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Everything posted by sharonb

  1. One shouldn't go too far in either sense. There are daily life observations, ways people want their culture to be perceived, and then there are the classic etiquette rules of a country. People can ask if you're supposed to keep your hands in your lap and especially your elbows off the table in America: yes, that is the etiquette. Are there thousands of dinners of all types where people have their elbows on the table: yes. That's not the point. Of course people who still wear white gloves, or the etiquette equivalent, should be pilloried. Ha ha. Seriously, perhaps the backlash here is because the people who adhere to the (mostly defunct?) etiquette are seen as nazi-ish. Still, for me it's all knowledge, just like wondering, if you really had to know, if a bishop should be served before a town councillor or which fork should be used for asparagus. Etc. No, France is not a museum society, but it is legitimate to wonder what is "supposed" to be done there, even if many people will be able to get by without knowing.
  2. Thanks - sometimes I'm too literalist! I figured it was probably leeks but then thought "Salsify is more like asparagus in firmness and shape" etc... How did the leek pair with the foie gras?
  3. Just out of curiosity... what is the poor man's asparagus?
  4. Ah, that is a great idea! I'm going to keep that in mind for the coming months...
  5. The allée des Cygnes is nice, but I don't know about picnicking on the quai des Grands-Augustins (hello pollution) or the place des Vosges (hello, park guards making you get off the grass)... I almost forgot my favorite secret spot - the gardens at the Hôpital Saint-Louis in the 10th (very near the Canal). They're closed on weekends, though.
  6. A lot of good suggestions in this thread! I particularly love the Buttes-Chaumont and the Parc de Saint-Cloud. Lots of green and grass you can sit on. Today at lunch I picnicked with my busy bf in the Jardin du Palais Royal. I don't like picnicking on park benches, though, so we sat on the concrete near the side alley. Not too bucolic. (But what can you do when your picnic partner only has a half hour and has to go back up to work?) Still, he loved my lentil salad with lardons and shallots. A couple of weeks ago (I think it was for the May 1 holiday) we took the RER line E all the way to the end and went to the Vallée de Chevreuse. It was beautiful, and we quaffed some rosé with sausage and salad and bread and quiche. Two summers back, I used to picnic in the evening by the Canal St-Martin - an excellent pizzeria, Pink Flamingo, used to deliver (but I think they had to stop) and you could buy (plastic) glasses of wine "to go" from some of the bars/cafés along the Canal (or else buy a bottle at Le Verre Volé...). Are the tents for the homeless still alongside the Canal now, though? (I haven't been in that neighborhood in a few months). In any case, I agree with Ptipois that for a good picnic, you need grass and trees and no cars vrooming by.
  7. Yesterday I had the always renewed pleasure of waiting in line for nearly half an hour at my local Poste to ship a package to a friend in Atlanta, GA. Inside: 3 jars of mustard. Weight of package: a hair over 2kg. The post office woman asked me what I was sending in my package and when I said, "De la moutarde," she looked at me and shook her head. Oh, no, that won't do. You can't send alimentary products to the U.S. People get their packages opened and pulled apart. She took out a book of rules in different countries and flipped through it until she found the U.S. Yes, indeed, I needed to declare my package to the FDA and get a waiver to send it on, which would then be affixed to my package and everything could go smoothly. This seemed utterly absurd to me! We're not talking about produce or meat or anything remotely dangerous, but jars (sterilized obviously by their maker - these are purchased jars of mustard available in stores) of ground mustard seed, vinegar, etc. So now I have my carefully packed package on the counter in my hallway. I don't want to let down my mustard-loving friend, but the idea of going through all the hoops seems silly. Does anyone else have experience sending food items through the Poste (or via some other means; because as a side remark, she told me that as my package was over 2kg it had to be send by Colissimo blablabla, some higher-up level of shipping, and would cost 37.50 € - which also kind of stinks...).
  8. Um, see my earlier post... Tours and Angers might be too large of towns, but there are many smaller, beautiful places. And from Angers to Nantes is the area to go if you like eel. Mm!
  9. Abra, what an embarrassment of riches! It depends on what kind of climate and regional food you're most keen on, also on whether you want a village or a small city. Do you want to live near the sea? In the mountains? In the country? Near a large city? You could go for somewhere super-charming like Uzès in the south of France, on up to somewhere like Laguiole in the Aubrac (and eat Aligot, mm), or around Saint-Pourçain in the Bourbonnais, it's beautiful (esp. with the Sioule river) and there are lots of gastronomic goodies. The Loire Valley has some great possibilities; I'm partial to Chinon. Or further toward the coast: Nantes (a city and not a village). In Normandy, places like Villers-sur-Mer or Cabourg (I was there last weekend) have a lot of charm; Honfleur is too touristy, though beautiful. I like Burgundy and the Jura - if you're into wine, you might pick somewhere like Volnay or Meursault. Spitting distance from Beaune and charming in their own right. In the Jura, there is Dole, which I think has its own eccentric charm, or the more conventionally quaint Château-Chalon.
