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Dave Hatfield

eG Foodblog: Dave Hatfield - a food adventure!

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My experience in Europe of this time frame is much more sparse and punctuated than yours. I'm really interested to hear your perspective on the changes over time in different countries.

I'm afraid that that's pretty off topic, but via PM perhaps. Its a big question with no simple or short answer. Sorry.

Perhaps you could work in small snippets about changes as they relate to food: availability, whether modern agriculture has selected for more sturdy and less tasty produce, influence of immigrants, changes toward or away from meat, whether the EU has really helped to protect certain artisan foods and whether it makes a difference in daily life. I don't mean to be asking for essays, but I too am interested. FWIW my food blog (admittedly 8 years ago) discussed changes in my area, and nobody complained.

Edited for clarity.


Edited by Smithy (log)

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Personally, I'd rather Dave tell us about his week rather than delve into other realms. His village is like a dream and a step back in time for me.

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Dave I'm hoping you'll showcase one of your Tarte Tatin's seeing were in the midst of apple season. What apple variety do the French prefer for a classic Tarte Tatin?

Funny you should ask. I'll be doing one later in the week.

Believe it or not despite the multitude of apple varieties available to me I still prefer the good old granny smith for tarte tatin.

Perhaps you could work in small snippets about changes as they relate to food: availability, whether modern agriculture has selected for more sturdy and less tasty produce, influence of immigrants, changes toward or away from meat, whether the EU has really helped to protect certain artisan foods and whether it makes a difference in daily life. I don't mean to be asking for essays, but I too am interested. FWIW my food blog (admittedly 8 years ago) discussed changes in my area, and nobody complained.

Edited for clarity.

Let me have a quick go at some of the food oriented changes in Europe over the past few years.

One of the big agricultural problem is the distortions in the market made by the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) Farmers have to submit their crop planting plans well over a year in advance and they'll do so based upon what the subsidies are. This year for instance we had sunflowers running out our ears, no doubt a safflower oil lake is in prospect. All this has led to consolidation of farms, the larger farms are more equipped to handle the paperwork & take full advantage of CAP.

Despite a lot of talk I can't see much change in organics. Even though the Supermarkets now all have a small section they don't seem to do that well.Local market traders have always been pretty natural, they can't afford the chemicals. GM is still a dirty word in the EEC, but the big producers use crop varieties that 'market' well rather than those that taste good.

There seems to be a trend away from meat towards vegetables, but the trend I find most disturbing is that towards pre-packaged meals. We were in the UK last week &I was amazed at the shelves and shelves full of ready made meals. It almost seemed hard to find any real food. Its not as bad here in France, but one can see it creeping in slowly.

I don't know whether overall the EEC has helped artisan producers. Certainly they are doing well. I see no diminishment of the Markets either in terms of number of stall holders or number of shoppers. I might have a different opinion if we lived in a more urban area.

It seems to me that the bureaucracy of the EEC and the European Parliament are largely wastes of money; certainly when it comes to food. Policies that hold up the price of foods to the consumer while paying farmers not to grow things seems daft, but that's what CAP does.

Food politics are as always fraught with duplicity, complexity, political posturing and plain stupidity.

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The 90;s

Linda & I married the day after my birthday in 1989. We persuaded the owners of a very nice restaurant near Lambourne to open specially for us and had a superb meal with children, close family and selected friends. The next day we took off for (you guessed it) California for our honeymoon. We started in Carmel naturally, ate our way up to San Francisco, then Mendocino and on up to Eureka. This was Linda's first trip to the states. Although we had some great meals I think the American breakfasts were her favourites. She had trouble remembering whether she like her eggs easy over or over easy, but otherwise Linda picked up 'Americanisms' pretty quickly.
Back home in England we bought a cottage on a river near Newbury and did a lot of cooking and entertaining. We'd a gather the kids (the youngest being about 20 years old) for traditional English Sunday lunches with Linda as Chef & me as Sous Chef. We also started making our own sausages, comfit and pates. We ate very well. We used to drive over to Wells Stores which was at the time THE best cheese shop in England.
We also cooked a lot up in Linda's beloved Northumberland where she owned a house from before our marriage.

Meanwhile I was having the time of my life at work. We were mashing two companies together, 8 European subsidiaries plus Distributors. Many,many food experiences during this time. Here are just a few:

- Toit de Passey. This is a restaurant that was really really good. I took Linda there when we went to Paris to buy her wedding hat. The neighbourhood was nothing to brag about & you entered the restaurant via a small clunky elevator, but you walked out into a magnificent room where one wall was all glass framing the Eiffel Tower. The food & service lived up to the view.

