One of my film-heroines is Vianne, the lead character in the film, Le Chocolat. I like her because she’s French (obviously), she’s a gypsy. She knows how to cook. She’s witty, unintimidated, and stylish. And she knows how to descend upon a man’s head with an iron skillet when necessary. What’s not to love? In the film, she sails into an uptight Catholic village one winter night and opens a chocolatier. Scandalous for this town! At first, she’s the object of ridicule and disgust. But eventually, her hospitality becomes the means through which some people find community, reconciliation, and love.
I did not originally think of Vianne as a heroine, but recently, I’ve found myself drawing inspiration from this film. Maybe it’s the whole falling-in-love-with-a-pirate thing. Or my incessant love for the French language. Or because I grew up moving often and get restless, like clockwork, every spring (like she does). But what inspires me the most is how Vianne uses food can help people tune into beauty and connect with each other. Through food, she helps the villagers delight in life, something they had forgotten. Somewhere between moving from Brooklyn to the Ocean State, that vision has taken root in my heart and spread like a virus. I want to be like Vianne, always capable of mixing up magical dishes for friends, helping them discover the joy God hid in a bottle of spices. I finally mustered up the courage to organize a simple brunch this weekend and filled my table with friends from church.
This post now officially has nothing to do with the title.
But now it does. Because how does a girl on a budget feed her friends?
I recently started using the EveryDollar App to help me learn to budget. It’s great because it doesn’t make me feel guilty for spending money. Instead, it helps me decide what’s important for me and then put money there. Sometimes it’s hard to decide what should be important. Sometimes, it’s coffee because I’m writing on deadline and need to be in a café. Some weeks, I skip new eyeliner because I have to pay a parking ticket. And this week, it was two cans of beans, a can of tomatoes, a jalapeno, a pack of tortillas, some feta, some lime. Back home, I combined that with courage, a few text messages, a cabinet full of spices, and some eggs. Because what’s important to me is hearing my friends talk around my table, helping slice avocado, passing the orange juice, and giggling because it’s finally spring. Try it for yourself with this recipe.