La Semaine du Gout – Tasting Week

Before October comes to an end, I want to briefly mention ‘La Semaine du Gout’ which takes place annually at this time of year.

It started off as ‘La Journee du Gout’ (Tasting Day) in 1990 by … the sugar industry!  At that time they were defending the use of real sugar versus synthetic sweetners.

Since then it has become a pedagogical week dedicated to the pleasures of the palate. Workshops, information campaigns, lessons in taste; all the events offered for the occasion have one thing in common: to try new foods and to teach kids (and reinforce in adults) the importance of taste and taste development and to encourage contact between producers and the general public.

Two years ago, my son’s class did blindfolded tastings at school and I was surprised to witness some 6year-olds confusing salt with sugar! There’s obviously still some work to be done.

I’d actually forgotten about La Semaine du Gout this year but my children came home each day from school especially excited about their school canteen menu. That particular week the ingredients were especially sourced from the local region and they had a different bread served each day (Monday was blue cheese, Tuesday was olive, Wednesday was walnut, Thursday was fig, and Friday was poppy seed). I am grateful that my children have learned to try everything on their plate – just as my mother encouraged me to do. They are often surprised to find that something that they thought they didn’t like, has suddenly become much nicer.

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Garbure – I apologize for the presentation – I just scooped the tasty morsels from the enormous pot of stock into a dish for guests to serve themselves. it was yummy nonetheless, especially the remaining broth for lunch the following day.

On the topic of exploring tastes,  I recently discovered garbure which is a great simple one-pot dish for this time of year …as the cold weather arrives. It is a hearty stew that originates from the south-west of France.  I was fortunate enough to witness Florence, a lovely lady originating from Bearn (the region from which this stew comes from which is at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains) giving a cooking lesson on how to prepare the combination of salted ham hock, cabbage, carrots, white beans and garlic followed by how to cook it and eat it – with boiled potatoes or bread to sop up the delicious stock…and some wine. There is nothing like learning how to cook a dish from a master. Even the most descriptive recipe (or YouTube video) can never replace such experiences.

 

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Ah Paris!

I usually have the feeling that things and places are smaller upon seeing or visiting them on subsequent occasions compared with the first time. But not so with Paris. This city seems to get bigger and grander each time I go.

I was in Paris for one day last week out of necessity (to renew the children’s expired passports at the Australian Embassy) and my ‘old’ friend Frank (Parisian by adoption) turned the chore into an enchanting tour of some known and lesser known ‘gems’.  For the most visited city in the world, with its hoards of tourists, on a warm and sunny day, Paris still had plenty of quiet spots to discover. Like in this photo below – taken in the middle of the day in central Paris – running alongside The Seine and Les Tuilleries…with only 2 people in view:

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Frank took me through his local 2eme arrondissement (2nd district) before weaving our way toward the Eiffel Tower – where the Australian Embassy is situated – via (amongst other sites) Le Palais Royal, several beautiful ‘passages‘ (arcades), then past the usual suspects such as Le Louvre, Les Tuilleries, before crossing La Seine on a modern walk bridge and into a typical bustling bistrot for lunch (the menu du jour of course offering some kind of meat with fries/frites and some vegetables for decoration, followed by a selection of desserts including the compulsory seasonal tart, crème brûlée or chocolate mousse).

The train system in Paris is easy to navigate and from what I can tell, pretty reliable (apart from the ‘occasional’ strike). It seems to have shunned chain stores in favor of stylish independent boutiques and cool cafes, restaurants and galleries are a plenty.

But for all of its charms, it seems that the locals are deserting Paris in large numbers, headed for some of the other major French cities (Lyon, Bordeaux, Nantes, if not abroad). They are leaving the traffic jams, pollution and expensive lodgings … to recreate and suffer from those very things elsewhere!