- Group dinner with our French subsidiary. Yves our MD asked what apero I'd have. I said same as you. It came. Delicious. It was a 1910 port!

- We were set to go to Spain on vacation. A few days before we were due to leave my Swiss friend, Pierre, called; " Did we want to come over to have dinner at Girardet's near Lausanne? ". YES! I went home & told Linda who thought I was nuts, but went along with it & changed our reservations. She found out why. At that time Girardet was reckoned to be the best restaurant in the world. Its still the best restaurant I've ever been too.

- Another Pierre & Girardet story. We had a new product, sold for about $100K each. Pierre & his crew had sold more that I expected them to by about July. Pierre said that since they'd exceeded their quota they may as well quit selling. I said no, he said what incentive can you give us. I said lunch at Girardet for every 2 more you sell for a salesman & his companion. I hosted lunch for 14! Best ever incentive program! (Linda got to come as my 'companion')

- Two stories about our nutty Greek company President. He didn't like England, thought the food was bad. When I finally enticed him over he insisted on staying in London even though our offices were an hour away be train. We had a good day, went home for cocktails & headed off to the 'The Waterside Inn' of Roux brothers fame. sat out by the river, had a great meal. As the meal drew to a close I could see that he was getting nervous about how he would get back to his hotel since it was the opposite direction. I was non committal. Eventually I paid the bill and we walked out to a waiting chauffer driven Rolls Royce I'd hired. He never gave me any trouble about coming to England again.
Some years later he & his wife were over on a vacation visit & were staying with us. He really really wanted to buy dinner for us, but I kept saying there was nowhere good we could get into. Finally he persuaded Linda to call the 'Manior des Quatre Saisons' Raymond Blanc's place near Oxford. Low & behold they'd had a cancellation! Off we went. Again a superb meal. As Raymond came around to our table to see how things were we asked if it would be possible to visit the kitchen after dinner? No, we had to see the kitchen working. Raymond put our meal on hold & spent 30 minutes showing us around the kitchen & introducing us to the cooks. A truly memorable experience.

In 1993 I was again asked to return to the states to head up marketing. Away we went. After quite a bit of thought we decided to renovate the Carmel Valley house rather than buy something else. We rented for nearly a year before it was finished.

We had my dream kitchen. Two dishwashers, a solid wood maple work island 21/2 by 6 feet. My pride & joy was my Jade Dynasty stove.

6 burners, a griddle, a gas BBQ and 4 ovens. It had a custom built hood that was so powerful that if you turned on all the fans it sucked smoke from the fireplace at the other end of the house. Linda & I cooked many a meal in that kitchen.

As well as the cooking there were (and still are) a lot of great restaurants in the area. In the village itself the 'Running Iron' served great ribs; 'Plaza Linda' was superior Mexican and 'Wills Fargo' was a good place for steaks. My absolute favourite though was 'Rocky Point', perched on a cliff over the pacific it has great views and served superior steaks & seafood.

I tried to take early retirement, but was bored. It was too soon. Fortunately some industry friends asked me to start & head up a new Division of their company. The bad news was that it mean moving to Chicago. We did, made some great friends and ate very well. The weather sucked, however and Linda plus dogs were on the point of rebellion. Luckily for me we decided to move the Division HQ to Rhode Island where our factory was located. The weather was much better and the sea food was outstanding. We went to our first proper clam bake, learned to cook lobster and did a lot of entertaining.

Our favourite restaurant was called the 'Middle of Nowhere Diner'. It was a real dump, but they served the best ever fish & chips, the Friday special was $3.95 including a bowl of chowder. Great stuff.

Near the end of 1999 Linda persuaded me to retire, permanently this time. We'd planned to retire back to our Carmel Valley house, but a combination of an unbelievable offer for the house plus many illnesses & deaths in the family requiring trips to England made us reconsider moving 3000 miles further away.

Where to go? Back to Europe for sure. The English weather didn't appeal. We both loved France. Decision made!

I'll write the rest of this in French since that's where we've lived for the past 12 years.

No, just kidding. Besides it would probably take me several weeks to figure out the vocabulary, grammar and to write coherently.

