Archive for the ‘Slow food’ Category

A visit to the brasserie   Leave a comment

OK, a defintion for some of you:

In France, Flanders, and the Francophone world, a brasserie (pronounced [bʁas.ʁi]) is a type of French restaurant with a relaxed setting, which serves single dishes and other meals. The word brasserie is also French for “brewery” and, by extension, “the brewing business”. A brasserie can be expected to have professional service, printed menus, and, traditionally, white linen—unlike a bistro which may have none of these.

Technically, a bistro is the original fast food. The story is that Russian soldiers would scream “Быстро” wanting the service quickly after Napoleon’s defeat in the east led to their occupying Paris. Not sure how true that story is, but “bistro” is indeed “fast” or “quickly” in Russian.

Oh, and a cafe is where you get coffee and maybe an alcoholic drink. They generally serve not much more than a “Snack” menu, if they serve food at all: platters of cheese and/or charcuterie, maybe a couple of sandwiches like the famous croque monsieur and madame and some meal-sized salads complete with ham, cheese and vegetables. Cafés are also often home of Tabacs, selling cigarettes and lotto tickets, and tend to be the meeting point of older French gentlemen at midday. That’s what was in Amélie (or Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain).

There are a at least a couple of brasseries within walking distance of me. Not to mention one dedicated boulangerie, which specialises in bread. Pâtisserie, on the other hand, refers to pastries and where they are sold. Law restricts its use to bakeries who employ licensed maître pâtissier (master pastry chefs) in France and Belgium. Viennoiserie is the ‘bridge’ between pâtisserie and bread. These goods are typically made with white flour and active yeast cultures, which cause the dough to rise quickly and achieve the perfect flakiness. Many are made using an enriched puff pastry. Think the gooey, flakey pastries and you have Viennoiserie.

The brasserie I went to is the Rolls Royce of the lot in that it has a boulangerie-patisserie: as opposed to the patisserie nearby. That meant I was able to have bouche de noël a little late in the season. A galette des rois would have been more fun, but those you have to order: unless you want the cheapo store jobs. https://www.nouvelobs.com/food/20220106.OBS52927/5-galettes-des-rois-surprenantes-pour-celebrer-l-epiphanie-2022.html# and https://france-amerique.com/la-galette-des-rois-une-tradition-francaise-meconnue-aux-etats-unis/.

The bouche was nice and fresh. I may order one for next years réveillon, but we still have some left over in the freezer.

They were playing jazz. I thought I should be reading Le Monde, and could have been if I had my portable with me (left at home). Then, it hit me that the New York Herald-Tribune would have been more appropriate. Oh, and you can buy those T-shirts at redbubble.

BTW, I had to show ID and my vaccination certificate to get in.

One gripe I have with the US is that this kind of baked goods are hard to find. The US has a real problem with baguettes, but that’s another post.

Love-Hate about the US-Europe

I have a long post simmering where I get into some of the things I don’t like about the US. Some apply to Europe as well, but that’s easy since Europe is basically a bunch of countries which have banded together because they finally figured out trying to kill each other made no sense. Although, there are a few people who still think it does. Part of this is due to watching (wasting a couple of hours) the first two episodes of something called “Tribes of Europe”. Europe has survived serious destruction without ending up like that series.

Portrait de la contesse Fouler de Relingue

Anyway, it sort of comes down to four things: food, culture, distance, caring for cities and countryside, and transport. We could get into the Oxford comma as well, but that is francophony-anglophony. The French will eat Grandma, but prefer their lovers….

I’m not sure I should make “head” jokes, but I am very certain some of my ancestors made it through the Terror. They were able to enjoy the bals des victimes, but they exited stage right when it came to Les Mis. I’m posting the cleaned up version of coiffure à la Titus which was popular post-terror. My race memory clicked on the painting by Guérin in the Louvre.

I don’t relate to US history and always thought that the Civil War monuments commemorated the Franco-Prussian War, which was the Civil War for me. My relations fought on both sides. A direct result was that my great-great-grandfather shipped his son off to the States to avoid Bismarck’s Army. It also set off a chain reaction of events which would lead to my being born in the US. The Second World War led to my father coming to the States.

