Numéro 37 Du 05/03 au 18/03/14


  • 37- Foodoir

Allons-y, parlons des bonnes femmes et de leurs «fameuses» recettes ! C’est le cas de le dire puisque, selon certains, cette qualification serait dérivée du latin «bona fama», signifiant bonne renommée ou bonne réputation. Ainsi, les recettes de bonne femme seraient des recettes simples mais efficaces, des recettes de la vie quotidienne, validées de génération en génération. Car cette idée de transmission, on la retrouve dans une formulation équivalente, celle des «recettes de grand-mère» – sous-entendu des femmes qui ont vécu et ne manquent pas d’expérience. 
À l’origine «bonne femme» était le versant féminin de «bonhomme», homme plein de bonté, de simplicité, qui a dérivé en homme simple, voire simplet… Termes familiers qui expriment de la tendresse ou, au contraire, du mépris. Quant à «ton bonhomme» ou «ta bonne femme», ce sont tout simplement vos conjoints, mari ou femme… 

Pour les Anglos-Saxons, l’appellation «bonne femme» qualifie une cuisine française, avec des produits naturels mijotés à la maison. En cherchant bien dans les recettes, on trouve une «sauce bonne femme», délicate et délicieuse, à base de beurre fondu auquel on ajoute un peu de vin blanc… et aussi le «lapin bonne femme», de même que le poulet, toujours dans une cuisson agrémentée de vin blanc. 

En fait, il existe peu de recettes de bonne femme par rapport à celles de «grand-mère» ! Ce sont surtout des «remèdes» de bonne femme que l’on se transmet. Comme le dit le dictionnaire Larousse, «remède populaire, ordonné et administré par des personnes étrangères à l’art de guérir», donc à l’art des médecins. Néanmoins ces remèdes sont naturels, avec moins de risques nocifs que certaines créations pharmaceutiques – en tout cas on en connaît les effets secondaires. Jadis, l’alchimiste médecin Paracelse se serait inspiré des pratiques utilisées traditionnellement par les femmes. Méfiance. Le Dictionnaire raisonné universel d’histoire naturelle, datant de 1768, mentionne «le bouillon de taupe est un remède de bonne femme pour guérir les enfants de l’incommodité de pisser au lit».

Et puis, pour finir, ces messieurs ne manqueront pas de sourire à cette pique misogyne de Jules Renard : «Il n’y a malheureusement pas de remède de bonne femme contre les mauvaises.»

Numéro 36 Du 19/02 au 04/03/13


  • 36- Foodoir

After this winter’s bad weather and climate-related catastrophes, not to mention the pessimistic economic forecast, we’ll soon be on the lookout for survival equipment! There is no need to be an adventurer, alpinist, astronaut or sailor to take an interest in meal kits and dried food. This type of food preservation is set to surprise us as there is no stopping progress! As far back as the 13th century, the Indians of the Andes used a similar ice-drying method to make chuño.

However, explaining the process through which food is preserved by freeze-drying is more difficult! It is a sort of dehydration process that involves eliminating the water contained in the food, first by turning it into ice and the by getting rid of it without the melting process. How magical: turning ice straight into steam without going through the liquid stage! The operation is known as “sublimation” and enables all of the product’s qualities to be preserved. And the process leads to long-term conservation as products can go from eighteen months to five years from their manufacturing date without the need for additives or refrigeration!

Freeze-dried foods are not the same as regular dehydrated foods. They are not dried using heat to evaporate the water, but in fact are treated in a low pressure vacuum so that not only do they not develop any bacteria, but above all they retain all their nutritional properties and vitamins and even their taste, smell and colour. Their opaque, very strong packaging can be used as a recipient for pouring water into for rehydration. So the good surprise is that an 80g sachet can be transformed into a 300g dish or more (the not so good surprise is that they are a little more expensive than ordinary ready-meals).

As if these products were nothing but snake oil, the first things we think of are instant coffee or dried mushrooms, when in fact, today we can find a range of meals that are diverse and appetising (Chicken and rice colombo, paella, Aligot aveyronnais, etc.) which provide nourishment without extra weight gain… Or enable us to eat even if we are stuck at home.



Numéro 35 Du 05/02 au 18/02/13


  • 35- Foodoir

There are ten of them, ten like the ten fingers they each use to cook. Ten little chefs who defend the quality of their regional produce, around their stronghold of Brive-la-Gaillarde. Les Chefs Gaillards are a group of “bon vivants” who want to turn Brive into “the taste capital in the heart of France”, all in good humour and with good humour. 

They are “a gang of mates” who used to meet up at food markets and at the same suppliers. One day, they decided they were “sick of bad food and chefs who show off but don’t do their job”.   So they set up the “Tables gaillardes” in April 2013 as a means to highlight a culinary heritage that stretches from the Corrèze to the Dordogne to the Lot, etc. This central “terroir” already so reputed for its gastronomy and filled to the brim with tourists has no need of extra advertising – what it needs is a return to simplicity, at a time when agricultural labels and official “appellations” are popping up everywhere and especially faced with the flashiness of TV cooking programmes.

“We are serious people who don’t take ourselves too seriously, who don’t make too much of a fuss”, according to the President, Jean-Luc Viginiat (Restaurateur in Montauban). They don’t actually say “we are the champions”, even though they are all well-known individually, they are more like the supporters of “savoir-faire”. In September 2013 they organised a free “Toque Show” for 2000 people who were treated to amuse-bouches with three recipes using the three chosen products: foie gras, veal, strawberries. 

The product was the star, “to buy the best while keeping the process accessible. But none of us is any better than the others”. They play as a team, like the rugby players in their town, they throw themselves into the scrum in search of inventive, successful results. No individualism but individualities, “we all have strong characters”, and at times not the best!

Without showing off, the “Toqués du gout” were portrayed seriously enjoying themselves in the photographs in the “guide des Tables Gaillardes” where each restaurant promotes a speciality: from truffles with Perigord walnuts, via duck or Limousin beef. The table is open…


• To discouver online the "guide des Tables Gaillardes" 


Numéro 34 Du 22/01 au 04/02/2014


  • 34- Foodoir

Let’s talk about beef bourguignon. At least this is a part of the French way of life that Newsweek can’t criticise! Indeed, not only is this traditional dish not contributing to the “decline of France” announced by the journalist Janine di Giovanni on January 3rd last but it is even highlighted in the famous television programme Desperate Housewives, by Lynette who hopes to reconquer her husband with the dish…

Following the model of the pot-au-feu, as it involves cooking pieces of beef for a long time, the preparation is more luxurious in this case as the meat is cooked in wine, not water! We understand why this dish brought such joy to the peasantry on feast days, before becoming traditional Sunday fare.
This is a local recipe that, as is obvious from the name, comes from the Bourgogne region known not only for the excellence of its Charolais beef but also for its world renowned vineyards. A match made in heaven! And while some people insist on the notion of the “true” recipe (using onions, mushrooms and bacon), it is because there are numerous variants according to regions and countries! So, in the northern mining regions and in Belgium, the “carbonade flamande”, (the name of which evokes a resemblance to lumps of coal) is made with beer… Even further away in Russia, Beef Stroganoff) is simmered in tomato puree diluted with a little white wine, sour cream (smetana), and the essential paprika… This blend of white wine and tomatoes is also to be found in the estouffade de bœuf, variation, notably under the Provencal sun.

Most recipes do not specify which cut of meat to choose, often just saying to buy “pieces of beef for beef bourginon”, leaving it up to the butcher to understand what. Nevertheless it is good to know that the cuts used are chuck, topside and rump – possibly the hardest to cook but that become tender in the wine-filled liquid. A very common way of life…


Numéro 33 Du 08/01 au 21/01/14


  • 33- Foodoir

Did you drink a lot during Christmas and New Year? A little too much perhaps? To get drunk on jollity or to drown your sadness and anxiety? To stock up on disinhibiting fuel to be able to face the New Year? Well, it’s time to drink more! 

