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Food and Wine

September 10, 2014

French food.  Many people gone before rave about French food. Yes, it’s very good but it all starts with where the ingredients come from and what people insist on demanding.  In North America we are so tied to the huge companies that have gobbled up the land, intensified the production so that they are almost killing the land and then they pack it all up and truck it thousands of miles across the continent.  In France, food is produced locally as  a first choice on land that has been in production for 2,000 years and sometimes more or it comes from relatively close fields.  People here demand food that has taste, texture, quality and in many cases is organic.

So it’s not that the French can make good food but they respect its origins and treat it accordingly.  That’s not to say other areas can’t.  On a recent trip to California we noticed restaurants were naming the farms where the produce was grown and it all came from farms within one hundred miles of the restaurant. They also were using the same techniques to get good ingredients to produce great food.  It can be done we just have to demand it.  And then pay for it.

So here’s just a few pictures of food and some of the fun we had experimenting:

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And the first thing we did was buy a good olive oil produced locally i.e. Aude. At least this gave us a start at the game of trying to produce something good that kept us out of the restaurants.

We were able to go down to the local bakery at the end of the street, about 100 metres, at 0700hrs to buy our bagette or croissant and that was a good start to the day. The bakery was open every day except Tuesday and for about $1.75 but a bagette or two that needed to be consumed that day as the only way to have bread is fresh!

Bread sold by the pound. All kinds and without doubt great.

Bread sold by the pound. All kinds and without doubt great.

This was not our bakery but rather the market in Carcassonne on Saturday. Yes, buy bread by the pound for those large loaves and then there are all the other choices.

Fromage - goat's cheese, regular cheese, everything cheese - Wow the cholestrol is increasing and the weight is out of control

Fromage – goat’s cheese, regular cheese, everything cheese – Wow the cholestrol is increasing and the weight is out of control

And then there’s the cheese. Cheese, cheese, cheese….One almost drowns in cheese. Innumerable varieties, goat ones, cow ones and am sure one could find elephant ones if there were elephants in France.  Smelly ones, mild ones, soft ones, hard ones and ones that tease your brain and clog your innards.  It’s all in a worthy cause though as there’s nothing like a great cheese.  I always remember working as a tour guide in the Canadian Rockies as the Japanese telling me that westerners smelt of rotten cheese!  It’s true – it’s all the mild products we use.

Moules and frites - my favourite

Moules and frites – my favourite

Ah yes then if you are lucky in France and you are close to the coast you can eat as much seafood as you like.  However, in and around Carcassonne the best and most common are the moules, mussels.  Usually served with frites but at the market they just come straight.

What selection

What selection

Yes, well then there is also the paella.  Being in the south of France in Catalan country and close to Spain everyone enjoys their plate of paella.  However, I will say the best paella is to be had a Chez Sierd in Victoria BC.  cooked over a wood/charcoal fire and filled with wonderful west coast Canadian seafood. (see first paragraph in this Globe and Mail review

The begbinnings of a paella masterpiece

The begbinnings of a paella masterpiece

And then there is aligot –

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What the —- is aligot? It’s a mixture of melted cheese, garlic and mashed potatoes.  What a heart stopper.

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So what is it that France doesn’t do well?  The graffiti above was seen on a wall in Carcassonne.  I have to say it’s very appropriate.  Surprise to me but I have yet to find good coffee in France.  The restaurants, bistros, bars etc serve an OK espresso but try and buy some good coffee to take home and make at home. No way.  One can even walk down the aisles of coffee in the supermarkets and you can’t even smell coffee.  And, no, it’s not because of the cheeses in the next aisle.  I am beginning to believe now that one just can’t but it unless Paris has something.  I have to admit I have always held up Europe as fine connoisseurs of coffee but it can’t be France. Perhaps I’ll just have to stay here longer.

But to top it all off, in Carcassonne at least, there is cassoulet.  It’s really a winter food made from white beans, sausages and duck confit. When 2 friends, Gail and Jim, came to visit we went to the Castelnaudary Cassoulet festival to sample some of the best regional cassoulet.

Cassoulet Festival in Castelnaudary

Cassoulet Festival in Castelnaudary

 

The stickers tell all.  There were so many kinds of cassoulet for the taking but then one wonders how many different ways  can you make cassoulet. Cassoulet Festival in Castelnaudary

 

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If you want they even have all their different kinds of cassoulet emporter i.e. to-go.  I guess one way to get through the winter.

And then there’s wine.

Cabardes

Cabardes

Lucky for us we were only in a couple of regions. While I would have loved to have spent my afternoons with a bottle of wine snuggled in my arms I was saved by the fact that although there were lots of vineyards to visit there was a limited number of types of wine.  Thank god for that.  It still doesn’t mean the recycling didn’t have to be taken out every second day.

Only a small sampling

Only a small sampling

Connie was pleased.  Although a bit of a teetotaler before coming to France she had learnt to enjoy kir royale – a mixture of cassis and champagne.  We weren’t in the champagne region of France but luckily there is a wine here that’s close to champagne called Blanquette de Limoux.  I won’t tell you home many bottles of that made it into the recycling but at least enough to keep bottle makers happy.

Okay I can hear you “stop already. enough is enough”. Ok but just one last picture

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Back to Thai food next week.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 10, 2014 09:10

    OK Frenchie!
    You win!

    Written at lunch over a can of cold Puritan mild chillie and rice crackers and… a can of Scheppes. C’est ravigotte!

    Awesome e-mails. thanks. Fred

  2. September 10, 2014 09:11

    Formidable, mes amis! Bon appétit!! 🙂 Jean Macleod le Cheminant, B.A. CELTA, B. Ed jeanlecheminant@gmail.com

  3. Annie Boldt permalink
    September 10, 2014 12:27

    You have me drooling!
    I guess you did not have to share your mussels with connie Eh?
    Annie B.

  4. Sue Donaldson permalink
    September 10, 2014 16:29

    I hope you are planning a whole post on le canard: confit, magret, foie, etc etc etc I have seen you slavering over duck in France, don’t forget 🙂

  5. Wayne Holt permalink
    September 12, 2014 10:36

    For a tubby old mate who enjoying cuisine at the highest level, I must say you do look remarkably slim!
    Keep it coming you barnacle. Am loving it.

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