Blog Archives

Some like it hot

Red peppers labeled “hot” for sale at the market

When someone comes to dinner at our house, one of Bill’s favorite questions to them is “Do you like pepper?” as he stands nearby with the fresh pepper grinder in hand, ready to blacken their plate. We both like spicy foods (well, some slightly more than others) and back in Atlanta we frequently visited a Mexican restaurant that knew the true meaning of caliente. (Yes, Spanish speakers, I know that means hot temperature rather than spicy, but I’ll get there in a minute.) When we arrived in France and went to the market we were pleased to see an entire display devoted just to spices. After we loaded our backpacks with fresh fruits and vegetables, some grown as close as the farms that surround Carcassonne, others elsewhere in France or just to our south in Spain, we wandered over to this colorful array anticipating finding all of the exotic powders we were used to. Sure enough there was cinnamon, basil, thyme, oregano, garlic powder, and at least 2 dozen more including of course, herbes de Provence. But what about chili powder, pepper flakes, serrano, chipotle, or anything marked “HOT!” ? Read the rest of this entry

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Channeling the islands

St. Aubins bay from the hotel

As close as 14 miles (22 km) off the French coast of Normandy is Jersey, one of the Channel Islands. Every year in October and November they hold a 6-week long food festival called the Tennerfest where restaurants across the 2 big islands offer fixed-price menus starting at 10 Pounds Sterling. The celebration takes its title from the nickname of a 10 pound note, called a “tenner”, although other dining options up to £20 are also available. This allows even Michelin starred establishments to offer lunch or dinner to everyone at reasonable prices. With the coast only a train ride away where a ferry awaited to take us on that short sea crossing, we eagerly hopped aboard to sample Jersey Royal potatoes, Guernsey butter, and local crab and lobster. Read the rest of this entry

The French (Vietnamese) connection

Our local Vietnamese restaurant

There’s a Vietnamese restaurant a short walk from our house. About a block from there is the family-run Saveur d’Asie, an Asian food market. Out of about 300 restaurants in Carcassonne, at least 6 of them are listed  as vietnamiens in the phone directory where you can also find a Franco-Vietnamese cultural association and a travel agency that specializes in trips to Asia. Considering how many neighbors here have made that part of the world as one of their vacation destinations, that agency must be pretty busy. So what is this French Connection? Read the rest of this entry

Eat this, not that

Nut trees by the canal

I was going to save this blog post until later in the year, closer to Christmas, with an appropriate title, something like “Chestnuts roasting”. We were walking home along the Canal-du-Midi and noticed all of these nuts on the ground. Gravity had been our friend because the shells had broken open when they hit the sidewalk and spilled their prizes before us: chestnuts. We knew that’s what they were because they had that familiar deep glossy brown shine that we had seen roasting in huge flat pans at food festivals all over Europe in the fall. The French word for brown is marron, which is typically the same word they use for these treats.   Eagerly we picked up as many as we could see, dropped them into our ever-present backpacks and took them home for cooking. Bill dutifully scored each nut individually to keep them from exploding when heated, spread them out on a cookie sheet, and placed them in the oven until the smell alone said that they were ready. Then he tasted one…. Read the rest of this entry

The dilemma

Somebody’s waiting for her dinner

You wouldn’t think that making a decision about having fish and chips would be so difficult. After all, when we’re in Great Britain, it’s one of our favorite meals. Nothing goes better with a pint of real ale, sitting in a cozy pub by the fire than a traditional beer-battered North Sea cod accompanied by crispy, hand-cut fries. And there’s the problem; that all takes place in the UK. This may sound stereotypical but when we’re in Germany we have sausages and beer; in Italy it’s pasta and pizza; in Ireland we enjoy potato stew and soda bread; in Spain there are cured meats and paella. Every country has its specialties and they know how to do them right. So here we are in a country where we cannot go without our daily ration of just-baked baguettes, a choice from hundreds of types of cheeses, and wines that are produced from the grapes that are grown a stone’s throw from our front door. So why the dilemma? Read the rest of this entry

Blanket of what ?

Bubbly bottles of blanquette

Sometimes I mishear things. It’s not that I’m going deaf; it’s more about concentrating on every single word that someone is saying in French which opens up multiple opportunities for misunderstandings. Last Saturday at the market we saw a friend who asked us what we were doing that evening because she was fixing a blanquette de veau (veal in cream sauce) and would love us to join her and several neighbors for dinner. We were definitely not going to turn down a wonderful chance like that especially when it meant we’d get to spend some time with people we hadn’t see in a while. On the walk home, Bill and I discussed what wines we should take and we settled on some bottles of Blanquette de Limoux. After all, if dinner was going to be a blanquette why not accompany it with a few glasses of blanquette? Read the rest of this entry

Football, fresh fruits, flowers and fêtes

The fountain filled with fruit and vegetables

We’d have to try pretty hard to be bored around here, especially on weekends. On Saturdays, even if we don’t really need any fresh fruits and vegetables we still walk to the market just because it’s such an entertaining event. It’s colorful, lively, convivial and we always run into people that we know who want to stop for a chat over a coffee or a glass of wine at one of the many sidewalk cafés that surround the square where the market is held. The marble fountain there, completed in 1771, is typically filled with cascading falls but during last week’s Fresh Attitude festival the water was replaced by many of the fruits and vegetables normally on sale at the booths that jam the square. But that isn’t the only colorful spot in town. Read the rest of this entry

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