In order to eliminate toxins, you need to go from coloured or highly alcoholic liquids to transparent ones with only 0°… of alcohol content. It’s time to drink mineral water. Everyone can pick their own, according to one’s physical and chemical make-up. 

For those who feel a little bloated, there is carbonated water (a level higher than 600 mg/l) which will make digesting easier by airing out the intestinal passages. Especially sparkling waters like Badoît, Vichy St Yorre, Salvetat, Quézac or Rozana.

For those who are feeling cramped and generally tired, even slightly down, waters with magnesium (level over 50 mg/l) aid muscle relaxation and are good for the nervous system. There is no risk of overdosing so you can drink away (Vittel, only 43 mg/l) Courmayeur, Hépar and the sparkling San Pellegrino, Vernière, Badoît, especially Quézac and Rozana.

The waters that contain extra calcium are always welcome (levels over 150 mg/l), and are essential to bone density levels, muscle tone with Contrex, Courmayeur and Hépar.
But be careful to check the levels of certain elements in these mineral waters – they can be considered harmful on a daily, long-term basis. For example, if you are on a low-sodium diet (lower than 20 mg/l), you should know that sparkling waters have very high levels – with the exception of Salvetat… Take care also to check for sulphates that are often too present, and fluoride to limit your intake over time, etc.

So, you need to do your own calculations. It can be quite difficult, the need to read the labels on bottles carefully to check the elements, spot possible downsides, despite the benefits. Enough to give you a headache! To be treated with a glass of tap-water perhaps, highly regulated in terms of chemical treatment and perfectly drinkable, though with few medicinal properties…
Let’s drink to our health!



Numéro 32 Du 24/12/13 au 08/01/2013


  • 32- Foodoir

Sick of salmon, France’s favourite fish? Well, it’s time to shift to herring, a cool fish that likes big crowds: it moves in huge shoals in cold, salt waters filled with oxygen! From the Atlantic to the Baltic, via the North Sea, etc. It likes dark blue, like the colour of its back, living in deep water during the day and coming nearer the surface at night. It travels along the coastline until it reaches maturity at the age of three. This is why it is so easy to fish, and so abundant. This providential availability like a maritime miracle explains how cheap it is in the shops. 

In olden days however, it was worth its weight in gold, as it was both food and currency in the time of the Hanse. Let’s remember that the Hanseatic league created by the big ports in the Baltic sea in 1241 starting with Lübeck and Hamburg (before moving to Rotterdam, Antwerp, Dunkirk…), was an association to fight piracy and to defend martime territories and remained very powerful until the 16th century.

It is a fish with some strange names according to the way it is prepared. When smoked and dried, the herring can be referred to as “gendarme” due to its stiffness when dried and its golden colour like the epaulettes of the old uniform. 

Not exclusive enough for Christmas? We beg to differ. Among all of the diverse uses of this fish, the marinated herring category is unexpectedly refined and features on the menus of all the great Nordic restaurants. Herring fillets marinated in orange, curry or Xérès…
At home, the easiest dish to prepare is herring fillets with apple and a little crème fraiche - a certain delicacy – taken out of the ordinary with a drop of calvados! The most nourishing (often served in brasseries) is the herring and warm potato salad with or without slices of onions, and always with a little olive oil, unbeatable.

How can you tell if a herring is fresh? The scales should be shiny and the eyes red! 

So it goes well with all the red eyes in the photos on New Year’s Day!


Numéro 31 Du 11/12 au 24/12/2013


  • 31- Foodoir

The association between the traditional Christmas dessert of the yule log and the fires burning in the hearths this time of year is easy to make. This dish symbolises a widespread custom in Europe and great importance is given to the length of time it takes to burn. As the log used for Christmas was in the past supposed to burn very slowly: for at least three days, or over twelve nights – corresponding to the twelve days difference between the lunar and solar calendars.

This huge log (often a stump) was chosen by the head of the household, preferably from the trunks of the fruit trees for which he hoped a good harvest. There followed a blessing ritual before lighting the fire. The log was sometimes decorated with lace and ribbons – which led to the decorations we now see on the dessert. It was then sprinkled with holy water, or wine which was good for the harvest, or oil or honey to invoke divine benevolence.
After the preparation it was lit by the youngest, or the eldest family member, either using a firebrand from the church or a boxwood or olive branch kept from Easter. The flames and the crackling along with the smoke provided signs as to the year to come: war or peace, abundance or famine, good or bad luck, etc.

Other magical benefits of the log included its medicinal qualities! The embers could cauterise certain wounds or injuries, while the coals had protective qualities and healed burns. As for the ashes: when spread on the land, they cleaned up the earth by destroying parasites and when scattered around the house they kept bad spirits at bay (which might explain the little elves in the cake).

Today, the meaning behind the ceremony has been lost but we have retained the pleasure of eating this sweet dessert. And families argue over those choice between a cake log or an ice-cream one. The cake is a sponge rolled (to resemble a tree trunk) and covered in flavoured cream, sometimes with alcohol. Ice-cream logs are a contradiction in terms! The opposite of lighting a fire ! 



Numéro 30 Du 27/11 au 10/12/13


  • 30- Foodoir

A little early for Christmas lunch talk? Not in the slightest, it is time to talk about the turkey that is soon to adorn our decorated tables. Let’s give the bird its due! The Americans get the end-of-year festivities off to a start with Thanksgiving, which is unthinkable without a roast turkey. 

All the more so as this form of poultry comes from the United States, first encountered by the explorers who thought they had landed in India, which gives the bird its name in French “poule d’Inde”, of which the term “dinde” is all that remains – while in English the term “turkey hen” refers incorrectly to a type of guinea-fowl but it stuck! Pretty confusing! In France, the world’s second-largest producer of turkey, this big, exotic bird has long replaced the goose at Christmas.

Thanksgiving is a national holiday for giving thanks that has been in practice since the 17th century when the first immigrants (including the founding fathers) arrived in North America from England aboard the Mayflower. A way of thanking the heavens, God, the natives, etc., for letting them move and prosper in this country – notably feeding themselves with poultry they raised thanks to the good harvests. 
The actual holiday of Thanksgiving was proclaimed by George Washington in 1789, and institutionalised later on by Abraham Lincoln, on the fourth Thursday in November in the U.S. (but the second Thursday in October in Canada, where the pilgrims landed). It is a public holiday so businesses and government offices are closed.

It has become a ritual respected by all and gives rise to family and friend reunions around a table laden down with turkey, accompanied by cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. It is said that the pumpkin helped the pilgrims get through their first, harsh winter. 
It must be said that firm and tasty turkey is delicious with various types of stuffing: chestnut, mushroom, bay-leaves… So, are stupid women referred to as “petite dinde” (little turkeys) in reference to their empty interiors? While men remain cock of the walk! 

Numéro 29 Du 13/11 au 27/11/13


  • 29- Foodoir

Whether you get a “châtaigne” (chestnut) or a “marron” (horse chestnut/conkers) in a fight, the punch in the face is the same either way. But eating a chestnut or a conker, the taste will not be the same, neither will the effect!

The confusion is common between these two trees that are not even the same family. How to tell the difference? How is it possible to recognise grilled chestnuts in the winter when all you hear in the streets is “chaud, les marrons chauds” (get your hot conkers here) – a call to the warmth of the street braseros and their enticing odours. Or how are you supposed to tell the difference when “crème de marrons” (chestnut cream), “dinde aux marrons” (chestnut stuffing) or marrons glacés (glazed chestnuts) are, in fact chestnuts (the confusion doesn’t arise in English)! Even though, it is a good idea as the marron d’Inde (Indian horse chestnut) is inedible, even toxic.

But don’t worry, the differences are visible, if only in the colour nuances: the chestnut is a little lighter in colour than the conker, and even more acajou. The shape is different too, the conker is bigger and rounder while the chestnut is flatter on the side and vaguely triangular. The easiest way to tell the difference is to examine the wrapping. The capsule around the chestnut is covered in long, thin, tight spikes like a sea urchin, while the one around the conker is pale green with soft, spread out spikes. 

