Two whole weeks have gone by since President Macron declared a national lockdown. Time seems to pass by at a snail’s pace, but already I am seeing first hand the positive effects fewer cars on the roads and skies without planes have had on us. The sky was so blue yesterday and so different to what we are used to seeing here with all the plane contrails, being so close to Marseille and Nice aeroports. I never thought the air was polluted here but I heard on the news that the coastal towns like Hyeres and La Seyne sur Mer are recording record low levels of pollution near the beaches which means that it has never been cleaner. So I took some deep long breaths of air while walking down to my letter box (300 metres down the hill) yesterday and gazed at the sky in awe. How terribly ironic that those people suffering with coronavirus in the hospitals cannot breathe properly. I wish I could breathe for all of them and help them recover.
So, how have you been keeping busy these days? I have been cooking a lot and baking too. I learned to cook from living in France more than any other country. This is perhaps due more to the high cost of restaurants and lack of variety in the less expensive options (pizza, pizza, and more pizza) than by choice. Some typical Southern French fare include dishes like ratatouille, aioli, and tian. Pan fried duck with fig or apricot sauce is another favourite, usually accompanied by courgette flan or dauphinois potatoes. In just about every restaurant here in the Summer you can find salad with tomatoes and mozzarella but it’s so easy to make at home it seems like a shame to order it. And everyone drinks chilled rosé with their meals, all year ’round. This is rosé land and the locals will tell you they have been making it for 2,000 years. Not even a plague would stop that tradition.
I’m big into making crêpes, that’s another thing I learned to make here. While volunteering for many years with the parents’ committee in Cotignac I made hundreds and we sold them to raise money for the local school kids’ extracurricular trips. I wonder how far back history goes when it comes to crêpes? I looked it up: “The dish was created out of a mistake made by a fourteen year-old assistant waiter Henri Carpentier (1880-1961) in 1895 at the Maitre at Monte Carlo’s Café de Paris. He was preparing a dessert for the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII (1841-1910) of England.” Who’d have thought that the Prince of Wales would be the accidental inspiration to one of France’s proud culinary delights? If he were alive today I’d thank him.
Isn’t it amazing how food popularity comes and goes with the ages, how what’s healthy at one time can quickly switch to being “bad” the next, how food trends come and go, and even tastes change over the decades? When I was about 10 years old my mother decided to make us kids fried liver and onions claiming it would help us grow strong. I had (and still do) have a gag-reflex with any animal liver and cannot even chew it perhaps due to its metallic taste. I remember how my mother angrily put my dish back into the fridge so she could place it in front of me the next day as left-overs. After I threw up several times and she finally gave up. At the time though, she was just trying to be a good mother by feeding us what she thought was the healthiest choice. Liver and onions actually has a Wikipedia entry. I didn’t know the dish orginated in Venice. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liver_and_onions
In California in the early 90s I remember being influenced by Susan Powter’s popularity in touting that “fat makes you fat.” Everyone around me started eating rice with nothing else and cut out fatty essentials like olive oil and butter. There’s a good reason she was ignored in France. And eventually there was research done to prove that humans need fat in their diets to stay healthy. One of my favourite books about food is Michael Pollen’s In Defense of Food. It’s about going back to basics and how one’s European grandmother might have cooked with back yard chickens and home grown vegetables. Looking around at the older folk here in Cotignac, who cook with lots of olive oil and drink wine with every meal, and live well into their late 80s and 90s, I cannot help but think they might have the right formula..as long as they stay clear of nasty viruses, of course.
Bon appétit 🙂
Even crêpes go well with rosé!