ter rubbing gobs of butter onto two rosemary chickens, Mimi Thorisson attended to her newborn baby boy, her 2-year-old daughter and her German pointer—all of whom were in the kitchen. Then, while preparing a zucchini gratin, she looked down at the floor.
“It was a lot of work to preserve the tiles and polish them and take care of them, but these are impossible to have redone,” said Mrs. Thorisson, a food blogger and cookbook writer who works out of her home in France’s Bordeaux region.
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Three years ago, Mrs. Thorisson, and her photographer husband, Oddur, were house-hunting in Bordeaux’s Médoc region when they came across a 15-bedroom home built in 1880 that had once been a hotel and restaurant. Entering the kitchen, they saw tiles peering out from beneath linoleum flooring. Kicking at it bit by bit, they kept finding more tile. “These tiles are the biggest treasure of the house,” said Mrs. Thorisson, a 43-year-old Hong Kong native who is half French. She is best known for her blog, Manger, and an Instagram presence that showcases her culinary life. Her second book, “French Country Cooking,” is to be published next month by Clarkson Potter. All the images in the book are by Mr. Thorisson, who also photographs other projects.
These tiles have become some of the most recurring visual objects in Mrs. Thorisson’s Instagram feed. There they are beneath a table full of stuffed tomatoes. They show up again with a pan of grilled chicken and pêches blanches. Once more, they appear in a post about freshly picked artichokes.
Located in the center of the tiny village of Saint-Yzans-de-Médoc, the 11,840-square-foot house is a stately, L-shaped structure that cost around $620,000 when they bought it in 2014. The couple was specifically looking for a place to cook, blog, write and live. While the price tag might be considered a bargain for such a large place, Mr. Thorisson, who is 46 years old and from Iceland, estimates that he and his wife have spent about the same amount renovating the place, which is still a work in progress.
The kitchen, including new hardware, cost around $45,000 to refurbish, the Thorissons estimate. That includes what Mrs. Thorisson calls le coeur, or the heart, of her home: an enormous Lacanche range that cost around $17,000.
“When people walk into my kitchen, the first thing they say is, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m stepping into the blog! It’s the real thing,’ ” says Mrs. Thorisson, a self-taught cook who also uses her home to host workshops for fans who travel from as far away as Singapore and the U.S. The author rose to digital fame several years ago via her Manger blog, and her first cookbook, called “A Kitchen in France,” and published in 2014. Her Instagram presence is also large: With over 200,000 followers, photos from her kitchen garner thousands of “likes” with each post.
In her kitchen, visitors spend several days learning not just how to cook, but about how to realize the sort of life Mrs. Thorisson writes about online: a dreamy one, filled with food, simplicity and children.
The Thorissons have eight children, some together, some from previous marriages. They range in age from newborn to 20. Not all eight live with the couple year-round, but there are occasions when everyone is home, along with the family’s 10 dogs.
Amid Mrs. Thorisson’s recipes are stories of the home’s past, as told to her by previous owners and village old-timers. Readers will learn tales of multiple generations of cooks together in the French country kitchen.
Now it’s her turn to find inspiration while working over the kitchen’s large, open-faced fireplace. When roasting meat, her kindling of choice is sarments, dried shoots from the region’s Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vines, which Mrs. Thorisson says infuse the meat with special flavors.
“When I light the fire, I can feel the magic of the house,” says Mrs. Thorisson.