Paris has been basking in the most glorious Indian summer – clear blue skies, hot without being too hot and not a breath of wind. It could not have been more perfect for the launch of my cookbook Annabel au Naturel (the French version of The Free Range Cook) at the New Zealand Ambassador’s wonderful residence.
Taking a cookbook to the home of cuisine, France, is for me the ultimate achievement, and I feel very lucky to be working with esteemed publishers Larousse. I’ll never forget the day, some five years ago, when Larousse’s president/director general Isabelle Jeuge-Maynart and her colleague Ghislaine Stora sought out my little stand at the London Book Fair. It was the start of a wonderful relationship and I was very grateful for Isabelle’s kind words as she introduced my new book at the launch.
The New Zealand Ambassador in France, Rosemary Banks, also gave a speech to welcome everyone to the event, after which I braved up to give my speech in French. This was quite challenge – especially in front of more than 100 journalists, booksellers and friends! But somehow doing this really seemed to engage the guests and before I knew it I was conducting all my interviews in French. Oh la la - they understood me!
Following the speeches, everyone had an opportunity to nibble on a selection of dishes from the book and enjoy a glass or two of New Zealand wine. For many of the French guests, it was the first time they had tasted a New World wine and they were more than impressed by the quality.
The back-to-nature messages of my TV series and book seem to have hit a chord here in France. Here, as I think is happening everywhere in the western world, people are craving a simpler, less cluttered existence. As I said in my speech: "Leonardo da Vinci put it best when he said, ‘Simplicity is the ultimate refinement’."