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""" Raymond put our meal on hold & spent 30 minutes showing us around the kitchen & introducing us to the cooks. """

you Dog you! ( not Rupert )

:angry:

:laugh:

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""" Raymond put our meal on hold & spent 30 minutes showing us around the kitchen & introducing us to the cooks. """

you Dog you! ( not Rupert )

:angry:

:laugh:

A pretty face, Linda's, will get you anywhere with a Frenchman.

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As Raymond came around to our table to see how things were we asked if it would be possible to visit the kitchen after dinner? No, we had to see the kitchen working. Raymond put our meal on hold & spent 30 minutes showing us around the kitchen & introducing us to the cooks. A truly memorable experience.

That's awesome!

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That's an amazing and fascinating story, Dave. I envy most your long Sunday lunches. Equally long Danish lunches were once a part of my life but that circle of friends and family are no more and the younger generation in my family just don't get it. Loking forward to your next episode.

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Excellent story so far. My heart almost stopped when you said you'd continue in French. I'm glad you were joking!

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Enjoying the foodography Dave! Those long Sunday lunches are a fond memory of mine. Even at the kid's table, we lingered and laughed; especially when they let us have a sip of the pre-meal apricot schnapps ;)

How would you say your fine dining meals influenced your cooking at home? Did you try to recreate dishes? Do you have a loose collection of repeat meals that you make over perhaps the course of a month, or is the season the prime factor or??

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Dave, how much has living in France affected the way you cook, overall? Do earlier patterns determine the underpinnings of how you prepare food, or has lengthy immersion effectively blurred that?

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Yes, thanks, Dave! A wonderful travel-foodalogue! Picture of Rupert, maybe?

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Do you and Linda feel more like ex-pats (and, if so, ex-which countries?) or locals? When I lived (for a few months, not years) in Yorkshire I engaged in a lot of good-natured marvelling over the politics and foods of our respective countries. Perhaps if I'd stayed the strangeness would have subsided, and perhaps not. What has been your experience of acceptance in food, customs and politics - particularly since you are in what George Bernard Shaw might have described as a mixed marriage - or at least, one divided by a common language? :-)


Edited by Smithy (log)

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How would you say your fine dining meals influenced your cooking at home? Did you try to recreate dishes? Do you have a loose collection of repeat meals that you make over perhaps the course of a month, or is the season the prime factor or??

I do try to recreate some if the simpler 'fine dining' dishes, not a lot of luck, but I try. And, yes, I do have a collection of meals that I repeat over time. Many of these dishes are based upon seasonal ingredients.

Dave, how much has living in France affected the way you cook, overall? Do earlier patterns determine the underpinnings of how you prepare food, or has lengthy immersion effectively blurred that?

I think its mainly become blurred. Obviously, some dishes are truly French and pretty much need to be made in the French manner. Others are truly American or English or ??? and need to be a certain way.

Since I really only started cooking on a daily basis after we came to France I do a lot of things in the 'French' manner.

Do you and Linda feel more like ex-pats (and, if so, ex-which countries?) or locals? When I lived (for a few months, not years) in Yorkshire I engaged in a lot of good-natured marvelling over the politics and foods of our respective countries. Perhaps if I'd stayed the strangeness would have subsided, and perhaps not. What has been your experience of acceptance in food, customs and politics - particularly since you are in what George Bernard Shaw might have described as a mixed marriage - or at least, one divided by a common language? :-)

Smithy, you ask all the easy questions don't you. I'd say that Linda feels as if she's an ex-pat from England. She's still very fond of her Geordie roots. For me it a little more difficult. Deep down I'm still an American, but I lived in England for so long that I feel somewhat English. I don't think I'll ever feel French; the cultural & linguistic differences are just too great. Both George Kennan & Thomas Wolfe wrote very movingly about the difficulty of returning to ones home country after a long absence.

There's an expression about being 'mid-Atlantic' that somewhat applies.

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Her's the next episode. Life in France.

Blog Day 5

Having decided it was to be France for retirement the question became ; Where in France? We quickly decide that SW France was our best option. A lot of Internet shopping & several trips later we bought our house in Parisot.

Even though the kitchen wasn't up to much I started cooking immediately. I learned to cook comfit, how to make Alliade de Toulouse to go with magret and how to make a galantine. Meanwhile we were learning the local restaurants. Most are simple country places, not fancy, but solid. Lunch is the thing to have in this area; a four course meal for less than 10€. (its gone up now to 12-14€) Our absolute favourite is Le Vieux Pont in Belcastel. It has a Michelin star, but manages to be very friendly and inviting. Another favourite is Le Auberge de la Grange a converted barn. No menu, good cooking and a cheese board that's just left on the table.

