France D-F

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I am trying hard, but two of my three today are gastronomic!

Daube So for those of you who haven’t met me yet and have been picturing me as a vegetarian, jesus-sandalled,  hippy, sorry to disappoint, at least in part. I do eat good, organic meat and this is a classic slow-cooked French, beef stew, though by far and away the best I have eaten is always made with wild boar. Unlike many such recipes, it is marinated in white not red wine. Before I became allergic to so many types of mushrooms, I would add in wild mushrooms, as well as anchovies, capers and black olives. There are of course, many variations, and I wish I could try adding juniper berries, but can never seem to find them. This is ideally served with fresh gnocchi or tagliatelle and RED wine. As it is a hearty, gamey dish, it is best appreciated, for example, after a long, spring hike along maybe a Corsican trail, finishing at a rustic, mountain refuge, where they will refill your plate until you can take no more. Fortunately at that point you have usually only a few stairs to climb to the bunk bed in the dormitory.

Epilate ( verb: from the French, épiler, to remove hair by forcible extraction).

Sorry guys, this is a chick comment. Now you have to understand that while I have been concerned since my teens about unwanted leg hair, the African bush didn’t lend itself to wax manoeuvres or indeed regular electricity for any appliances. So for my early adult years a razor was the norm on the legs. It is only here in Nice that I have allowed myself that little luxury of beauty parlor epilating. While I understand that this female pastime is global, it epitomizes for me the care that French women take on their physical appearance. Heck I can stretch it 2 maybe even 3 weeks between sessions, but the French Mesdames will make this as regular as brushing their teeth.

Step onto the tram in Nice, slip into a crowded café, walk along the Promenade des Anglais and stoic faces will be there to greet you with evaluative stares. Then, with one last glance into your eyes they’ll dismiss you. I’ve trained myself to respond with a reflection of their straight stare. To be honest most stares don’t even reach my eyes, as they have me summed up by just looking at my foot-ware. I am a non-conformist in dress as in so many areas of life, so chic-chick will never be my epitaph, however, it was a little disconcerting when I first arrived to be boxed with just one swift glance behind the D & G sunglasses.

Of course, I poke fun because I am really secretly in awe of how stunning all these French women are (including my friends).  They can wear the same levis and t-shirt as I, and just with those extra little touches of; the right accessories, the subtle make-up, perhaps the sexy-confident walk, they look like they are about to stride onto a catwalk. Though my dress sense has truly improved drastically since living here (and I have even had a manicure!), I am still awestruck!

Fromage (noun: French for cheese)

“No one can bring together a country that has 365 kinds of cheese” (attributed to Charles de Gaulle, 1953).

In my local little Carrefour supermarket, there are about 75 cheeses to choose from, and this is typical. The form, texture, age, storage techniques and smell vary enormously. Let me shock you by saying some of the best are made with unpasteurized milk! French cheese can be bought; bottled in oils or brine, rolled in ashes, streaked or covered with mold, peppered with seasonings, surrounded by rinds, or even in various stages of decay.

Cheese is nearly always eaten at room temperature. Any truly French dinner will include a cheese course between the main dish and dessert. And while the breadbasket is often refilled for this course, frequently the cheese is eaten without bread, but with a knife and fork. I have also been with friends when we will order another bottle of red if we have run out just before the cheese course, even though we may not finish it (though this is rare with my friends). French regions are as noted for the cheese tradition as their vineyards.

Let me tell you three of my favorite cheeses :

Cantal is allegedly the oldest cheese in France; Cantal is made in the Auvergne region, where it has been produced for over 2,000 years. This cheese is pressed to remove excess moisture.

Brousse – You would not see this type of cheese on a platter or cheese cart, but instead as an ingredient in a dish or sometimes eaten like yogurt.  These cheeses can be made from goat’s milk, sheep’s milk or cow’s milk, and are white with high water content. My favorite Brousse comes from the Island of Corsica, just opposite Nice.

Roquefort cheese uses sheep’s milk instead of the more typical cows’ milk. It is characterized by the blue veins that run through it. This cheese is often served on a platter after the main course in restaurants. It has a real zing on the tongue.



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7 Responses to France D-F

  1. Patricia Tilton says:

    Okay — I’m coming for the food. I love stews, but I can’t imagine how creative the French are. Guess that’s why Julia Childs wrote her famous books. My stew would be boring. Wow, the cheeses. I’d be in heaven.

    I don’t picture you as haing your own style. Jeans and T-shirts are the dress for me — sweatshirts in the winter. But, those sunglasses totally rock. Imagine you wear them for all of your outings.

    Can’t believe you talked about epilating (waxing??) in a blog. How funny. Never had the guts to have it done. It’s the rage here too.

    This is great. Love what you are sharing!

    • Joanna says:

      You know, I still haven’t seen the film “Julia and Julia”, I hear it’s a must.

      Sadly, Pat, those aren’t my sunglasses – they are truly out of my league, but an example of the shades behind which my dress-code is decided and judged. my “E” is clearly all tongue-in-cheek, but a very real experience nonetheless.

      Pat, I can’t believe you waded through all this backlog of posts. THANKS.

  2. Diane says:

    Oh boy! I love the stews and the cheeses, yum… anytime. Amazing how the french stay so thin.
    As for the “Epilate”, well, I guess that had to come…. and I laughed my head off. Like you I stick to the razor or better still the creme, I am a woose when it comes to pain, so waxing is definiately out for me, and, yeah I can make it last 2 – 3 weeks…gulp!
    I’m a girly girl so not only tshirt and jeans, but dress and skirts as well, especially in summer. I can imagine you in jeans and trainers,… goes with the bike.

    • Joanna says:

      Yes that eternal mystery of the slender French woman surrounded by such enticing cuisine – sadly obesity is also on the increase here, but in general I think: portion control, very little snacking, no fear of fat and walking a lot help the French remain slim.

      I LOVE pretty summer dresses too, Diane *sigh* but driving here in the summer is a nightmare and everyone I know takes to two wheels – unfortunately a skirt cannot be worn with a motorbike, so unless I am walking somewhere, which I do when possible, I am a little restricted. My favourite attire, though is barefoot, shorts and t-shirt 🙂

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  4. I loved reading about the cheeses! The only experience I have with cheeses other than our traditional cheddar, swiss and colby was when my son and I made a Stinky Cheese Man for Jon Scieszka’s birthday. My wife came home from work and couldn’t believe the stench in the kitchen! It was a blast.

    Looking forward to reading more of your French ABCs.

    • Joanna says:

      So impressed that you are working your way through the A to Z. Hahaha wow you made a real Stinky Cheese Man, how cool is that!!?

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