Edible conkers can be found on specially grafted trees. But these are different from Indian horse chestnut trees that are frequent in cities as they are robust and the fruit is gathered for fun … or to make castanets! (the word castanets comes from the Latin term for the chestnut tree, castanea sativa, thanks to the two little chestnuts used to click the rhythm of the dance…)

It matters little, chestnut/horse chestnut, the fruit is inextricably linked to the end-of-year holidays. And for over 150 years in Lyon in the Croix Rousse neighbourhood the “Vogue aux marrons” during the month of November brings together many fairground people.
A piece of advice nonetheless: take chestnuts from the fire with cat’s paws!



Numéro 28 Du 30/10 au 12/11/13


  • 28- Foodoir

The more we try to remove death from our lives, the more it reappears as gadgets or decorative objects: the recent upsurge in the fashion for skulls on prints, embroideries, buttons and jewellery is unprecedented… A way of keeping the grim reaper at bay? For Mexicans the opposite is true, death is a companion that never scares them, they feast with it and eat on gravestones on All-Saints day. For them, the Day of the Dead, “Dia de los muertos”, a blend of Aztec tradition and Spanish religious practice, is a two-day festival on November 1st and 2nd.

Under Moctezuma, the last of the Aztec emperors, visiting graves took place at regular intervals throughout the year to appease the souls that travelled the earth. When the Spanish arrived, this practice was officialised as an offering in cemeteries where bread, wine and flowers were brought at All-Saints. This led to a very ritualised ceremony: November 1st is dedicated to the «Angelitos», children who have left the world of the living (and that are at times symbolised by colourful coffin-shaped sweets), while November 2nd is reserved for adults with a meal followed by sweets and cake.

Huge picnics take place in the cemeteries: the graves are cleaned and decorated with flowers and candles so that the celebrations are far from macabre; they are joyful in fact with singing and dancing washed down with tequila. A special “bread of the dead” is made for the occasion. As for the sweets, most are made from marzipan (raw or cooked almond paste, according to recipes), that are more original and diverse than the “huesos de santos”, the saints’ bones from the Toledo region in Spain, filled with yellow cream as the marrow!
But the most popular sweets are the “cavaleras”, little skulls made from coloured sugar – as sugar is the miracle ingredient that softens the bitterness of grief. Amusing consolations to finally bring the dead back to life!

Numéro 27 Du 16/10 au 29/10/13


  • 27- Foodoir

Generally it is not a tart. Neither is it truly a cake. The birthday cake is usually chocolate. You would think that chocolate is a luxury, a gourmet, special ingredient.
It must be said that tarts are not very practical for candles and it is a bit too “Sunday dessert”, too “family-ish”, while a chocolate fondant is a call for guests. As for the oblong madeira-style cake that is there to be sliced, it is a little basic, a touch filling also. It lacks refinement, even with the addition of exotic dried fruit. No, a birthday cake must be as precious as a gift. It crystallises the good wishes of each person as it is shared. But above all, it must be a surprise. So some deliciously “housewife-like” mothers – the Bree Van de Camp type – take the opportunity to demonstrate their supermother skills. From the princess-castle cake to the pirate-ship cake, to the astounding pudding, at times funnier than it is tasty*.

The essential is the decoration, according to an Anglo-Saxon custom that is now quite common, the basis of which is icing. Of course, nothing seems easier than icing a cake. All you have to do is energetically beat icing sugar with egg white and dilute it with a little lemon juice. Otherwise, a chocolate covering is also optional. However, we are not all equally gifted in the use of icing bags (for the less handy, there are tubes of butter cream available in all the artificial colours possible…). It is even more intricate to create sugar or marzipan flowers or hearts, or even edible characters…

Whatever the cake, a simple “Joyeux anniversaire” or “Happy Birthday”, or even better, an affectionate or personalised dedication is enough to bring tears to the eyes by candle light before blowing them out. 


* Don’t miss the movie “Historias minimas” where the football-shaped cake becomes a sort of greenish tortoise…


Numéro 26 2/10 au 15/10/13

Muscat the peacemaker

  • 26- Foodoir

Fruit picking or grape harvesting? On the table or in the barrel? 
Each autumn, grapes appear in the news. Unfortunately, in September, the news is often given over to terrorist attacks. 
In the violent and intolerable climate that we are experiencing again this year, the choice of Muscat seems peacefully correct. 

This is because, black or white, the Muscat grape is not racist. Whether it is pale yellow or bluey black, it always has a slightly musky sweet taste, from whence it gets its name. More surprisingly, the Muscat grape symbolises rebirth after death in the poem by Louis Aragon, “La Rose et le Réséda”, an homage to the resistants killed during the Second World War:

“Et leur sang rouge ruisselle […] 
Il coule, il coule il se mêle
A la terre qu’il aima
Pour qu’à la saison nouvelle
Mûrisse un raisin muscat”. 
(“And their red blood streams […]
It flows, it flows and mixes
With the earth it loved
So that in the new season
The Muscat grape will ripen”.)

So let’s let the vines and their leaves grow with their changing colours, like the writer Colette in her Saint-Tropez home called “La Treille muscate”. It is a strong vine, easy to plant and even to grow up a wall – or a balcony!

The Muscat of Alexandria is the white grape with fleshy fruit (better known as raisins) and the black grape is the Hamburg, very common in France and Greece, but also in Romania. In the Vaucluse region, the “Muscat du Ventoux” is well known and full of taste, the nec (tar) plus ultra. The growers are proud of their crop and give tours in carriages in the summer months. 

The grape on the cake, the Muscat production for wine is mostly used for sweet wines, enjoyed as aperitifs, like frontignan and its twisty bottle (according to the legend, Heracles was in such a hurry to drink that he twisted it), or Spain’s Moscatel and Sicily’s Moscato…

The “musky” taste comes from natural substances whose molecules that often appear in perfume making. They are also used in sweet-making, as a Japanese brand of light sweets, ultra-kawaï, have brought out a “Muscat grape” flavour.
Proof that this generous fruit – whose seeds are not counted - sweetens the world.

Numéro 25 Du 18/09 au 01/10/13


  • 25- Foodoir

As the summer ends, let’s give our taste-buds a treat with plums. But not any old plums, only “Reines-Claudes” or greengages, the real ones. And they can be eaten as table fruit! Because, seriously, well-ripened reine claude plums (despite their green colour that darkens or reddens) are so juicy, sweet and full of flavour when they explode in your mouth, that it would be a pity to cook them for jam or even in a cake. How deliciously their skin bursts to let a drop of syrup escape…

So it’s easy to understand why Queen Claude of France was such a fan! Indeed, at the start of the 16th century, the “Good Queen” as she was known, did not have an easy life. Married at fourteen, she was the first wife of the future King François the 1st and bore him seven children, only to die giving birth to the last one at only twenty-four… At least she could savour this variety of green plum to which she left her name, a little gem that originally came to France from Asia. 

Like Nancy’s “mirabelle” and Alsace’s “quetsch”, the green or gold “Reine Claude” is known as a “noble plum”. Not to be confused with the Bavay Reine Claude which is a little bigger and not as sweet with a stone that sticks slightly rather than coming away easily. As for the nutritional qualities of this low-calorie fruit, despite the high level of sugar, it also contains sorbitol which stimulates the gall bladder thus aiding digestion and intestinal transit without the irritation sometimes caused by the more acidic prune.

In garden centres it is easy to get lost in the categories of “Prunus domestica”, plum trees that produce golden or purple Reine Claudes, or those from Bavay, or Oullins… Whatever the strain, they are all deciduous, with a preference for a continental climate with distinct seasons and a sheltered environment. Of course we prefer the green Reine Claude plum tree that flowers white in April and ripens over the summer to give us such pleasure in September.