The thing is that I can get the things I like in Europe in the States/North America, and some of the things I hate about the States exist in Europe. Although, it’s hard to get something vaguely like Europe’s history in North America. People in the US prefer the myth and have done a great job of wrecking the real history, but that is changing. Just not fast enough for my taste.

Still, I would prefer Europe to the States even if there were TGVs, the cities ended at defined boundaries, and there were really cool small towns out there that had restaurants that served exciting local food. As opposed to restaurants that are exciting because everyone is carrying guns–that’s not they type of excitement I mean. I left out more obvous old settlements. Places like Cahokia and Cahawba don’t do it for me since they were ethnically cleansed from history.

I didn’t get the Hudson Valley School of Painting and the concept behind it until I spent a lot of time on the ground (can’t make a good pun of “sur-le-champ”). But no matter what the appearance is, natural resources are limited. While the Americas have been populated for millenia, the cultures that populated them have been ethnically cleansed. Or are seen as a quaint. This quotation about the “First Thanksgiving” gets to the point:

One is that history doesn’t begin for Native people until Europeans arrive. People had been in the Americas for least 12,000 years and according to some Native traditions, since the beginning of time. And having history start with the English is a way of dismissing all that. The second is that the arrival of the Mayflower is some kind of first-contact episode. It’s not. Wampanoags had a century of contact with Europeans–it was bloody and it involved slave raiding by Europeans. At least two and maybe more Wampanoags, when the Pilgrims arrived, spoke English, had already been to Europe and back and knew the very organizers of the Pilgrims’ venture.

Most poignantly, using a shared dinner as a symbol for colonialism really has it backward. No question about it, Wampanoag leader Ousamequin reached out to the English at Plymouth and wanted an alliance with them. But it’s not because he was innately friendly. It’s because his people have been decimated by an epidemic disease, and Ousamequin sees the English as an opportunity to fend off his tribal rebels. That’s not the stuff of Thanksgiving pageants. The Thanksgiving myth doesn’t address the deterioration of this relationship culminating in one of the most horrific colonial Indian wars on record, King Philip’s War, and also doesn’t address Wampanoag survival and adaptation over the centuries, which is why they’re still here, despite the odds.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/thanksgiving-myth-and-what-we-should-be-teaching-kids-180973655/

I found that while looking for this clip. I saw it when I went to the Smithsonian Museum of the Native American the day my application for European residency came through. The speaker is Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche).

Unfortunately, the westward expansion of the English Colonies meant ethnic cleansing of the Native Americans.

Anyway, Paul, my family is supposed to have been there for that First Thanksgiving, but it’s a lot more difficult for a European to move back than most people realise. And changing North America for the better is tough with monied interests blocking the way.

Turbotière

Ok, I have a thing for copper cookware, which I can blame on an ex-girlfriend.  Copper cookware is the ultimate.  The stuff is made to last (although older copper cookware requires retinning, which is worth the money).

“Copper pots are the most satisfactory of all to cook in, as they hold and spread the heat well and their tin lining does not discolor food….. To get the full benefit of cooking in copper, the metal must be 1/8 inch thick, and the handle should be of heavy iron.”

Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 1961

The turbotière is the  most exclusive and sought after item in the copper cookware aficionado’s wish list.  ‘It is a venial extravagance to acquire a turbotiere, as I did even before I owned a frying pan’. — Alan Davidson, North Atlantic Seafood.  I think some cooks own the things even if they will never use one.

DSCF2314

Turbotière front and centre of props at Hampton Court Kitchen.

I got the bug after watching “Duchess of Duke Street” where Louisa cooks her big meal using one. The suckers are BIG (as are turbots, who can grow up to a metre).  Turbot is the king of fish: Roman Emperors, Popes and the wealthy (makes sense since Lousia was cooking for the Prince of Wales) have all waxed lyrical on these mighty beasts.

They are expensive as heck new (around 2000 in most currencies).  But they can be found used for much less, but they aren’t cheap.  Turbot’s being a delicacy for the affluent is probably why turbotières are (1) coveted and (2) not cheap.  Although, a whole turbot isn’t that dear, around 60 in most currencies: making it less expensive than lobster.

They are also pretty big.  Someone pointed out he couldn’t get his in his oven (but one can use them on the stove).

