Blog Archives

My first French cookbook

Marmiton best recipes cookbook

It would be more accurate to add the words “in French” to this post’s title since the prize really goes to The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child. It was the companion to her public television series of the same name that ran for several seasons in the 1960s. Many of the recipes seemed way too complicated for me but she was so entertaining it was hard not to tune in every week. When we made the move here 3 years ago, almost everything we owned got left behind, including that book but we did bring the one cookbook that both of us owned when we combined households decades ago: Betty Crocker’s Cookbook. I felt confident that should we grow tired of exotic sounding foods like soupe à l’oignon, coq au vin, or tarte tatin (as if we would) then having a tried-and-true version of beef stew, fried chicken, or apple pie handy would be all the comfort we’d need. There’s only one problem; these recipes were written for an American audience and we don’t live there anymore, so it was time for a change. Read the rest of this entry

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Bill found the donkey

The tiny porcelain donkey

Tradition plays a significant role in French culture and our neighbors made sure that we didn’t miss out on a tasty one last Sunday. January 6 is when the three wise men were supposed to have arrived in Bethlehem bearing gifts on a day now known as Epiphany. The celebration here always includes the Galette des Rois (Kings’ Cake) which is a large, flaky puff pastry filled with almond paste, decorated with an elaborate design, and topped off with a cardboard crown. Baked inside is a tiny porcelain (sometimes plastic) figurine known as a fève which is the French word for “bean” because historically that was the hidden object. Both olives and prunes are grown locally here and seldom come pitted, so we are used to carefully biting into anything that might contain a real “jaw-breaker”. It was that skill that earned Bill his title of King for the Day when he found the âne that you and I might call a donkey. Read the rest of this entry

A cassoulet Thanksgiving

Hot from the oven

When we lived in America, Thanksgiving was always a big feast day from my earliest memories as a child right up to the November before we moved from the States a few months later. Now that we live in France we no longer celebrate that holiday but that doesn’t mean that we are deprived of the warm feelings that go along with sharing a huge meal with friends and family. In our blog post Sunday in the village I wrote about how we were accepted with open arms by the neighbors on our first street in Carcassonne and I’m proud and grateful to say that the relationship continues even though we are now a 30-minute walk away on an equally friendly street. The phrase “stranger in a strange land” didn’t apply to us for long thanks to the generosity of our new neighbors. With that as a background we readily accepted the invitation to join in on a meal of this area’s comfort food, cassoulet. Read the rest of this entry

When you mix oil with wine

Olive oil tasting bar

Growing up, I wanted to be a microbiologist until I got to college and found out that in addition to biology you had to also be good at chemistry. Bill’s a wiz at that but I still can’t tell the difference between emulsify, liquefy, and puree—unless those are blender settings, of course. That explains why, when I only caught snippets of the conversation between him and our friend Sally regarding something about oil and wine, I didn’t pay close attention. It was only when I saw them get out their calendars to schedule a day trip that I understood that we would be visiting an olive grove and a winery. Naturally there would have to be time for lunch, so let’s go! Read the rest of this entry

Annecy, France in 2 days

Sailboats on Lake Annecy

We’ve been wanting to visit Annecy at least since we moved to France two and a half years ago and probably long before that given how many travel videos about this country we used to watch in the US. Since the train is our preferred mode of transportation and it generally takes 2 changes to get there from Carcassonne, we’ve put it off. When Bill was planning our trip in northern Italy he saw that on our return we could stop overnight in Annecy and then get one direct train from nearby Lyon to our station at home. If it really were that easy (true confession at the end of this post) then we were off to see this city in the Alps! Read the rest of this entry

Oktoberfest in France

Mayor and family from Eggenfelden, Germany

Bill and I have a long history with Germany. Soon after we met I somehow convinced him to go with me to an intensive, full immersion course in Cologne to learn the language. He was even courageous enough to telephone the non-English-speaking family we were going to be living with to tell them our arrival details. In the 30-some years since then we’ve returned many times, always traveling by train to discover another part of the country we had never visited. Having said that, Munich has appeared on our itinerary more than once including a few days one year at Oktoberfest. It was exactly as we expected, if not more, but we figured that a single stopover there would be enough. Then a few weeks ago our neighborhood wine merchant (caviste Jean) asked us if we were going to Oktoberfest. The quizzical look on my face led him to hand us a flyer about the celebration we went to on Saturday night. Read the rest of this entry

Taste of France

Fonte family olives

In every big city in the US where we lived, each year there would be a big food festival always called “Taste of…” and then you could fill in Chicago, LA, Philadelphia, Atlanta, etc. Typically restaurateurs, sometimes hundreds of them, would gather for a weekend to dispense small plates of their best creations to entice you to come for a full meal at their establishments. After 25 years I still remember the remarkable taste of a Margarita made with only fresh ingredients instead of reconstituted sweet and sour mix. That simple recipe has long been a mainstay on our bar. At the end of September for the last eight years the French government has encouraged communities across the country to celebrate all the aspects of gastronomy including the people and their knowledge that make this possible. Last weekend Carcassonne was one of the thousands of communities to participate in the nationwide Fête de la Gastronomie. Read the rest of this entry

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