Numéro 24 04/09 au 17/09/13


  • 24- Foodoir

Soup with everything? You bet!

Once upon a time, one dish featured on every table. Dating from 500BC, even prehistoric men enjoyed its delicate steam and varied tastes. It was cooked in sheep’s stomachs or animal skins and nourished old and young. From north to south, east to west, each civilization concocted its own recipes and added its own spices.

Dinner with friends, a quick lunch break, a family meal… Today, soup is suitable for all occasions. It must be said that it has managed to adapt and evolve… From “potage” to “velouté” it has different gastronomical names depending on its consistency and ingredients: the thick vegetable soups that our grandmothers made putting everything within their reach into the saucepan like some magic potion, the cold, spicy, tomatoey Spanish Gaspacho, bouillon for hot liquid, Italian minestrone with vegetables and bacon simmering together, not to mention Japanese miso, Vietnamese soups… Casting up memories and tempting us to travel.

Soup, as a result, can now be found in many shapes and sizes. Entire shelves in the supermarket are given over to such a vast range that it is hard to know where to look. In sachets, in cartons, homemade, with fish, meat, rice, herbs… Even in restaurants! Soup bars are popping up all over the place selling savoury soups but also sweet ones, like strawberry soup…

«Eat up your soup, it will make you grow». It has to be said, from a nutritional point of view, this vegetable cocktail contains a wide range of recommended daily intakes. They are made up of water for the most part but are also a source of fibres, minerals, and vitamins essential to the workings of our organism. 

So, it’s time to give it a go! Autumn is on the way and there’s nothing like a nice bowl of soup to satisfy our desires. Let’s travel the world on a spoon. 

Mégane Seure
Numéro 23 04/09 au 17/09/13


  • 15- Foodoir

Issue 15 from 01/05 to 14/05/13

No, no, whatever you do, don't eat a lily of the valley! Despite the culinary trend for blooms, this lucky charm is in fact toxic. But do not despair, you can still choose from over 250 edible flowers. So, why the craze? Flowers are poetic and have lovely colours (especially when fresh). They bring refinement and originality to any dish, and the surprise is guaranteed. Just the sound of their names is enough for our imaginations to take flight, conferring them with extraordinary powers. Their effect is well known and has been since ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and Japan as flowers are both tasty and healthy. One word of warning however: the flowers eaten must be grown without the aid of pesticides or fertilisers!

We don't just mean the flowers on aromatic herbs (anise, chervil, sage, thyme...) nor those associated with herbal teas (lime, mint, hibiscus…), but those that urge us to create inventions as good as the top chefs. Let's start with flowers in salad, a huge trend (you only eat the petals). Beginning with the nasturtium, a flower that merits it's own separate article, so let's just mention its spicy taste, reminiscent of watercress, that brings out the taste in other ingredients such as the mushroom or the avocado (guacamole on nasturtium petals is the best!). The poppy, sweet with an after-taste of hazelnut, is also used in desserts, as is the gardenia. A more eccentric flower to eat is the begonia, with its crunchy, slightly acidic and lemony petals, that go well with fish, shellfish and... foie gras!

The pretty blue flowers of the borage with their cucumber taste of the sea can be eaten alone, they have their fans. In the blue corner, we should also mention artichoke-tasting cornflowers, pale lilac with its musky flavour and the sweet but bitter violet. Bright yellow marigold or calendula, slightly bitter and peppery, is used to spice up food instead of saffron. But you should look out for the French marigold, "Mexico's tarragon", a sacred and medicinal plant for the Aztecs and Mayans as, when taken without moderation it is hallucinogenic... Bon appétrip !



Numéro 22 Du 07/08 au 20/08/13


  • 22- Foodoir

How refined of you to land on our plate out of your shell… It makes a change from prawns… Even though we love them - especially on the barbie - we’re kind of over the fishy smell on our hands.


Numéro 21 Du 24/07 au 5/08/13


  • 21- Foodoir

If there’s one dish that has really travelled, it’s couscous. It left North Africa to travel across the entire continent, then went on to conquer Europe where it has diversified so well, it has totally integrated. Here and there, there are plenty of variations: Bidaoui with seven vegetables, Belboula made from barley, Masfouf with broadbeans and peas, Seffa, etc.

The term itself has travelled enormously since the 16th century and the origins are not easy to find. From Berber to Arab, “kouskous” may come from the verb “kaskasa” meaning “to mill or crush” like the little grains of semolina. The gargantuan novelist Rabelais, wrote about “couchou” in 1505, before the arrival of “coscosso” in 1534. Today the term designates both the hard wheat milled in fine or medium grains as the dish itself with its multiple ingredients, and is even used to refer to North African restaurants. Who doesn’t know a good “couscous” in their neighbourhood?

In North Africa, the couscous is a convivial dish to be shared, always on hand for celebrations. Women prepare it on Fridays after prayers. They lovingly knead and air the semolina, wetting it with salt water now and again, before rolling it in butter as it steams over the vegetable and meat-filled stew. Traditionally, each guest picks the semolina out with their hand from the heart of the central dish to make balls to eat. It is said that the “Fez couscous”, from the old imperial city, is the father of all couscous. According to the purists, it is recommended to only cook one type of meat, lamb preferably, otherwise chicken. In Morocco, they use many different types of vegetable accompanied with raisins and preserved onions; in Algeria they prefer turnips and chickpeas; while Tunisian couscous is made with fish.

Finally, as the Haitian writer Jacques Stephen Alexis said in compère Général Soleil, “The sky was a couscous of stars”. And that’s one recipe we hope you will get this summer.



Numéro 20 10/07 au 23/07/13


  • 20- Foodoir

Mushrooms in July, what an idea! As if we were already planning the Autumn, looking forward to the rain that makes the undergrowth so welcoming. No, in fact we are being optimistic, trusting the forecast! There are plants whose harvest is constant as they don’t need the sun to ripen. They can be eaten anywhere and at anytime, and they are champignons de Paris, little white umbrella-shaped mushrooms from Paris. 

They are officially known as «champignons de couche», due to new European regulations (to avoid conflict over regional provenance), it is less pretty but does refer to the way they are produced. The Agaricus bisporus is grown intensively on mushroom farms – all over the globe but for the most part in China and it represents three quarters of the world’s mushroom harvest. In France, the most important mushroom farms are in the Tours region and have been since 1895, a part of the country that is suited to troglodyte living and underground organisms. 

So why are they called «champignons de Paris» ? Because years ago, they were grown in disused quarries in the Paris region, and this is still the case today!

Paris mushrooms are easily recognisable with their round, white, smooth head and their pink blades that turn to ochre then brown. The head is joined to the stalk by a veil that opens slowly. They do grow wild but this is rare. Their cousin, the agaricus campestris (aka the «rosé des près») can be picked in the field  - or on straw. But these cryptic, chlorophyll-less organisms are not vegetables ! Nevertheless they are very nutritious and contain minerals (copper, selenium), vitamins B2, B3, D and phosphorous. They are widely appreciated for their aid in intestinal health.

We appreciate the astonishing way they go with everything, turning us into really inventive cooks despite the simplicity of our recipes: salads, kebabs, and in all kinds of sauces. And even if we’re not taking a vacation, Greek-style mushrooms are a great way to travel!


• Grow your own mushrooms in only three days with these all-in-one kits (that give four to six harvests over a period of three to four months!)


Numéro 19 du 26/06 au 9/07/13


  • 19- Foodoir 2

When plates become paintings, the art of eating tends to get a little delicate. Attracting the eye to open up the palette is a trend from the Nouvelle Cuisine of the seventies. With a little extra, a plate is set, like a table. 

But, due to time constraints, a lack of talent or subtlety, most restaurant owners were, for a  long time, content with adding a big leaf of lettuce covered with a thick slice of tomato. All of which takes up quite a bit of room on a plate that is already too small for the lovely steak, topped with a little knob of butter, way too hard to melt. The decorations which are meant to be eaten with the dish, ended up on the side of the plate. 

