Interview with Nina Davidson
Four years ago, Bordeaux-born Nina Davidson left Edinburgh, and the bistro she’d opened a decade earlier, for the promise of an altogether different life in the countryside. As she and her architect husband and two small children (who are now the eldest of four daughters, aged 10, six, three, and just three months) adapted to their new life, Nina photographed their next chapter, sharing it as @petiteschoses_. Last year, she turned her years of experience as a chef, and her years of cooking with Ada, Colette, Nicole and little Esther in the kitchen at home, into Je Sais Cuisiner, a beginner’s recipe book for children.
Where is home?
We’re on my husband’s family farm, surrounded by a hill, loch, fields, and woods. We have no neighbours except sheep! The farmhouse is a few miles away from us, and the house is Michael’s granny’s, so we’re doing it up while we are there, slowly doing things as we go. It’s a little house with not really any heating, but it has a couple of fireplaces and big south facing windows! It’s quite cold, so we’re used to wearing hats and woolly socks indoors, but we’ve got such a big outdoor space that it makes up for it.
How did you adjust, swapping the city for the countryside?
It was a first for me. I don’t think I'd go back, it’s just wonderful with the children. Growing up in the city, they were asking permission to go out and play, and now it’s very fluid and they just do it. The transition to the school, that was something very different - there is one school with one class, 19 kids in total, so my two eldest are in the same class, and there’s a little school bus that comes to pick them up. It’s a lot more adapted to their skills, rather than their age.
How does it compare to your own childhood?
It’s very different! I grew up in the city and I started dancing ballet when I was eight. I did it quite intensively and left my family to go to a dance school when I was 12, so there was a lot of self discipline and pushing myself. Not a lot of time for doing nothing, which is what I try to implement with my kids - boredom. For them to have nothing to do is great!
We don’t have a TV at home, but like every other parent, if I have something to do I can put the tablet on, I don’t ban it! But there are so many more things to do, with the freedom of them being able to do what they want outdoors. It’s a lot more imaginative: there’s not an adult watching over you. They’re not self-conscious anymore, it’s this completely un-reined play.
Have you been teaching the children your recipes?
I always cooked with my granny when I was a kid. Food is a great way of sharing and teaching different things. From very small, when they could basically stand up, or even sitting on the kitchen counter, they started cracking eggs and mixing flour. We’ve got chickens so we have our own eggs, we make our own bread and cakes.
We have breakfast, lunch, and dinner all on one table. The kids eat the same things as us, just a smaller portion of what we have, and I’m not really stressed if there is a mess. We don't do anything fancy, just seasonal, and from as close to here as possible.
Do you keep any French habits at home?
The goûter is for after school, we would have a slice of bread and butter and maybe grated chocolate on it, that’s very traditional, or a little piece of cake and a glass of milk. It’s a little something just before homework to keep you going to dinner time! French people like their bread.
And have you picked up any Scottish ones?
The kids have porridge in the morning, that’s definitely not a French thing! In France we’d have a bigger lunch too, but here we’ll do tattie scones and bacon, or something like that, and they’ll have a brunchy lunch at the weekend after their activities, scrambled eggs or crumpets.
What has motherhood taught you?
To slow down. I’m just realising, especially with my childhood being quite intense and training-driven, to slow down and take time to do things. It doesn’t have to be the best all the time, you can just appreciate what you have.
I always have my camera with me, and once a year I make big photo books, and the kids love looking back. Taking photos is fixing in time a little moment that I enjoyed or found beautiful, and slowing to appreciate that - in between the rush of life, and four kids, and the house.
Photographs by Nina Davidson
Find Nina at @ petitechoses_