Monday, November 15, 2010
Food In France
I'm not sure I can do it justice. On the cruise from Paris to Normandy we had a German chef whom we rarely saw. Food was great. On the cruise from Chalone-de-Sur to Avignon we had a French chef. Her food was awesome. Each evening we eagerly looked forward to Magalie's (accent on the first syllable) description of what we were having for dinner. I swear that many of us were drooling by the time she finished. Also, she often showed up for the light lunch (now that's a misnomer if there ever was one) in the Viking lounge. Her favorite word after "dessert" was "reduction." You can't have enough reduction when cooking french food.
I tried reduction when we got home. I made beef short ribs in the crock pot with a sauce of Calvados (bought in Normandy), duck stock, pomegranate molasses and soy sauce. Once the ribs were done, I reduced the sauce and served it and the meat over organic brown rice. So good!!!!
The flavors, presentation and freshness of the food is what french cooking is all about. Also, portion size. You may have six courses at every dinner (we did) but each course, except the entree, is just a few bites. The crab dish photo is a good example of that. It's beautiful and small. The desserts were also small portions but they had such a heady flavor, you didn't want more. Well, maybe sometimes. And also, the desserts were not really sugary. You knew the sugar was there but it didn't overwhelm your palate.
Kerry had eggs benedict one morning; the yolk was as orange as a pumpkin. That's the sign of a very happy chicken who got to run around in a farmyard and be a chicken. Next time you buy eggs in the super market check the color of the yolks. So many more nutrients in the darker colored yolks. They are also lower in cholesterol.
Bread, oh my God, it is awesome. At breakfast each day we had our choice of probably 15 different breads. Bread accompanied each meal and it was fresh. In every town we visited we saw the proverbial French man or woman walking with a long baguette. If they don't finish it on the day purchased, they still buy another one the next day. Baguettes make for great bread crumbs, although I can't imagine not finishing it.
Farmers Markets abound in France. Regardless of how small the town, the local farmers come to market at least once a week to sell their produce, eggs, cheese, meat and flowers. The lettuce we had on the boat was beautiful, flavorful and fresh. I never saw iceberg lettuce in France. We had lots of soup that was made from the fresh vegetables left from the dinner the night before. Delicious.
I never wondered if our meat had any antibiotics or hormones in it. As we traveled the countryside we learned that the white cattle that graze everywhere are called Charleroi but nicknamed "BBQ cattle" because the meat is so wonderful. If you don't buy your meat at the farmers market, then you can go to a charcuterie. It's a combination of deli and butcher shop. I stopped in one in Vienne. I told the owner, Mr. Dugand, that his shop was beautiful. His face lit up in a big smile. He spoke some English so we talked a bit. As I went to leave he handed me a sausage from a basket on top of the counter and said, "for you madame." I tried to pay but he wouldn't hear of it.
The concierge on board the boat said it would be delicious with some bread, cheese and wine. So that's what we are going to do with it. It was in my suitcase when we landed at SFO. I was really worried I would get busted by the food sniffing dog. He busted someone else and I made it out of the terminal.
Can't leave out cheese; so many kinds that I lost count. Everyday at lunch we had a tray of different cheeses with crusty bread. I probably ate the U.S. equivalent of $50 worth of cheese each day. All the cheeses were local and changed depending on where we were in France. I especially loved the soft, oozy cheeses that spreads like butter. Magalie made sure there were little signs on each cheese telling us the name.
Yes, you can get McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken, but I can't understand why anyone would want that stuff. Take your taste buds to France, you won't regret it.