As a result, the lettuce disappeared to be replaced by a cuter, slightly more aesthetically pleasing leaf of frisée. Damnation! Frisée is impossible to fold, elastic as a trampoline and flicks vinaigrette up into our faces! So, chefs evolved toward little cubes or shavings of vegetables as thin slicing is a sign of refinement, taking inspiration from Japanese cooking. More eccentric: exotic fruit started appearing on the edge of plates, for the most part due to their decorative shapes, like the delicate star fruit. This is not a bad thing, as long as the inedible dried leaves are not included!

Sauce designs are easier. Hurray for balsamic vinegar! In little, well-placed drops, a little like Jackson Pollock’s style, but, above all… in zigzags – that can blend with the arabesques of ketchup… Zigzags are also «de rigueur» for desserts – with a red berry coulis or a crème anglaise. The thin sweet lines leave us just wanting more to go along with our chocolate fondant. 

However, be careful not to overdo things! For example a café gourmand when the little cakes end up dripping in sauce, the customer’s sleeves follow suit! Another style of decoration this time, but a little harder to swallow!



Numéro 18 Du 12 au 25 juin 2013


  • 18- Foodoir

Should we beware of strawberries? Sweet or bitter, ingénue or villain? Some botanists even refer to them as «false fruit» as the «real fruit» are the tiny little seeds on its shiny skin, the achenes. There are a number of varieties, in France alone, from the tastiest wild strawberries to the more acidic «gariguette». Strawberries from Périgord have the IGP label (protected geographical origin). The latter is feted annually in June in Bièvres, near Paris, and in 1996, in Plougastel, Brittany they opened a strawberry museum. 

Strawberries are low in calories, high in antioxidants, oligo-elements, and mostly in vitamin C. It is said that the Romans used them as perfume in their cosmetic preparations, but the most common varieties come from the American continent. In the 15th century, the explorer Jacques Cartier brought the pleasantly perfumed virginiana variety back from Canada. Later on, in 1714, a navy officer appropriately called Amédée Frézier, in charge of spying on Spanish traders in South American ports, discovered the chiloensis variety in Chile. Unfortunately, he brought back only male plants of this big white strawberry so they couldn’t be bred but in Plougastel were crossed with the virginiana to make the «Fragoria xananassa» which is now grown around the world. It is a high yield plant and ripens notably in the Spanish and Turkish sun where it tends to lose its taste. Wild strawberries remain the most sought-after, though rare. Today, they are used in the most surprising ways.

Nevertheless, one should be careful as the strawberry can be an irritant causing rashes, especially in children. But these can often be «fake allergies» of no consequence. In fact, to avoid this, old recipes often advise rinsing them with vinegar water !

And, for those of you who worry, there is always the «sweet» option, invented in 1969 and ever popular : the Haribo «Fraise Tagada».



Numéro 17 29/05 au 12/06


  • 17-Foodoir

Feel like playing tennis on your plate with those little green balls, so cute in the school canteen when they are turned into little projectiles much to the amusement of the crazed pea-shooters or «piou pious» in French. By the way, who remembers Pipiou ? The little round-headed chick that appeared on our screens circa 1966 to sing the praises of this essential little vegetable in his little baby voice: «On a toujours besoin d’un petit-pois chez soi» ! (You should always have peas in the house !).
Certainly, if we believe in the pea’s energetic power – approx. 80 cal/100 gr. – ahead of all the other greens. So, is it a legume or a carb ? Both, in fact, as these little grains contain starch – but also calcium and vitamins (A, B), lots of potassium, a fair amount of phosphorous and a little magnesium. Their sugary taste and their fat content (12%) mean that peas are often frowned upon for dieters… when in fact they are excellent as little snacks as they are full of oligo-elements (zinc, manganese, selenium)!

They’ve been around for over six thousand years, originally they were found around the Mediterranean where they grow wild, peas are in fact grain that are not yet ripe and that need to be shelled (a fave for kids !)… Their bumpy shells – unlike those of the «mange tout» that are flat – must be picked firm and crunchy, bright green, for fresh peas to be eaten quickly or else they become floury. The best season is May-June. They can be eaten raw (in moderation) for a little nutty taste. Otherwise, they can be cooked «English» style when they are boiled and «French» style when they are steamed with added butter ! And if we mention a dish «à la Clamart», it means that it is accompanied by peas who were once a cultivated in this Parisian suburb.

Looking for something more simple? They are easy to find in cans ! And for those who don’t have peas at home, you can still wear them: try on a pea coat for size…


• Have fun with the movies "Pipiou" 

Numéro 16 15/05 au 28/05 /13


  • 16- Foodoir

White asparagus is royal; it has a very short life-span and loses the head easily, even though this aristocratic variety came to be a long time after the French revolution. Its Spring reign comes to a head in the month of May. 

It comes from the sandy earth of the East, and asparagus is green in its wild state, like that grown in Italy or the south of France. In ancient times, it was said to be an aphrodisiac – the phallic shape may have had something to do with that… So in Greece, Hippocrates the father of medicine prescribed it for a painful urethra while Pliny the Elder raved about the size of Ravenna asparagus! 

Later in the Middle Ages, it was mostly reserved for hospital convents as a medicine. From the 16th century on, it was introduced into gastronomic circles but kept for the court due to its limited availability. Its spread came late, in 1868 in the sandy soil of Argenteuil, outside Paris, 500 hectares were put side for its cultivation and a very refined mode of protecting it from the sun to keep its skin white. The following year, Pastor Heyler imported this delicate process to Hoerdt, a village in Alsace, which required three years before anything was produced. 

The tender, melt in the mouth and tasty Hoerdt asparagus is grown on hills to benefit from the sun’s rays all day long, to the extent that it can grow 5 to 6 cm in a few hours. What vitality! In the best conditions, they need to be harvested twice a day… Thankfully, the village has made asparagus its emblem, has the endurance needed to share such joy with the rest of us!


Numéro 15 01/05 au 14/05


  • 15- Foodoir

No, no, whatever you do, don't eat a lily of the valley! Despite the culinary trend for blooms, this lucky charm is in fact toxic. But do not despair, you can still choose from over 250 edible flowers. So, why the craze? Flowers are poetic and have lovely colours (especially when fresh). They bring refinement and originality to any dish, and the surprise is guaranteed. Just the sound of their names is enough for our imaginations to take flight, conferring them with extraordinary powers. Their effect is well known and has been since ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and Japan as flowers are both tasty and healthy. One word of warning however: the flowers eaten must be grown without the aid of pesticides or fertilisers!

We don't just mean the flowers on aromatic herbs (anise, chervil, sage, thyme...) nor those associated with herbal teas (lime, mint, hibiscus…), but those that urge us to create inventions as good as the top chefs. Let's start with flowers in salad, a huge trend (you only eat the petals). Beginning with the nasturtium, a flower that merits it's own separate article, so let's just mention its spicy taste, reminiscent of watercress, that brings out the taste in other ingredients such as the mushroom or the avocado (guacamole on nasturtium petals is the best!). The poppy, sweet with an after-taste of hazelnut, is also used in desserts, as is the gardenia. A more eccentric flower to eat is the begonia, with its crunchy, slightly acidic and lemony petals, that go well with fish, shellfish and... foie gras!

The pretty blue flowers of the borage with their cucumber taste of the sea can be eaten alone, they have their fans. In the blue corner, we should also mention artichoke-tasting cornflowers, pale lilac with its musky flavour and the sweet but bitter violet. Bright yellow marigold or calendula, slightly bitter and peppery, is used to spice up food instead of saffron. But you should look out for the French marigold, "Mexico's tarragon", a sacred and medicinal plant for the Aztecs and Mayans as, when taken without moderation it is hallucinogenic... Bon appétrip !



