Claudine Boulstridge spent her childhood moving regularly between Oman, Turkey, Holland and Russia, but wherever she was in the world, she spoke French at home with her mother, who hails from Salon de Provence. She could never imagine herself settling in one place and, if she did, she thought it might be somewhere exotic.
When she married her husband Rhodri in the mairie of Althen des Paluds, the local newspaper, Vaucluse Matin, ran pictures of the bride and groom as they celebrated in her parent’s garden on the outskirts of Avignon.
But after 12 years of living in Wales – the longest she’s lived anywhere – Claudine feels this is now home. Claudine and Rhodri live in the Vale of Glamorgan, although Claudine was initially stunned when Rhodri suggested it. It was soon after they met at university when he told her that, if they were to stay together, they’d have to move back to his home in Wales.
‘I thought he was mad - he’d just lived there for 20 years already. But funnily enough, he was right on both points: we’d stay together and move back to Wales – and I can see why he wanted to, now’, she said.
While home may have been a transitory place for Claudine growing up, she had a strong sense of her French heritage from her parents. Claudine credits her mother with instilling in her a very French passion for food. Watching her mother cook every meal from scratch, encouraging family meals around the table and passing on family recipes all laid the foundations for what was soon to become a successful culinary career.
Claudine studied at the renowned Leith’s School for Food and Drink and worked there as a teacher after graduating. It was here that she met Yotam Ottolenghi, Israeli-British chef, food writer and restauranteur, who asked her to help develop the recipes that he published in the Guardian. When the time came for Claudine and her husband to move to Wales, she continued to work as part of Yotam’s team in her role as recipe tester. She’s been testing his recipes ever since, providing the final say on whether they work, and helping adapt them if they don’t.
Her team joke that if Claudine can find all a recipe’s ingredients in rural Wales, then it has passed the test. But Claudine says that she’s more likely to be able to get hold of some of the lesser-known ingredients used in Yotam’s recipes in Wales than she would be in France.
‘My husband’s asked if we should ever move to France to be closer to my parents, but I wouldn’t be able to do my job there. France is really good at supporting and promoting its small food producers but Wales has a much greater variety of shops in terms of its openness to different cultures’, she said.
The search for ingredients has led Claudine to establish some firm Welsh favourites: seaweed and laverbread from Pembrokeshire, cockles, mussels and cheese that she says could even rival French cheeses!
Claudine’s life in Wales has allowed her to flourish in her career and also raise her young family. Her three children are trilingual and have attended Welsh language schools as well as French Saturday school. They’re firmly rooted in the only country they’ve known as home, but are also very aware of their French heritage thanks to Claudine’s drive to bring a French approach to children’s food.
She’s growing her Instagram page dedicated to healthy family food ideas that allow parents to make quick but delicious meals for them and their children.
‘I’m passionate about food like most French people are, so it’s important that kids sit properly at the table and eat the same thing as their parents and I want to help other parents here in Wales and the UK do the same.’
Follow Claudine on Instagram: @healthyfamilyfoodideas