Dear Travellati Friends,
When you think of France, what’s the first thing you think of? If you’re like me, it’s the food. In my opinion, and based on numerous grueling tests of my own which I have conducted in the interest of improved international relations, no cuisine in the world compares to French cuisine (of course, I was born in France, so I’m biased).
My upcoming Hemingway's Paris talks:
* Wednesday, 3/22/17, 2:00 PM Bedford Free Library, NY
* Wednesday, 3/29/17, 7:00 PM Round Table at The Hunting Tavern, Andes, NY
* Monday, 4/3/17, 7:00:00 PM Larchmont Public Library, NY
See https://www.facebook.com/pg/Travellati/events for description and full schedule.
French cuisine ranges from cuisine bourgeoise or cuisine bonne femme – good home cooking – to nouvelle cuisine (simple, quality ingredients presented in a straightforward manner often with unusual pairings in a restaurant) and haute cuisine (fancy, rich, expensive foods cooked by a chef in a restaurant). No matter what you call it, I call it good.
My mother, who worked while my father stayed home and watched us kids and painted, still somehow managed to create wonderful home cooked meals in the French style, although she herself was German and my dad, American. Some of our favorites were boeuf bourguignon, small cubes of beef stewed in red wine with pearl onions, mushrooms, and bits of salt pork; pork chops in a red wine/tomato sauce with sliced pickles; and a chicken dish cooked in white wine with pimientos and black olives. We loved the red, black, and white colors of this dish. But our favorite was tagliatelles aux amandes, slivered almonds browned in butter and poured over pasta. And we haven’t even talked about desserts yet!
Why did we as children not demand to eat pizza or pasta with nothing on it? Well, we had never heard of pizza, and why would you want pasta with nothing on it when you could have it drowned in browned butter and slivered almonds? Another of us kids’ favorites was cauliflower au gratin, which consisted of a whole parboiled cauliflower coated in mornay cheese sauce and gratinéed in the oven. The presentation was beautiful! And what about artichokes simply boiled until done and then presented whole on the plate with a side bowl of vinaigrette? The perfect finger food. I loved to get down to the heart, cut it up in little pieces and put it in my vinaigrette. I still do.
On walks to the bakery with my Dad, we would demand pains au chocolat (chocolate croissants) with long slices of chocolate bar melted inside. And we would beg my Dad to nibble the crusty end of the baguette as we walked home. He said, “What will we tell your Mom?” And we would say, “We’ll tell her that the little mice got it.” On the way home, we would pass an épicerie (grocery store) with snails who had escaped their crate circling around beside it on the sidewalk. We drew the line at eating snails.
A petit suisse and a piece of nougat.
We did eat some Franco-American foods such as Kellog’s Corn Flakes, whose rooster on the box was the inspiration for one of my early art masterpieces, and my dad liked to sprinkle salt on his yogurt and salads, which we thought pretty weird. (Yogurt only came plain in those days.) Our favorite dessert was these little drum-shaped fresh cheeses called “petits suisses” that you would mash up on your plate and sprinkle sugar on. Sometimes my Mom brought home from work drum-shaped pieces of nougat which we called “drôles de petits suisses” – funny petits suisses – because of their similar shape.
At summer day camp, we were offered not chocolate milk as a snack but pieces of Camembert with an apple. I loved Camembert, and still do!
We will have many of our own unique and exquisite gustatory experiences during our Papa’s Paris Tour June 17-25. Save some bread if you reserve your spot by April 1. We'll save a place for you at our table!