  10. I just discovered this interesting thread (though the NYT link no longer works for non-subscribers...). I hate to say it, but I think traditions are more present than most people want to admit. My ex-boyfriend of 6 years would have choked if I served myself wine, and the expression "bon app" would have raised eyebrows amongst him and his circle of friends. My current boyfriend, who's a lot less stuffy, I suppose, says "bon appétit" when we start eating (it still makes me do a little double-take). This may be a generational or cultural thing. It's the stuffiness factor. Laid-back people really don't give a toss if you go to the bathroom, say "bon app" or serve yourself wine; stuffy people get their knickers in a twist. The worst faux-pas I made when at a supremely stuffy friend of my ex-boyfriend's was when the whole salmon was served at the table. Because I was the woman who was considered most important (it was the first time I'd come to their house), I was supposed to serve myself first. I didn't know to take only from the upper filet and not having anyone else to show the way, took a chunk from top and bottom. Of course everyone else took a piece from the top filet and then the salmon was turned over and the rest of the people served themselves from the bottom part. La honte! Questions of tradition and so forth are interesting. These can be pieces of knowledge, but adhering to them too strictly can be somewhat nonsensical. Still, I like the coded behaviors. I like knowing to keep my wrists on the table edge and not my hands in my lap, etc. Why does any etiquette exist?
  11. I've heard about this rule, but never understood why it's bad form. I can see the logic behind many other manners rules (e.g. elbows on the table may crowd others, etc.) but what's the why of this one? thanks Milagai ← I don't think it can really be said that most table manners and customs are logical (in France, another one is that you never use a knife on salad; cutting salad is a major faux pas in stuffy settings (you're supposed to fold it if the leaf is too big); much as in Italy you're not supposed to cut pasta). To me, a set of rules is often just traditional and a way of showing one belongs to a culture or has a certain class-based knowledge. If we were all to be utterly correct, we'd be eating peaches on salad plates with a knife and fork...
  12. Depends if you like mashed potatoes with melted cheese and lots of garlic in it. If yes, it's pretty darned awesome. The version of Laguiole cheese they use is the "new" cheese (most Laguiole to be eaten at the end of the meal on a cheese platter is aged; very similar to vieux Cantal and Salers). Horseradish sounds like an interesting addition... I spent a week in Laguiole in the summer a couple of years ago and had excellent renditions of aligot. In any case, I've made it back at home, and it turned out well, though I used young Cantal. I just clicked on your link - an electric beater? Perish the thought! You have to stir it and lift it and stir it and lift it...
  13. One thing that bothers me is when Americans (OK, my parents; but I've seen other people do it, too) take cheese or pâté and *spread* it on a piece of baguette. You're supposed to cut a chunk and place it on a smallish broken-off piece of the bread and eat the thing in one bite. Smearing it across the bread is really bad form.
  14. No, I got that; just wondering which is edible and which is poisonous...
  15. sharonb

    Foie Gras: Recipes

    Along the lines of budrichard, I'll note that foie gras can be prepared in a terrine whole or as a "bloc" (i.e. only foie gras, but not necessarily one liver; potentially random pieces cobbled together). Pâté de foie gras is indeed when the foie gras is mixed with pork forcemeat or pork liver or nonfat goose or duck liver to make a pâté, seasoned usually with cognac or port, seasoned with quatre épices and sometimes with truffles in it. Not necessarily en croûte, as in your Escoffier example (rarely, if ever; more common these days is a pork-based pâté with a round or strips of foie gras in it, en croûte). A mousse is of course lighter and whippier in consistency. As for "spreading" pâté, terrine, or mousse (or for that matter, cheese): that is a big no-no in French custom. Just cut a chunk, place it on bread, and eat that way. The spreading gesture is considered really inappropriate.
  16. I agree wholeheartedly, and one of my constant pleasures is making American dishes for French friends. I've introduced people to okra (found in African markets and called "gombos"), gumbo, blackened shrimp, cornbread, peanut butter cookies, New England clam chowder, enchiladas, cheesecake, carrot cake, and many other regional dishes, as well as used associations or tactics that are often used in America (some types of fusion food, etc.). But I still do think that despite a wide range of real American dishes, there isn't a "tradition" of food, so it's far too easy to get uprooted. My mother is a great cook, but she never taught me a thing, and my brother can't make anything more than a tuna fish sandwich. So I agree with your last comment, which is that our modern life has gotten the upper hand over something that just wasn't maybe a priority, or because of the melting-pot, wasn't the same for us all? There must be a Puritan element to it, too; it's not seemly to be so invested in food. Often at dinners, French people laugh about the fact that while eating, they're often talking about other foods, meals, etc. But they don't have a sense of shame.
