Hello! I’m Rachel, and I don’t have a stomach.
Because of so much time on my hands lately, and a desire to share my recipes with as many people as possible I created this page to encourage everyone to cook delicious meals at home! I love getting more recommendations and I am open to any suggestions and recipe ideas. Contact me any way you wish!
Why don’t you have a stomach?
Like my mother and her father and many generations back, I carry a gene mutation called CDH1. This mutation leads to breast cancer, but also a more life threatening, hard to detect stomach cancer. Due to this, in the winter of 2018, I had an operation to completely remove my stomach. It is possible to live without a stomach – despite what you may remember from biology class, much of your digestion actually happens in the intestines ! If you have any questions about this part of me, I am always open to talk.
I began to really explore a love of cooking in France. In 2016, I moved to Bordeaux and studied gastronomy and wine alongside linguistics. At the same time, regular dinner parties featuring vegan food and a stellar wine pairing became the norm. When I moved back to California, I took these vegan recipes and turned them into staples in a small homely apartment, where we hosted a massive Thanksgiving and plenty of dinner parties. The second time I moved to France, in 2017, I had to give up vegan cooking. Near Nancy, tucked into the Vosges, was a meat and butter loving haven of France, where I learned the very basics of French home cooking in the “old style”.
I lived in a house with an amazing woman who became my French maman, and we ate dinner together every night. Be that quenelles, andouillettes, boeuf bourguignon, ratatouille, the well known quiche lorraine, holiday raclette, or Anne’s favourite simple tarte aux pommes , I learned classic recipes in the classic method. I would treat myself at the local boulangerie to pâté lorrain or chicken curry baguette sandwiches, and eat the school lunches served in near gourmet façon at the collège where I worked.
I travelled endlessly in this year, collecting recipes as I visited 20 or so countries, and often did so via couchsurfing in order to meet as many people as possible. Cooking a meal became a quick way to seal a friendship, and a way to be introduced to foods you couldn’t dare imagine. The grossest thing I’ve eaten? (Behind andouillette, which I politely spat out) Fermented shark in Iceland. The best thing I’ve eaten? I couldn’t begin to tell you. Milk bars in Poland, goulash in Hungary, tajine in France, rye bread in Denmark, moules frites in Belgium, the list is endless.
In the summer after my year in the Vosges, I spent three months in Spain as an au pair. Spain introduced me to cured meats, simply cooked meals, and vegetable soups – as well as eating much later than I was used to. Gazpacho and cerveza, pan con tomate, tapas late into the night, and a lovely vegan restaurant I visited twice in the same day on my birthday, and then again on the first date with my now partner; all of this became the new norm, and contrasted heavily with France in the lightness of food.
I came home to California, and had a new and profound excitement for the foods I missed. Of course, this was primarily Mexican food. I have tried to recreate Mexican food outside of California many times to no avail. I have accepted it will never be as good as it is back home, with fresh tortillas and spices, yet I have gotten as close as I can with the ingredients available to me ailleurs.
The following year, I moved to Paris, into an apartment that did not invite cooking, and quickly became the hardest year of my life. I found a way, however, and would attempt to host dinner parties as often as possible. In the meantime, I discovered my favourite restaurant in the world: Miznon. This inspired a new passion – learning how to make the best roasted vegetables. A simple, but deceivingly difficult affair. Parisien restaurants so heavily differed from those in the Vosges or Madrid. Eating out was a very different affair and required a different demeanor. However, there were plenty of cultures to discover outside of French, including my favourite Vietnamese restaurant, or plenty of the bougie little cafés popping up all over the world.
Finally, I moved to London. Here I reside in a lovely house with two lovely boys who have introduced me to their own cooking: Swiss meets Finnish meets American. We have an amazing, massive kitchen that allows us to undertake multiple things at once if we so desire, but often we end up cooking together. I work in an amazing café, where I am learning the formal end of all of my eating experience, and now I am sharing all of my gathered love and eating with you.
I can’t wait to share all of these recipes with you…
Photos taken by AUTUMN PALEN