Numéro 14 17/04 au 30/05


  • 14-foodoir

Nothing is more everyday than spaghetti, the Italian staple. From the word « spago » that means « string », they are the closest thing to the noodles originally invented by the Chinese. The story goes that Marco Polo brought back the manufacturing method from his voyage in China at the end of the 8th century. The dish is so much a part of Italian culture that westerns shot by directors from the boot-shaped country are termed Spaghetti Westerns!

Spaghetti is the bestseller of pastas – ahead of farfalle, macaroni and penne. They are also the most fun to eat, to wrap around a fork or to suck in from one end to another. In France as in Italy, they are eaten with every sauce. And brands such as Barilla, Lustucru or Panzani spare no expense in trying to stand out from the competition. This is one France-Italy match that is hard fought !

In 1911, Cartier-Million pasta, manufactured in Grenoble, changed their name to Lustucru with their chequered light blue/dark blue packaging created by the artist Synave. At the same time on the other side of the Alps in Parma, a pasta company called Barilla had also chosen the colour blue for its packaging with the brand name in white on a red oval – the colour of our national flag! It was bound to be confusing. Things got even more complicated later on with the establishment of the French company Panzani after the second world war by an Italian immigrant who went for the red and green of the Italian flag! The brand innovated with cellophane wrapping that showed the product and invented the unforgettable Don Patillo, its fervent supporter in advertising.

Today, spaghetti is more avant-garde and comes in different sizes like a clothing collection… Barilla launched their n°3 or « Spaghettini », their n°1 or « Capellini », before moving up to the larger sizes with the n°7 or « Spaghettoni ». The average size, the great classic, not unlike the little black dress remains the n°5. Timeless…



Numéro 13 03/04 au 16/04/13


  • 13- foodoir

Sick of bad weather and the constant cold, the same question’s going round in our heads all day «When is Spring coming?». We were at the end of our tether. So we rolled out the word association… If we can’t have Spring, can we have Spring rolls?

A sudden urge for transparency and sweetness, like the gelatinous envelope of this Asian dish through which we can see the green, white and orange insides. We feel a need for the freshness of the mint that garnishes the composition and the natural effect of the finely chopped raw vegetables, all the more so when it is a dish that is eaten cold! And they are timely because originally, in China and Vietnam, they were eaten during the tombs and altars Spring cleaning festival in early April or the third day of the third lunar month !

Not very upbeat you might say, but it all means renewal, dietary cleansing. This is a foodstuff that ticks all the quality boxes: it is light, so good for dieting, easy to make (easier still to buy them already made), easy to carry round, recommended for the quality of its vitamin-filled
ingredients and encourages culinary creativity (it can be made in different ways).

Unlike nems – Chinese and Japanese spring rolls that are fried –, Goi Cuon ( «salad roll») is typically Vietnamese. They have pretty names associated with their particularities like «Summer rolls», for their summery taste, or «Crystal rolls» for the translucent effect. The are less spicy than the Thai equivalent, less fatty than the Chinese and delicately flavoured with fragrant plants. They are made using a soaked rice galette, onto which you place the crunchy ingredients (lettuce, spinach or cabbage leaves, chopped vegetables, bean sprouts) and tender ingredients (vermicelli, black mushrooms), to which you add shrimp, diced chicken, etc. All accompanied with a soy sauce to bring out the taste. A little touch of ginger and you’re ready to roll before the summer gets here.



Numéro 12 20/03 au 01/04/13


  • 12- Foodoir

Eggs are constantly surprising. The chicken or the egg, no one will ever solve the original riddle. So when eggs are brought by bells, cuckoos or, even stranger bunnies? 

The symbol itself is easy to understand, the egg is associated with birth and rebirth. The cosmic egg is a metaphor for the creation of the world in many Asian civilisations and some African beliefs. In Ancient times, painted eggs were offered to the Goddess Mother in Spring to favour life and fertility. 

In Europe, from Hungary to Poland, young people follow a charming Easter Monday tradition: young girls give young men eggs while the young men chase them spraying them with water – a fun-filled attack that encourages fertility, they say!
More generally in Catholic countries, to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, people decorate the eggs that have built up during Lent’s lean period and they are given as a reward to well-behaved children. In France, a custom meant that the King should have the biggest egg laid during Holy Week. Certain monarchs went as far as to give as gifts beautifully manufactured eggs that contained a surprise. Tsar Alexander III ordered famous eggs from the jeweller Fabergé. 

Most often, it was said that the bells went into mourning on Holy Thursday going to Rome for refuge until Easter Sunday, sprinkling gardens with sugar or chocolate eggs on their way back. 

Today, the celebration has become a popular one, treats have branched out: bells, chickens, baskets and… rabbits! They are still hidden, even adults organise egg hunts. And for those who wish to enjoy these games and treats all year round, they can always turn to those chocolate eggs with a surprise hidden in a yellow plastic inner egg, «laid» by a smart manufacturer in 1974 !

Numéro 11 06/03 au 19/03/13


  • 11- Foodoir 2

All of human intelligence and its capacity for invention are to be found between the raw and the cooked. Cooking means transformation. How things have evolved since fire was discovered ! In those days, man created the first ever barbecue by grilling meat on an open fire… without worrying about unhealthy hydrocarbons! But these days, for health reasons, all types of cooking are analysed according to their advantages and disadvantages. The aim is to reinforce, or at least preserve, the food’s nutritional qualities. For example, activating the vitamins that are latent in certain vegetables (broccoli), or enriching meat’s protein levels.

Over the centuries, cooking methods have become legion: on the pan, steaming, in a casserole, in a papillote, in the oven, in a wok, in the microwave, etc. Best practice prize goes to steaming as it retains the natural qualities and taste of each food. Boiling draws out minerals and vitamins, but they can be recovered in the cooking water. The oven destroys vitamins but at least preserves minerals, and for poultry concentrates juices under the skin which becomes crunchy. Grilling provides a delicious holiday taste but is, however, a violent method and not very healthy, no more than the frying pan and we won’t even go into deep-frying. The worst, we now know, is micro-waving… This is most likely why the instructions for frozen meals mention traditional oven cooking more and more, to the detriment of the micro-wave that is just there for re-heating or defrosting. The only problem is that the speed of the micro-wave oven has made it an essential part of our overly rushed lives. 

Because cooking takes time. And time is money – all the more so since gas and electricity have become so expensive ! So we feel like suggesting to scientists that they come up with a solar-powered cooker that could provide heat it has absorbed from being beside a window. Seeing as you can’t stop progress !

Numéro 10 20/02 au 5/03/13


  • 10- Foodoir

In California, one of its varieties is called the Eureka. What a great name for a lemon! This fruit is miraculous. And if we select from other categories like the Verna in Spain or the Interdonato in Sicily, it still possesses many beneficial qualities. It’s powers are hidden behind a thick, shiny, skin, bright like the sun that heats the earth it grows on. It is like a veritable medicine cupboard and its health benefits have been well known for a long time. In Ancient Rome, the anti-venom power of the lemon was used to treat snake bites and apparently Nero, who was constantly terrified of being poisoned, ate lemons as an antidote.

These days this acidic citrus fruit is recommended for its incomparable level of vitamin C that reinforces our natural defences and helps us to fight the flu and other contagious germs in winter. It was used as a remedy against scurvy in sailors at one time. It is excellent for blood circulation thanks to its cleansing and decongestant qualities. It works against diabetes as it makes glucose levels drop. Lemons are also high in vitamins A, B1 and B2, and above all in calcium, phosphor, potassium, magnesium, etc. Not to mention its delicious fragrance in cosmetics, it is a powerful antioxidant that slows down skin ageing. It is also a good antiseptic that disinfects wounds and encourages the healing process.

In the same way that lemon juice prevents peeled fruits from going black (bananas, avocadoes, mushrooms), it also whitens teeth – but too much acidity can be harmful. Unless you prefer to use it as a vinegar in marinades (carpaccio or tuna) or as a detergent on brass and silver, and even for removing stains (rust among others) from clothes. Another unexpected, unusual property: remember using lemon juice as invisible ink that can only be read by heating the paper over a candle…

So, if you want to have fun, don’t miss the «Fête du citron» in Menton*, a town that has a lemon as its emblem since 1934, with its carnival, and giant citrus sculptures … A cocktail of good humour!


