friends who were kind enough to let me shoot in their kitchens/ gardens/ beds!
Inspiration for this project comes from many places. Often times, it starts with shopping for produce at the market and cooking. Whether it’s pomegranate, beans, romanesco, or even a radish, I’m always in awe of the details and the colors of nature. I’m also inspired when I break into a “grapefruit” by patissier Cedric Grolet, dive into an apricot and milk chocolate clafoutis by Christophe Felder, or stare at a weathered blue painted wall in Italy. And I love the work of photographers like Irving Penn, Gentle & Hyers, chefs like Taku Sekine (Dersou) and Rachel Khoo (the little Swedish kitchen), and filmmakers Eric Rohmer (le rayon vert) and Céline Sciamma (Tomboy).
Besides for sourdough, what is your favorite thing to cook or bake?
I love making pasta from scratch – or not! My most recent adventure with pasta – that defines my idea of comfort food in the Winter: stewing Borlotti beans (fresh if you can find them) in chicken or vegetarian stock with an old Parmigiano rind (I always keep mine in the freezer to flavor soups and stews), rosemary, an onion, some garlic, adding spaghetti at the last minute so that they cook in the bean water, and serving with plenty of grated Parmigiano cheese.
Geographically and culturally, the series spans both New York and Paris (similar to the identity of our site!) What have you found to be the differences between the two cultures in 1. your experiences as a single woman looking for love? And 2. the culture around cooking/ baking?
If you think the New York dating scene is brutal: you are not alone! Bake bread and everything will be alright. Or just fly to Paris to eat the croissants – but some people might judge you for not being already married with 3 kids. Dating apps may have made the two cities’ dating scene more similar, but in my experience, I still feel like in NY falling in love is nobody’s priority. People are here to make it, not to fall in love. There are too many foods to try and too many girls (and boys) to test drive. And chances are there could be someone hotter, slimmer, richer around the corner, so it’s better to keep your options open. So in NY, where is the love? In the hooks and nooks of one night stands, hook-ups, and unclear territories of so-called ‘non-exclusive relationships’.
In Paris people don’t date: they fall in love – for a weekend or for 3 years. Even the men who cheat on their wives are in love. It just makes everything taste better.
Food wise, Parisians are obsessed with three things: bread, yogurt and cheese. Whereas, New Yorkers swear by pizza, green juices, and ice cream. Parisians talk about food all the time, even if they are not so called ‘foodies’. Another striking difference is home dinners. In Paris, where small apartments are also the rule, Parisians always invite each other for dinner, even though people might have to eat on their lap. This is still quite rare in NY: I’ve hosted countless dinners on my kitchen table but I’ve been rarely invited to home cooked dinners. The city is still the temple of take-out and nights out, even though I think the culture is slowly changing.
I love the idea that I could be a bridge between these two cultures, baking cheesecakes in Paris and sourdough bread in New York. To me, New York is the place where everything is possible, where people spontaneously encourage you to pursue your dreams and make your ideas come true. Impossible isn’t a word I hear in New York. Paris has been going through a bit of a renaissance, food wise. Bakeries and patisseries are pushing boundaries and revolutionizing the art of baking. But the city is still, at its core, pretty classical and somewhat conservative. It’s not rare to hear ‘it’s not possible’ or ‘we’ve never done it this way’ when pitching an idea, and you really have to push through to make it happen.