Jilll Edlich is a native of northern, New Jersey. She and her family moved from Clifton, New Jersey, to Frederick County, Virginia, in the summer of 2012. When you meet Jill, you’ll quickly notice that northern Jersey accent. But, don’t let her diction fool you, because as you get to know her, you’ll understand that her heart belongs to France.
To learn a little more about my new friend, we spent an evening together in her home. We hung out in her kitchen and as I inquired about her life, she made us a delicious batch of hearty crepes. Some she filled with fresh cut asparagus, some with eggs and cheese, some with just a sprinkling of sugar and butter, and even some filled with a freshly made strawberry sauce. “Each time my mother comes for a visit, my kids insist that she make these crepes. This is her recipe and I hope I do my mama proud in making them for you,” she said with a confiding, friendly smile.
Jill’s parents are Harold and Danielle Rachesky. Harold served in the United States Army and met Danielle while stationed in the Brittany region of France. They had a mutual friend who set them up on a blind date but the problem was Harold didn’t speak any French and Danielle didn’t speak any English. Realizing this might be a problem, her father thought to bring a French dictionary with him on that date. “They sat there, smitten on each other, and communicating only through the use of that dictionary! In short time, my father learned that dictionary and studied that language to the point that he speaks very fluent French, even today,” Jill said. Danielle followed her new love back to his homeland of America (New Jersey) and they married soon after. This September, they’ll be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.
Growing up, Jill was exposed to many different cultures and believes that is where her curious palate and her love of good, (unprocessed) food came from. Jill has visited France many times and has fond memories of her days spent there —especially at her grandmother’s house. “I remember my grandmother had an amazing vegetable garden. She also had rabbits and chickens; one of my favorite things to do each day was to collect the eggs from the hen house.
I was 6 or 7 years old at that time and while I didn’t actually witness the sacrifice of the animals for food, my grandmother made sure that I was aware of it,” she said. Her grandmother passed away in the early 80s but she still has family there and visits as often as she can. She’s grateful for social media as a way to keep in touch. “I have a couple of cousins in Paris and it was through Facebook that I determined they were safe soon after the bombings, earlier this year,” she said.
Jill and her husband, Bob, were introduced to the Shenandoah Valley through Jill’s long-time friends Lori and Bill Bergen. Lori and Jill attended the same high school together in Clifton and remained close when Lori and her husband left the area and eventually landed in Cross Junction, Virginia. While talking with Jill one day, Lori jokingly mentioned that a nearby house was up for sale and they should consider moving to Virginia. “We had been looking to move – but not out of Jersey,” said Jill. Having visited the area a few times to see her friends, they had already fallen for the Shenandoah Valley —“its beautiful countryside with expansive amounts of unrestricted land (the complete opposite of Jersey) and the convenient access to the little local markets—that sort of reminded me of France, and is always one of my favorite things to do when I’m there,” she said. After some lengthy research on the area, including the cost of living and the school system for their kids (they have 7 children, 4 of which are here in Virginia), they decided to start exploring the idea of living here.
Now they are all settled in and have lots of hopes and dreams for their 24 acres. They already have a greenhouse and plans for a vegetable garden are in the works. They have a dog and (not surprisingly) a nice flock of chickens–including two, Guinea; two, Dark Brahma; two, Leghorn; two, Silver Cuckoo Maran; two, Black Sexlink and two, Black Australorp.
“We get about 8-10 eggs daily from the chickens and I still like going out to get them each morning; but what we really enjoy here is living off of our land in a sustainable way,” Jill said. While taking care of her family and home could easily be considered a full-time gig, Jill’s also a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway in Winchester, Virginia, and an Independent Distributor for Shaklee—a healthy lifestyle products company, founded in 1956 with worldwide distribution.
We chatted, laughed, and ate for a few, fun hours that evening. As I was packing up to head home I asked her what her kitchen meant to her. She said, “a kitchen is the heart of any home and it’s here that our family gets together each evening to talk about their day. It’s the one time of day that I always look forward to.”
The French having a saying: Mangez bien, riez souvent, aimez beaucoup. Translated, it means—eat well, laugh often and love abundantly. As I drove away that evening with a satisfied and happy tummy, I thought about Jill and her family. Yes, indeed, Jill. Yes, indeed. I’m pretty darn sure you’ve done your mama proud.
Danielle Rachesky’s Crepe Recipe:
3 cups all purpose (unbleached) flour
6 eggs (farm fresh)
½ tsp salt
2 cups (approximately) milk
In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and then combine with the flour. Slowly add in the milk. You may not use all of the milk or you may need more. You are looking for the consistency of pancakes – but maybe a bit thinner and with no lumps. Once combined, let the batter rest for an hour or so, if you can. This relaxes the gluten and allows for a more tender (and delicious) crepe.
Heat your pan (about medium heat) and let it begin to warm. Add in the oil, swirl it around to coat the pan and then scoop in the batter (about ¼ cup) and swirl it around to coat the pan. Cook until the edges start coming away from the pan (about 3-5 minutes, and this may decrease as your skillet continues to heat up), then flip and cook the other side. Keep crepes covered and warm while you make the rest. This recipe provides enough batter to feed a family of six and allowing for 3-4 crepes each.
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Tammy Batcha is a life-long resident of the Shenandoah Valley. A long-time commuter, she seeks to reconnect to her community. A board certified, health and wellness coach, she continues to study integrative nutritional theory while guiding others on a path to wellness.