• Until March 6th. For further informations about «la Fête du Citron»


Numéro 9 06/02 au 19/02/13


  • 09- Foodoir

Be warned, «une bugne» is not the same as «des bugnes», in the singular or in the plural the meanings are totally different. If you get «une bugne» in the face, it’s hard to swallow! But if you offer «des bugnes» for mardi gras, they will be gobbled down! Une bugne, in the singular, doesn’t go down that well, but des bugnes, in the plural, are delicious little doughnuts that are traditionally eaten in February. But despite the different meanings, the story is the same, the same linguistic meaning, the same root word. 

Originally, the Latin word bunia meant a tree trunk with bulges. It is easy to see the resemblance with bugnes, as the little cakes are bent like roots. This is because in the baking process, when the mixture is fresh and cut into strips to make little rectangles, a slit is cut in each piece to slip one end into the other to make a loop, like a knot. In addition, we understand the allusion to the bump that a «beigne» (a violent hit) can cause when we see the buns swelling during frying. So, no more explanation needed.

What about gastronomy ? The ingredients for this fried pastry are the same as pancakes but without the milk. Sometimes there are no eggs either. But they are always flavoured with lemon or orange water, rum or certain liqueurs. When powdered with icing sugar they are so cute, and understandably also known as «merveilles». They are made for mardi-gras (Shrove Tuesday), the last day of feasting before the gloom of Ash Wednesday. And cold meat merchants, so sorry to be facing a drop in sales of the richer products, would put these little treats out for customers to keep on their good side.

It is important to note that with or without yeast, the crunchiest bugnes are those made with the least amount of ingredients, the others are spongier. 

Today, the bakers maintain the tradition in the season, but they often forget to knot the pastry, they just make a slit – so the beauties aren’t too swell !

Numéro 8 Du 23/01 au 05/02/13


  • 08- Foodoir

The cold has arrived in the bleak midwinter. It is time to «mettre le pot au feu» (put the pot on the fire). According to a worldwide ancestral practice of meat boiled in a big recipient, pot-au-feu combines household advantages that are greatly appreciated in rural life. If only through its slow cooking method that keeps a pleasant ambient temperature, not to mention the nutritional benefits!

The «pot-au-feu» is a dish that doesn’t cost much but is extremely tasty, using the cheaper cuts of beef, combining lean meat (shoulder…), gelatinous meat (topside, steak…) and slightly fatty meat (flank, brisket…), to which is added bones with marrow. All immersed in a big pot of water with a few vegetables (carrots, leeks, onions stuck with cloves) and herbs. So in preparation terms, the pot au feu is easy and quick, but cooking time is very long, at least four hours – or more, it will only get better. In the olden days, it was left to simmer continuously all day in the fireplace or in the oven. This meant it could do a few meals, with extra ingredients added along the way to replace those that had been eaten. The stock was used as a soup that was thickened with noodles, rice or toasted bread. 

Today this diversification is back in fashion, presented with a few refinements: for example ravioli in the stock. So it’s hard to understand why this traditional French dish, so popular with foreigners, is disappearing from the menus of restaurants claiming to serve traditional, old style meals. So, it can only be found very rarely in certain places like «Chez la Vieille “Adrienne“» since the ovens have been taken over by young people, however talented they may be. And it is off the menu altogether at the Balzar, the famous Latin Quarter brasserie, that once thrilled tourists with its pot-au-feu «today’s special». But apparently, pot-au-feu is not considered that special anymore. What a pity, as a good pot-au-feu «smiles» according to Jean-Pierre Coffe* about the cooking stock… And a smile warms the heart.


* Jean-Pierre Coffe, « SOS Cuisine », éditions Stock, 2006


Numéro 7 09 au 22/01/13


  • 07- Foodoir

Marzipan or brioche? If you claim that the only true galette is the brioche, you are giving away your southern roots. If you are for marzipan, your roots are northern, or Parisian. And if you go for a biscuit base, you are from the west. Whatever happens, you will not escape the galette des rois that goes on sale before the new year and stays around for a month at least.

For the most part, it is made with puff pastry and butter. The story goes that the marzipan filling was brought to France by Marie de Médicis from her native Italy but the variations don’t stop there: galettes stuffed with apples, chocolate… As for the brioche des rois, it is crown-shaped of course, and decorated with jewels of preserved fruit and other sweet things.

The «non stop» galette eating means we tend to forget it really is supposed to be eaten on the Epiphany, set on January 6th by Pope Julius II. It is now celebrated on the first Sunday after January 1st.

In Greek, Epiphany means «apparition». For Christians, it represents the presentation of the baby Jesus to the Three Wise Men. This is why the little fève hidden in the galette, which was actually a real bean at first, was represented by a little baby Jesus in his cradle and swaddling clothes. Today, the figurines are bursting with originality. Especially since an ingenious entrepreneur, Joseph Perron, an ex-employee in a Peugeot factory set up the company Prime in 1989 and became the leader in the production of figurines for galettes. Every year, over twenty million of these painted porcelain miniatures are made in Asia. The diversity of the range which goes from lucky charms to film characters goes down well with fève-fans, collectors of the year’s series. The only person who can never get the fève is the Président de la République. Since 1975, the Élysée’s galette is fève-less so that the President can never be crowned ! 

The youngest guest is always the one who picks who gets what piece. «Avoir de la galette» means to be rich or fortunate, we wish it for all of you this year…

Numéro 6 26/12/12 au 08/01/13


  • 06- Foodoir

Foie gras, stuffed geese, galantines and ballottines… that leave us bloated, after making our mouths water ! Not to mention the morning afters with headaches and hangovers… It’s not over yet, we still have the galette des rois to get through, who knows how many… It’s enough to make your stomach heave. Bring on the ginger to avoid the nausea. 

Thankfully we still have «the hair of the dog»: the very bitter tonic Fernet Branca, a formidable 40° before or after dinner drink invented in Italy around 1836 by Bernardino Branca (and probably elaborated with the help of a chemist called Fernet). La Fratelli Branca Distillerie, founded in Milan in 1845 is a family-owned business that is still going – sanctified by the collective unconscious if we believe what the «mamas» say according to the writer Cavanna*: «The brothers Branca invented it. The Madonna appeared to them and she told them the formula and showed them the place, their signature is on the bottle …» In France, the Fernet Branca distillery near Mulhouse, closed its doors in 2008 to become a contemporary art foundation.

This magic potion that some find undrinkable would revive a corpse. It made by infusing over twenty plants and aromatic herbs: gentian, camomile, angelica, aloe vera, myrrh, mint, saffron, etc. But there’s no point in looking for the complete recipe, the label tells us nothing. Fernet Branca, still according to Cavanna «No one can imitate it, it is impossible, because it is made with secret plants […] and if they are not picked by an Italian, it doesn’t work, it won’t heal anything, it will choke you.» The emblem is an eagle carrying a map of the world, the undeniable symbol of supernatural strength: «prolonga la vida» !

This beverage was once only available in the pharmacy. Today, we find it in wine shops. There is no risk of over-consumption: due to it’s particular taste, it can only be drunk in moderation… The Argentineans have cleverly invented a national drink by mixing it with coca cola: the Branca and Coke! Two mysteriously formulated beverages for the price of one. There’s no stopping the lobbies…  * in his book «Les Ritals», (Pierre Belfond, 1978)


Numéro 5 12/12 au 25/12/12


  • 05- Foodoir


A lovely Christmas tradition, a bit like the tree, the tinsel, the turkey, the bûche, and even the mandarin oranges. Papillotes. A tradition from Lyon that is still well respected by the inhabitants of the Rhône-Alpes region who eat two-thirds of these sweets in party dresses. Older consumers remember the importance of shiny papillotes that not only gleamed in their shoes but all over the house showing the path taken by Santa Claus…

According to legend, around 1790 in Lyon, the patissier Papillot, whose store was on the place des Terreaux, was stunned to see his chocolate sweets disappearing. One day, he surprised his apprentice who was wrapping them in love letters and passing them up to his beloved through the basement window. Far from angry, the patissier was charmed by the idea and used it as inspiration to invent «les papillotes»: chocolates wrapped in message paper. But he replaced the messages of love by jokes, proverbs and questions.

