When you say you looove food, do you really, truly mean it? Like... would you marry it?
Marie Constantinesco, creator and star of new web series My Life In Sourdough, just might. Her semi-autobiographical series, which recently made an appearance at the Tribeca Film Festival, follows the dating debacles of an unlucky-in-love French girl whose love for all things culinary surpasses her interest in men. After a few misfires, Jeanne eventually finds true companionship in the most unexpected of places: a jar of sourdough starter named Fluffy.
Each four- to five-minute vignette from Jeanne's life is paired with a recipe video featuring one of the dishes in each episode—sourdough pancakes, buttermilk scones, chocolate mousse—plus a collection of Marie's own "life-changing tips" from the kitchen. The end result is a quirky kind of rom-com-meets-Food-Network format, with a sensual focus on food and a narrative that's eccentric, adorable, and beautifully shot. And for anyone trapped in the hellscape of modern dating, it's weirdly relatable. (Even if you've never found yourself waking up between the sheets with a talking batch of fermented dough.)
In the midst of releasing the show's second season (with a third season likely to follow), Constantinesco chatted with us about the series, the role that both film and food play in her life, and perhaps most importantly, the pros and cons of a perfect batch of scones versus a night of great sex.
MUNCHIES: Hi Marie. Tell us where this idea came from and how it came to life. Marie Constantinesco: I've always explored the connection between food and film. I was thinking about doing a cooking show, but I didn't know exactly what form it was going to take. I just started brainstorming with my friends back in 2012, and we started developing these recipes. I started shooting it with my main directors of photography, creative consultants and editors (Chananun Chotrungroj, Anna Stypko, and Charlotte Rabate).
The specific idea about mixing food and love—it's something that speaks to me. I like the style of romantic comedies, and I thought it would be funny to mix that with food, because food definitely has this kind of sensual charming quality to it. And I definitely wanted to do something feminine, from a woman's point of view. I like traditional cooking shows and instructional videos, but I didn't want to just do that because I feel like that format is limiting. Being able to bring a story and weave it in with the food was what really attracted me to it.
The first season features some pretty identifiable misadventures in dating, but the second season makes a bold leap by featuring an actual talking jar of sourdough starter as a love interest. What made you decide to run with that? I think one of the notes I was getting after season one was, "It's good, but we don't understand why your character is so single." Like, she should be able to get any guy just by making her food, you know? So I said, "OK, let's get down to the bottom of why Jeanne was always single in season one." In season two we see that, deep down, she's a little bit crazy, and that's why. But it's also OK, because in the season, everyone around her is also a little crazy: she introduces her sourdough starter to people, and they think it's completely normal, and they treat him as a person.
So the sourdough starter is a full-fledged character at this point? Yeah, totally. I think the star of season two is the sourdough starter, for sure. You'll see that he really has a personality of his own, and you'll really get to know him and his eccentricities... he's got a bit of a passive-aggressive personality. I just really wanted my character to be in a relationship. Season one is really about hoping and waiting, and the kind of sadness or misery of modern-age dating, and I thought it would be good for her to be in a relationship. But I thought, you know, I don't want her to be in a traditional relationship because she's not exactly a classic girl. Then I was like, "My starter! That's perfect!" He's my companion, the guy I live with, the guy I travel with, so why not turn him into a character?
How much of this is based on your own experiences, in dating, cooking, and baking? Actually, I think it's the story of my life. I bake a lot, I cook a lot, and yeah, I'm in love with my starter. It has a lot of things that actually did happen, then of course some things are scripted, but they have that kind of improv or real-life feel to them. We bring elements in from other actors who have stories to tell about their own lives. So yeah, it's very grounded in reality. Same with the starter, because people always make fun of me that I travel with it, that I live with it, some people see it as a pet or as a baby, but I just think it's cooler to see it as a lover. It makes me not single anymore, which is really cool.
Does your own starter have a name, also? Yeah, my personal starter has the same name, he's also called Fluffy. We used to have a rabbit as a kid, and he died, but he was called Fluffy. So I kind of named my starter after a dead rabbit.
That's cool. So why bread? I think it's fantastic to make bread; I am so fascinated by the process, just like I'm fascinated by the process of making films and how long it takes from going from a script, to the finished film. In a way, with bread, it's the same thing. Not exactly the same—it only takes about three days to make—but it has that same idea: that you have to have all the right combinations of elements, of ingredients, timing, the temperature of the air. There are so many factors, physically, that influence the result.
I guess you could say the same thing about relationships, too. With all of the external factors, definitely. I mean, the cool thing with a starter is that if I don't want to talk to him, I just put him in the freezer. It'd be cool if you could do that with a real boyfriend.
Possibly illegal, but definitely useful at times. So what is your story with food? Where'd your passion for cooking and baking come from? It started quite young, I was always in the kitchen as a kid, already experimenting with some recipes. My mom would literally come in to turn on the gas oven, so I wouldn't blow up the house, and she'd leave me to cook. That was kind of my time, in a way. I've also cooked with my grandmother, who's an amazing cook and baker. I was inspired by people around me, my mom, my dad, my grandmother... I think that made me dive into that world. And cooking was always my meditation, if that makes sense.
Kind of therapeutic? Exactly. I'd relax, turn on the radio, make something, and see the results. And since then, I've always incorporated it into my life. Days or weeks or periods of my life where I don't cook, it's very hard for me. I can do maybe a week but then I get kind of nervous, and I want to get back to the kitchen.
Where do you find the inspiration for your recipes? It comes from different places. I'm definitely inspired by things I see at the market. That's a great source of inspiration for me, like, "Oh, these radishes look really cool, let's try and maybe put them in jars and make pickles out of them." And then of course, I'm inspired by other food bloggers, and chefs that I follow. But with each recipe, I always kind of try to research on my own and give it a little twist. I just try to be creative with it. In this coming season, there's a recipe for this trifle with strawberries and meringue and whipped cream, and I added some sugar snap peas.
If you had to choose between a really good one-night stand and a really perfect batch of scones...? [Laughs] That's a very hard question, but I think I would go with the scones.
Yeah, because one-night stands are never really fully satisfying, I think. I guess at the beginning of a longer relationship, you have to have that one first night, but if it's just a one-night stand, I'm still a little hungry after it.
And you don't have to wait for scones to text you back. Exactly! Exactly. They're already there. And you can make them again.
Thanks for speaking with us.