Even more on French food.

galetteDo French people eat croissants every morning? …Drink coffee all day; Drink wine at each meal; Eat baguettes every day? The answer is most likely ‘no not really’

But one thing they certainly do is to eat a Galette des Rois every 6th of  January! (and nowadays, practically any other time during the month of January). It celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem. It is composed of puff pastry with a small porcelain charm, the ‘fève’, hidden inside the filling of  almonds, butter, eggs and sugar (although other flavors such as apple are available). There is the tradition of crowning the one who finds the fève (the ‘king’ or ‘roi’) with a paper crown. Despite enjoying this cake as much as the British Christmas pudding (which is not that much at all) I eat some anyway to join in the festivities and in hope of being the king/queen.

My daughter decided that she’d like one as her birthday cake which was fun. The treasure hunt clues that I mentioned my last post went down well and the group of friends were able to find the treasure (the birthday cake) in the oven.

And without even having the time to recover from the gluttony of December and January, It is time to eat crêpes on February 2nd – and all through the Mardi Gras season. The date marks when Jesus was presented at the temple in Jerusalem and is known  as ‘La Chandeleur’. About 2 weeks ago I started to notice supermarkets displaying flour, uht milk (so common here), eggs, jam, and Nutella and so I knew that the Chandeleur was coming.chandeleur-crepes

Just while we’re on the topic of crepes, in France savory crepes (not to be confused with ‘crepes’) are known as ‘galettes’ (not to be confused with ‘galettes des rois’) and are made of buckwheat flour and served with a variety of fillings, the most common being ham, egg and cheese such as in this photo.1450612326_thumb_recette-e16680-galette-jambon-oeuf-fromage_4615437448

There is also another thing that most French people eat whilst dining out and that is whatever is on the ‘fixed menu‘ (known as ‘le menu’. The menu, as we anglo-saxons know it, is called ‘la carte’). All restaurants/bistros offer fixed menus at very attractive prices. Here is the menu that we discovered last month for €15.40  at a lovely restaurant in Nantes:

An entree of rare tuna, beets and lambs lettuce, a main course of sea bream with courgettes and carrots and a dessert (… the least inspired dish of the meal which I find is often the case in this country).  That’s what I call amazing value for money! And the children’s menu – at a little more than €8.00 – offered fish or a homemade burger served with jerusalem artichoke puree and then a chocolate lava cake or some homemade ice-cream or sorbet for dessert. Yum!

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Bread and Butter….and another French tradition.

PH2009092204118It’s almost impossible to find a sub-standard bakery these days anywhere in France. The quality of French bread is remarkably good and tradition plays a great part in that but there have been a a number of modern tweaks since my first taste of an authentic French baguette.

Over the last 15 years it has become easier to find bread made from something other than white wheat flour. And individuals claiming gluten intolerance has also become more common – as it has in many parts of the world – presumably due to the type of wheat being used (GMO’s)?, the favoring of wheat varieties with higher gluten content?, the use of pesticides and preservatives?, the shorter rising time for the dough with questionable leavening agents …? Fortunately for me I can still enjoy a baguette now and then…’everything in moderation’ after all – at least that’s what my mum has always said.

Just an aside comment: all restaurants in France automatically serve a complementary jug of water and a basket of fresh bread to customers before the meal is served … which is a nice ‘French touch’.

Just recently I saw that some creative bakeries had found a way to satisfy people’s craving for the crusty end of the baguette (which often goes ‘missing’ between the bakery and home):

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…….and that is baguettes ‘a 4 pattes’ (baguettes with four ‘feet’ or ends) and even 6 ‘feet’!

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Baguette vending machine.

And then I have seen some baguette vending machines in front of bakeries to help solve that pesky problem of bakeries (and all shops for that matter) closing between 12:30-14:00….just when you want them.

And what to eat with the baguettes? Salted butter of course! (with whole salt crystals that scrape on the knife as it is spread on to the crustiness). Especially in this region where high-quality natural salt is produced.

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Galette des Rois

But right now French folk are eating Galette des Rois: It is a kind of cake made of puff pastry which most often filled with frangipane cream plus a ‘feve’ (a bean or porcelain figurine) which is hidden in the cake. The one who finds the feve is given a paper crown and is the king (roi) or queen for the day. The tradition celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem on the 6th January (the Ephiphany)…but one can buy the galettes from bakeries and patisserie shops during a month-long period.

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The village of St Emilion – and Frank and family – just before dusk.

After eating numerous festive meals, I didn’t actually manage even a mouthful of  Galette des Rois. Indeed, for over a week we ate and drank far too much (every single day) with family and friends , which included time with an old friend – Frank – with whom we spent the New Year’s Eve in a beautiful village called Saint Emilion in the heart of the Bordeaux wine region.

Christmas time would have to be the most difficult time of the year to not be with close family and childhood friends – I tend to feel home-sick and slightly pressured into following traditions that are not my own….added to that is the knowledge that it is summer-time in Australia!

But it is a new year now and the days are slowly getting longer again. Bonne Annee everyone.