The rest is a true story. In 1898, the Thomas and Pelen families from Lyon founded the Révillon chocolate factory, taking its name from one of their employees as it resembles «réveillon» (the French term from Christmas or New Year’s eve). Because the end of the year is the boom period for the sale of papillotes. The company is obliged to double up on staff in the Autumn to fill orders for this brand that remains the leader despite the fact that they don’t have a huge export market.

We still get a laugh from the at times tasteful, at times off-colour jokes hidden in the fringed wrappers that twinkle at the slightest movement. Not forgetting the hidden bangers that go off when pulled from either end – a clever way to express the burst of joy ! But while these explosive treats are still on sale, they are produced in much smaller quantities. A security issue ? No big deal, we always have a daring quote from Oscar Wilde to fall back on: «Wisdom means to have sufficiently big dreams so as not to lose sight of them while pursuing them.»



Numéro 4 28/11 au 11/12/12


  • 04- Foodoir

One ham n’ cheese, one!  Here’s your sandwich. One ham n’ cheese, one! Here’s your crepe. Two French specialities, one Parisian, one Breton. The two foodstuffs have nothing in common but they seem to go well together, satisfying our taste buds and filling our stomachs. 

Ham comes from the thigh of an animal, mostly from a pig, but it can be from a wild boar, young or old – or even a bear or a reindeer in Nordic countries. Cured ham wears regional dress, like the jambon d’Auvergne or Bayonne in France, the prosciutto d’Aosta or Parma in Italy, or York ham in Great Britain. In Spain, the Serrano comes down the mountain (sierra). Cooked ham can be cooked in different ways, roasted, grilled, braised and most often boiled, what the French call «jambon de Paris» or even «diet ham». It is better when cooked in a cloth or «on the bone».

Ham was a royal dish during the Roman empire, then in the Middle Ages. Perhaps today it needs to be brought back to its former glory. 

As for cheese, it contributes to the good or bad reputation of the French, a country that is considered ungovernable due to the diversity of its cheeses (300 according to the Général De Gaulle, or even 365 according to others, one for every day of the year). But this is what makes the wealth of the country, the natives love it and the tourists find it amusing. It offers a palette of flavours that are more or less pleasant, compositions that are more or less reassuring, especially when the maggots or the traces of mould start to appear. It’s the war on bacteria. So to be safe, we are told to eat pasteurised cheeses (tasteless), while research shows that we should protect the biodiversity of our germs in order to fight listeria! Ah, the poetry of cheese !

And if it doesn’t exactly rhyme with ham, we won’t get too cheesy ! But they do form an excellent duo.


For an exceptional «ham & cheese» experience come to our next Gastronomy Confidential tasting


Numéro 3 14/11 au 27/11/12


  • 03- Foodoir

In French the name is gorgeous - topinambour, it sounds like a magic spell from Mary Poppins or the Sound of Music. But gosh, how ugly! Lumpy, brownish, rough to the touch. Seriously, the Helianthus tuberosus has nothing going for it. Maybe that’s why it’s one of the «forgotten vegetables». We know that those who lived through the Second World War would rather not remember this sturdy and cheap vegetable, no more than its friend the swede or rutabaga as the Americans say, as they bring back memories of the bad old days. And it’s true, the Jerusalem artichoke is easy to grow, even in bad ground, and can be harvested from autumn to spring. It can even proliferate beyond control. The flowers look like big yellow daisies, perched on high, stiff stems that can grow as high as two metres and throw shade on neighbouring plants. We eat the roots, but the tubers can not stay out of the earth very long as they need humidity, otherwise they dry out, go soft and wither.

But times have changed and forgotten vegetables are on their way back. They’ve even become quite chic. This «poire de terre» is also called the «Canadian truffle», even though it has nothing in common with our truffles from the Périgord but because it owes its origins to the American Indians. It was relegated to animal feed for a long time but today is four times more expensive than its competition, the potato that has reigned for decades. Its subtle, slightly sweet flavour somewhere between the artichoke and the salsify has brought it back into fashion. Chefs compete to find ingenious ways of cooking it.

It would also appear that the Jerusalem artichoke is not only good for the health but also for the diet… It contains vitamins A, C and B3, potassium and iron, and above all it is rich in inulins, which helps calcium uptake, reduces fat build-up and cholesterol levels! There are brighter days ahead.


Numéro 2 31/10 au 13/11


  • 02- Foodoir

So, why calf liver? Not because a grandmother reminded us of an old rhyme: «Il était une fois, une marchande de foie dans la ville de Foix, qui se dit: ma foi…» (punning outrageously on the foi (faith), foie (liver), Foix (town) homonyms). But because calf liver is always tasty but the price never ceases to shock. True, it is delicious, healthy, happily eaten by kids (and everyone else) but why on earth is it so expensive? We are told this is due to the limited production.

To begin with, the liver is relatively small compared to the size of the animal. But it is a concentrated source of vitamins (especially A, B12, D, as well as B5, B6, C) and iron. Without going into too much detail, it has been proven that calf’s liver is good for the skin, the bones, the memory and the nervous system. It has a very high level of nutritional density, more than a piece of beef. So we understand why one only needs a thin slice to invigorate those with small appetites.

In any case, veal is expensive. It is the cost of an agricultural love story. The love begins in the fields. From breeders to suppliers, we are told that the production requires a high level of care, not to mention that it must comply with all kinds of environmental regulations. The producers detail the quality of the ground, the grass, the air, of calves fed on milk, eggs and sugar… And whenever possible, butchers are proud to trumpet their local or regional produce.

Of course you can get imported veal calves, but they are less refined. Because the butchers are not averse to a little poetry. To illustrate the difference in quality between local and imported produce, one butcher came up with an image that fashion designers might find amusing. He told us «It’s like the difference between a silk dress and a cotton dress: the grain isn’t the same.» A little luxury that is good for the body? Sounds offaly nice…


Numéro 1 17/10 au 30/10


  • 01- Foodoir news

No more summer, no more rosé? Almost. Seeing as the last glasses of the season were polished off only last week. Like every year. We only get to drink rosé from May to October. And apart from a few exceptions standing at a bar or on a very special occasion, it doesn’t go much further than that.

It has to be said that rosé doesn’t necessarily have the same advantages as its red or white friends. As a wine, rosé is less complex. It is a leisure wine that doesn’t require any particular prior knowledge that is drunk at barbecues, picnics or « en terrasse » in warm weather. It is a wine that provides instant gratification but that we reserve for sunny days. The second handicap is that while it is not a complicated wine, rosé is often seen as seriously hangover-inducing. This reputation is due to the presence of sulphites in certain productions. And while today many rosés are totally natural, it can’t shake off the sore head pre-conception.

As a result, rosé has been pulling out all the stops to attract punters. It is prepared to undergo any transformation. For example, producers are changing their methods to create pale rosés which are perceived to be of better quality when in fact this perception is entirely psychological and no more than a mere trend. Another development is rosé served with tons of ice as a seriously fashionable « fontaine ». The actual taste is not an issue, rosé is even served with a grapefruit syrup, available ready-mixed in supermarkets. 

But all of these efforts are paying off. Over the past two years, rosé has taken off in the hipper VIP circles and clubs making champagne and stronger drinks almost obsolete. You can even get it in magnums in clubs.  

The problem is, rosé is becoming a drink. Not a wine, a drink. A refreshing one at that. Despite excellent cépages and crus, it still needs to get beyond that barrier. Rosé still has a few harsh winters ahead.