Of course, the money needed to buy one makes sense if one owns a restaurant (or cooks a lot of seafood for wealthy people).  Again, these seem to be more status than utilitarian.

and one can dream.

Ruining your Christmas spirit!

What is Christmas without alcohol? Forget putting Christ back in Christmas since he has never really had anything to do with the date, but drunken revelry–that’s another thing. Oz Clarke and Hugh Dennis tried to sample every Christmas tipple in a BBC Christmas special last year.  And the institution of Christmas drinking is enshrined in all those Wassail songs.  Too bad actual wassail is pretty revolting.  Mulled wine is far more of my fav for the season.

The problem is that the process of making alcohol is fairly environmentally unfriendly as a recent Mother Jones article, An Inconvenient Vermouth, points out. In terms of greenhouse-gas emissions, alcoholic beverage production in the US alone results in a carbon footprint which is the annual equivalent of 1.9 million households. Not great news if you want to be green and know that EVERYBODY has to start reducing their carbon footprint.  But, don’t worry about that too much since the MoJo Article talks about which forms of alcohol are environmentally friendly.

Wine, for example, is fairly environmentally friendly with most of its carbon footprint coming from transportation.  You can also be more environmentally friendly by using wine that comes in cartons rather than bottles.  Beer is fairly environmentally friendly as well with most of the carbon footprint coming from refrigeration and glass production.  Surprisingly enough, kegs are the most efficient method of packaging beer with cans coming in second.  While aluminium production is an environmental horror, cans are recyclable and cost less to transport.

The spirits industry comes in for a serious beating with Gin, tequila, and rum being the worst for the environment.  The problem is that the distillation process requires loads of energy.  American bourbons are aged in virgin-oak barrels that are used only once, most of those barrels end up being reused by other liquor makers.  And while some of those liquor makers may produce single malts, think of the energy involved in distilling the liquor and transporting it.  In terms of distillation, vodka requires more energy and water than most spirits.

Rum is made from molasses or cane juice, and its fibrous leftovers can throw off the microorganism balance in waterways. In 2001, the EPA sued Bacardi for illegally dumping 3,000 gallons of of mostos, an industrial waste from its rum processing plant, into a river near its Puerto Rico plant. Although, that does mean that many major rum distillers now treat their water. Additionally, sugarcane is also a notoriously destructive crop, producing massive amounts of wastewater and greenhouse gases. Tequila also has a pretty bad waste problem. For every liter of tequila, you get about 11 pounds of pulp and 10 liters of vinazas, or acidic waste—which ends up befouling soil and water in Mexico’s Jalisco state, where most tequila comes from. Blue agave farmers, meanwhile, have used more and more pesticides since their crops were chewed up by insects during the 1990s.

So, it sounds as if this is a victory for the slow food crowd who prefer beer and wine that is locally produced.   Steer clear of distilled spirits since they require loads of energy to produce with Rum and Tequila being down right environmentally unfriendly!  It also sounds as if the best way to drink is to go to a local pub that serves locally manufactured beer or wine!  While you are at it, take public transportation to reduce your carbon footprint.  Also, using public transportation means you won’t get busted for drunk driving: making it an environmentally, legally, and financially wise decision to use public transportation.

There are ways to make the distillation process more environmentally friendly, but most distillers don’t practise them. MoJo does mention which distillers use environmentally friendly practises. I strongly suggest buying their products if you choose to drink spirits. It also might be a good idea to write your fav distiller and ask them what they are doing to cut their carbon footprint?

I leave you with Charles Dickens’s Smoking Bishop recipe which is mentioned at the End of “A Christmas Carol”:

5 unpeeled oranges
1 unpeeled grapefruit
36 cloves
1/4 pound of sugar
2 bottles of red wine
1 bottle of port

— Wash the fruit and oven bake until brownish. Turn once.
— Put fruit into a warmed earthenware bowl with six cloves stuck into each.
— Add the sugar and pour in the wine – not the port.
— Cover and leave in a warm place for a day.
— Squeeze the fruit into the wine and strain.
— Add the port and heat. DO NOT BOIL!

Serve “smoking” warm. Yield: 15 to 20 servings