Blog Archives

Something authentic

We wore these to greet our neighbors

The last time we had several of our neighbors over for dinner we wanted to serve something authentically American. Had we taken a survey of our guests in advance they probably would have expected hot dogs and hamburgers. A major European supermarket chain has an annual “Taste of America” promotion that would expand on those choices by including barbecued ribs and fried chicken. Even our 10-year-old friend across the street followed a recipe called “Les Vrai Cookies Américains” (Real American Cookies) that we enjoyed as chocolate chip cookies. While all of those could logically be included in a meal from across the Atlantic, we were looking for something different. A Thanksgiving spread wouldn’t work nor would a 4th of July picnic. Then we thought about one of our favorite types of foods that we had tasted only a couple of times since moving: Mexican. Now we’re talking genuine American! Read the rest of this entry

Let’s do lunch

Le Château de Pennautier

We don’t typically eat lunch in a castle but as part of celebrating our 33rd anniversary we wanted to do something special. By chance the Toqués D’Oc dining experience had a stop in Carcassonne last weekend and Bill got the tickets as soon as they went on sale. I had to brush up on French cooking terminology to understand what we would be eating and even to translate the name of the event. I thought chefs wore hats but here they are called toqués and I knew for sure that D’Oc was short for “of Occitanie” meaning that it was all about our region that stretches from the Mediterranian Sea almost to the Atlantic Ocean. The impressive lineup of chefs included three names that we recognized including a local celebrity, pastry chef Rémi Touja, who was awarded Champion of France for his work just before settling in Carcassonne. Read the rest of this entry

Cherry festival

Life can be a bowl of cherries, thanks Sally!

It’s said that even without a calendar you can tell what month it is in France just by visiting the market. If all of the stalls are full of heads of cauliflower as big as basketballs, it’s probably March. In April the asparagus and artichokes compete for space. May brings flats of strawberries the size of golf balls and spilling from then into June, bright red cherries entice you to bite them. Just as some cheeses are known by the area they come from like Roquefort or Camembert, for example as are wines such as Champagne and Cognac, fruits and vegetables can be just as well known. Just say “Charentais” and everyone’s mouth begins to water when they think of sweet and juicy melons. The same goes for Mirabelle plums from Lorraine and Bill’s favorite, les cerises de Cerét, cherries and we went to the festival. Read the rest of this entry

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

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

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