  17. This is a fascinating topic... I remember when my staples (in my teen years and even early 20s) included Dipsy Doodles, Ring Dings, and Burger King. I used to love Pizza Hut. I said "yuck" to wine and drank fruity mixed drinks if alcohol was in the cards. Now, things are very different. I drink wine, espresso, eat bitter greens and things like that. But there are times when I reminisce about fried chicken, have a hankering for french fries or cookies with M&M's in them. I think these things are (can be) good, too. Life doesn't have to be all endive salad and fillet of sole. We like fatty, salty things - even high-end ones such as foie gras. I'm trying to figure out the American diet; I know my own family is schizophrenic, torn between Wendy's, hot dogs, chips, and All Bran, bananas, strawberries and other "healthy" things. It wasn't until I got my bearings in a French countryside setting that food had more of a sense of tradition, pairings, customs, etc. Looking across to the U.S. (at least as I experienced it growing up and spending the start of my adulthood there), I feel as though food is medicalized. It isn't itself, it's what it can be broken down to: grams of fat, carbohydrates, etc. So if you don't embrace the healthy ethic of it, you might as well throw caution to the wind and make your two food groups (as mine used to be) "salty" and "sweet."
  18. Not necessarily banned, but more available or better in France would be things like: calf's head (tête de veau) and other offal dishes, including andouillette sausage; small crabs called étrilles; squab (pigeon); Morteau sausage; Lyon sausage with pistachios; scallops with the coral attached (the best part); round zucchini; lamprey à la bordelaise or, for the less daring, alose (shad) prepared the same way (w/ red wine and leeks); oh, and on the sugary side, do not miss a good kouign amann - a pastry from Brittany that's basically all whispy, crunchy dough and butter and a crackly layer of sugar.
  19. I completely agree with you! And now will check out the boulanger at the marché. The worst boulangerie in the area was on my street (rue Larrey), but it closed a couple of months ago and now a new Boulanger de Monge outpost is going to open there, apparently. I think I know the boulangerie you're talking about near the Panthéon - they have unbelievably delicious Succès (both the usual praliné and also pistachio). I haven't tried their bread yet, though. Good to know. Sometimes when I'm coming from the other side of the Seine on foot, I go by the rue Dauphine and then sneak into a great boulangerie on the otherwise unbreathable rue de Buci, which is the best baguette (de tradition) I've found on the left bank. As for Poilâne... if I never had another slice of that type bread, I would not shed a single tear! Anyway - getting back to the best baguette theme: why are they always concentrated in the upper reaches of Paris? The 18th has several, and in the 17th, the rue des Batignolles alone has two or three...
  20. I used to live in the Abbesses neighborhood and to me, by far the best bread in the area is at the boulangerie on the part of the rue des Abbesses that descends toward the rue des Martyrs after the Poste. Excellent pain au levain also. Coquelicot, to me, is all looks, no taste. And the Gana outpost on the corner of the rue des Martyrs just turns out super salty, though light and crunchy, flutes. Their quiches and other tartes salées are delicious, that said. The best bread in a larger scope was on the other side of the Montmartre Cemetery, after the rue des Abbesses turns into the rue Joseph de Maistre (my former street); keep going up the rue Damrémont and there, before you hit the cheese shop Chez Virginie, you will find a boulangerie with an excellent baguette de tradition. Along with those places, now that I live near the Place Monge in the 5th, I have to say I have been resoundingly disappointed with the bread around here. Moissan is the best, but not excellent; the Boulanger de Monge is better for plain baguettes than "tradition" (though they have their own names for them); Kayser has a sourdough taste I don't like too much, though their light, thin "Monge" regular baguette is good; the Gana affiliate on the rue Mouffetard is one of the better ones... In any case, I could go on but will stop there. Since I never eat out (too costly, and since I like to cook and like wine, really not cost-effective either), I have mental notes on innumerable "commerces de bouche" in this city!
  21. As noted, the advice is usually to make the same animal with the blood, but since chicken blood is hard to come by (aside from being on a farm), I would suggest a great dish from the central Berry region in France, where I used to spend summers on a farm and Mme Bonnin would kill the chicken, save the blood in a bowl, and that evening we'd prepare a "poulet en barbouille" - which is like a coq au vin but with the sauce thickened with blood at the end. Delicious stuff. I can describe or provide a recipe if curiosity is there...
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