Having bought a modernised stone farmhouse we proceeded to remodel it. We did a much improved kitchen; American fridge, 5 burner stove, 2 ovens, etc. We used the insides of IKEA cabinets, but with custom made fronts. Gerard who made the fronts was a falconer & used to bring us pate from rabbits his birds had caught.

We were fortunate to land in the midst of a covey of cooks. Many of our local friends are superb cooks both in the French style and in what I'd call an International style. After a couple of years we started some food traditions; the first fall cassolulet at about this time of year; an American style Thanksgiving dinner ( up to 18 people. We made the mistake of allowing our friend Jacques to bring the cheese one year. He turned up with nearly 20 varieties of goats cheese!) and an English style Christmas & Boxing Day. We eat very well indeed.
There were numerous expeditions to try restaurants. Chez Ruffet near Pau was a great 2 star (closed now unfortunately), Le Jardin de Sens in Montpellier (also to see America's rugby team get clobbered by South Africa in the World Cup.) and Michael Bra's in Laguiole. ( a vast disappointment), but generally we tried less prestigious places and were rarely disappointed.

After a while I started writing a blog about life in France and my cooking. (French Food Focus) I won't bore you with the details, but the link below will take you to it. The blog is also why I haven't included hardly any recipes in this blog. There are over 50 recipes in the other blog. I don't write it very often now, but I'm thinking of getting more active with it.

After about 8 years we decided to sell the farmhouse. It was too big, too expensive to run and like most of these places there were always repairs of some sort to be done. Thus we sold it about three years ago.

I'll talk about what happened next tomorrow.

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Having showed an outdoor market I though I'd show you a HyperMarket. This one is in Villefranche de Rouergue.

trolley.jpg

After parking the first thing ones does is to get a trolley. Note the yellow disc in the handle. This is in place of a 1€ coin, you have to bring the trolley back to get your coin back. Also notice that I've hung my shopping basket on the trolley, no sacks here. Very ECO friendly.

entry.jpg

Here's the main entrance to the market. As a security measure you can only enter from one end.

flowers 1_edited.jpg

A flower display. The flowers are all fake. The French use these during the winter months when I real thing gets very expensive.

wine 1.jpg wine 2.jpg

wine leC.jpg

They do tend to have a large wine department. In addition currently there is a large tent in the parking lot full of wines for their fall wine sale.

cheese 1_edited.jpg cheese 2_edited.jpg

cheese leC_edited.jpg

Cheese & more cheese. I deliberately didn't take any close ups so as to not drive certain people nuts.

veg.jpgHere's part of the fruit & Vegetable section.

butcher_edited.jpg

The butcher's counter. Now that I look I see that this picture is reversed.

aligot_edited.jpg Ready made Aligot

fish_edited.jpg

The fish department. Lots of fish varieties I'd never heard of until I came to France.

celery root.jpg How about some celery root? OR?

pork hearts_edited.jpg brains_edited.jpg

Some pork hearts and some brains.

ris de veau _edited.jpg

And finally some ris de veau. Note the pigs trotter next to it.

As you can see much of the market would be familiar, but as you look there are a few special & uniquely French things.

And just to tease you some cans of comfit for 5.30€ each.

confit_edited.jpg

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Hi Dave, I'm enjoying the blog immensely, thank you. When we stayed in France last year (not too far from you) I was especially struck by the quality of the fresh ingredients in the Hyper U, but I found myself wondering whether this will ultimately have the same detrimental effect on smaller local shops and markets as it has had elsewhere. Is there still a strong sense of buying from smaller, specialist shops among the younger generations?

Also, I notice you say comfit rather than confit. Are they different things or am I missing something here?

I really think I could live happily in rural France!

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A supermarket!? Looks just like a Harris-Teeter (except the brains).

French shouldn't have supermarkets, just little shops and markets and guys with a cigarette selling stuff from a push cart.

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thanks for the pics of the HyperMarket. i went to one years ago in FR called Mammouth ( in Tours ) Ive never seen so much cheese line up in one place !

did yours segregate the meat by animal? Beef /// Lamb /// pig /// horse /// etc ? they had a big paper-mache model of the animal above each section ...

R eats Walnuts ? you shell them for him ? He still has molars? or are walnuts still soft ?

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