It’s a common cliché to fall head over heels in love with the French Man. How many of us have packed up, abandoned the budding career and waved family and friends goodbye to move to France for a partner who feels like a soul mate? It does occur. But what happens when the euphoria wears off and you find yourself having dinner for one in Paris?
Many women around the world who have had their hearts broken in a foreign land will relate to the personal story of Jamaican-born and Bronx-raised writer, Sutanya Dacres. Her first book, Dinner for One: How Cooking in Paris Saved Me, will be published at the end of June 2022 by Harper Collins.
Her memoir, written with brutal, raw honesty, traces her coup-de-foudre or thunderbolt meeting in NY with the French man (TFM). She divulges her online courtship, her move to France, wedding and abrupt divorce. It was a whirlwind, an overwhelming, painful experience for the 27-year-old American who “never imagined she could be one of those American women in Paris she admired from afar”.
Sutanya Dacres shares her story and her expat journey to finding happiness in Paris for the most important person—herself. And she does it in the kitchen by discovering the joys of cooking that are essential to the French way of life.
INSPIRELLE reached out to Sutanya to learn more about Dinner for One in Paris, and the important healing process to learn to live and love again.
It’s over I can’t do this anymore.
– Dinner for One, P. 174
How hard or easy was it to write your memoir about love and loss in Paris? Was it also part of the healing process?
Sutanya: It wasn’t ever easy but it also wasn’t very hard. It was very cathartic and helpful for me as I move into the next phase of my womanhood. Yes, this project has played an integral role in my healing. it has helped me make sense of the past few years of my life.
Many women faced with a sudden divorce in a new land would have packed up and returned home. Why did you stay and rebuild your life in France?
Sutanya: This is a great question and I’m still trying to figure that out! One reason I stayed is that I was in the process of building a life here that I really loved and enjoyed, despite my divorce, and I wanted to see if I would be able to survive on my own.
The second reason is that I knew that if I’d returned to NYC I wouldn’t have processed my divorce, move to Paris, and all of the events in my life from 2010-2016 in the same way. I likely would have gotten into another relationship immediately after and considered that period in my life as a simple small bump in the road as opposed to the life-changing journey that it has proved itself to be.
As neglect and contempt weaseled its way into my marriage, Paris – the city itself – helped to keep my spirits high, When screaming matches became my and TFM’s langue d’usage and I needed to get away, I escaped into the city. It helped soothe the sting of a marriage in turmoil.
– Dinner for one, p.180
Do you think your book will offer a reality check to women who dream of falling in love with a French man, moving to France and living the idyllic expat life?
Sutanya: Not necessarily, my ex-husband just happens to be French but this could happen to anyone. I think (and hope) that this book will help women realize that it is possible to heal if a long-term relationship comes to an end and the best way to do that is to put yourself first and be nice to yourself.
Your personal journey towards recovery and self-appreciation comes from cooking for yourself in your Montmartre kitchen. You offer your favorite French recipes such as Tatin de légumes and raspberry clafoutis at the end of your book. Why do you think cooking is good way to cope with trauma?
Sutanya: Cooking was a good way for me to cope with trauma because it was a kind, thoughtful and caring thing to do for myself after months of self-destructive behavior. With every meal I made I told myself that if I could cook myself a nutritious meal I’ll feel better…at some point. But I don’t think cooking is the only way to heal from trauma, for some people it could be knitting and others painting. However, I do think that whatever one does to heal from trauma it needs to be something that brings them pure joy.
To learn more about the “healing powers of good food”, listen to Sutanya Dacres’ podcast Dinner for One which documents her story from the moment her fairytale story in Paris ends.
Is part of the beauty of living in France overcoming the cultural differences and obstacles? What was a turning point for you?
Sutanya: Yes, definitely. I love that every day I am learning something new about myself, France, French culture, and French people. The more I become integrated into French culture and become even more firmly rooted here it feels like a massive accomplishment and a testament to my ability to make home wherever I am. I think the turning point for me was when I felt more comfortable in my skin here. My French improved, I started to get to know people in my neighborhood, and I was able to argue in French (very important!) One day it just felt like home.
Do you still believe that Paris is a city of love and light?
Sutanya: 100% because I had the chance to experience the biggest most wonderful love story here: falling in love with myself.
Every day, INSPIRELLE readers want to know more about life in France and yes, seek advice about what to expect about falling in love with TFM. Any words of wisdom to share with us, Sutanya?
Sutanya: Be kind to yourself, love yourself, and above all cherish yourself. Once you are able to master that you’ll make a French 75 cocktail with any of the lemons that life throws your way.