My French Heaven

FOOD, PHOTOGRAPHY & JOIE DE VIVRE IN BORDEAUX, FRANCE

Category: Become a legend

My French Heaven, the book?

raspberries

My dear friends and fellow bloggers Tamara Lee, Elizabeth Thomas, Steve Courmanopoulos and several others have been encouraging me to write a book. I’ve always wanted to do it. I don’t know why and I honestly don’t want to brainstorm too much on the matter. Maybe I’m afraid I’ll find out that I am even more vain than I thought I was. Vanity, along with jealousy are two of the human character traits I despise the most, even though I have sometimes shown them myself…

Rather than trying to define my motives, I think I will just start and focus on enjoying the process. I’m in for hundreds of hours of hard work and I’m quite afraid to fail. I would define failure here as either not finishing the project, or even worse, finishing the book and not being able to get it published. Forget about publishing it; what if people think it’s rubbish? What if I make a complete fool of myself? What if I only sell 10 copies? What if I find out that my parents bought all ten?! What if… Oh, to hell with it! I’ll just post this and get to work!

By the way, what do you think the book should look like and feel like? What should I focus on? What would make you interested in it?…

Since I would never think of posting anything without sharing a picture, I took the one above the other day and thought I’d include it :0) Raspberry red is how I feel today. Don’t ask me why…

 

Of passion, horses and positive change

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I am trying to read more blogs these days. It is such a motivating and inspiring thing to do. There is just so much passion, talent and willingness to share positive vibes in this otherwise gloomy, stupid and violent world…

A French “philosopher” (it always blows my mind that people would have the nerve to call themselves philosophers these days) was asked recently by a journalist: “is there more evil than good in this world? Are people more evil than good?” To which that asshole replied that there was indeed more evil than good. That it was an undeniable fact.

I couldn’t disagree more! I am no philosopher, so I don’t even know if I am entitled to give my opinion on the matter. I will anyway:

The reason why one might think there is more evil than good, is A. because we tend to pay more attention to what shocks us and B. because the media plays on A. and loves to feed us garbage. So yes, we tend to watch the Kardashians on TV; yes we like a good plane crash, but that’s only because of the shock value these provide. I think that, given the choice, any one of us would rather witness the birth of a child, see our favorite sports team win the game or watch the great first audition of a super talented kid on the X factor. So yes, Kim Kardashian’s ineptitudes speak to the animal in me, but watching my team win speaks to the potential hero. One makes me more of an animal, the other makes me more human. One plays to my fears and stupidity, the other to my power…

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I think we all yearn to be inspired. We all want to meet and associate with people who make us feel better and stronger. We want to be passionate and involved. We want to matter. People are good by nature. I am absolutely convinced of the fact that there is more good than evil in us. We just need to pay more attention to whatever or whoever shows it and champions it.

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I recently met such a champion:

As I was driving through the hills of Pomerol the other day, I saw two men plowing a field of vines with their horses. I had seen them before and was convinced it was a new marketing stunt that the Rothchilds, Moueix or other had decided to pull. But I love horses and was very interested in talking to these guys. Maybe there was more to it than just business strategy. So I parked Charlotte on the side of the road, walked towards the younger of the two men and introduced myself. The fellow was still about three rows away from me. As I got closer, I realized that I knew him. His name is Sebastien and we used to ride horses and go to school together some 30 years ago. I stopped ridding after I started college, but he continued competing. His love for horses had never left him and when it came time for him to earn a proper living, he decided to stick with his passion. Nobody can make a decent living out of horses though. People always say that if you want to survive in the horse business, you need to marry well or win the lottery or both. So Sebastien put his thinking cap on and decided he would offer his services to the local châteaux as a freelance horseman, using his gorgeous beasts to plow the fields. He is now making a good living off of this and spends his days doing what he loves, with his animals, in the fresh air throughout the Bordeaux vineyard where he was born… What an inspiration!

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Knowing the guy, I allowed myself to ask the real question: is it just another marketing stunt or is there an actual benefit to using horses in the vineyard. Sebastien could not deny the PR aspect, but he also explained that more and more châteaux owners saw the real benefits of using horses instead of tractors to tend their vines. A man, a horse and a small plow are much more precise that a tractor or other more modern tools. Less vibrations are sent towards the roots and there is no soil compaction as they go through the vineyard. This makes it a perfect solution to work around young plants and very old ones alike. So, if horses are not about to replace tractors in St Emilion, Pomerol or the Medoc, they are a new way to provide genuine care for our money makers (the vines) and our environment. It also makes Sebastien and the tourists very happy indeed. Win, win, win!

And here is to another post that was supposed to be two sentences long and ends up reading like war and peace written by a monkey… Sorry!

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The 14 magic ingredients – Les 14 ingrédients magiques

Long post. Sorry for the poor grammar and typo! In English below…

J’ai toujours les ingrédients suivants à portée de main dans ma cuisine. La liste n’est pas exhaustive et elle variera bien sûr d’un cuisinier à l’autre et d’une région ou d’un pays à l’autre. On y ajoutera du gingembre ou de la sauce de poisson en Asie. En Inde du curry. En Grèce de la feta…

J’appelle ces ingrédients mes ingrédients magiques parce qu’ils apportent une saveur forte et distincte qui se marie avec un très grand nombre de plats. Ils sont magiques parce qu’ils relèvent à merveille les plats les plus ennuyeux. Ces ingrédients rendent tout plus intéressant… L’autre avantage certain: ils ne coûtent quasiment rien :0)

J’ai nommé:

Le beurre fermier. Goût de noisette incomparable!IMG_1260 _Snapseed

Le bacon ou la poitrine de porc fumée. Aucun sandwich ne peut s’en passer!IMG_9456 _Snapseed

Le thym, la ciboulette et le romarin. C’est très personnel. Ce sont mes herbes préférées…IMG_6110 _SnapseedIMG_1824 _Snapseed

L’ail cru, rôti ou confit sur les viandes, dans la purée et dans presque toutes les saucesIMG_0990 _Snapseed

Le Comté et le parmesan dans les salades, TOUTES les soupes, les pâtes…IMG_8700 _Snapseed

Les oignons blancs et rouges et les échalotes. Il suffit de faire frire l’un d’entre eux pour que la maison sente la haute cuisine…IMG_5054 _Snapseed

Les tomates confites. J’en fait au moins un plat par semaine. Je les congèle en portions et les utilise comme du ketchup pour accompagner viandes, poissons, oeufs ou pâtes. Coupez des tomates cerises en deux et passez les au four 30mn à 210°C. J’utilise plus souvent les tomates cerises parce qu’elles sont disponibles presque toute l’année et sont plus acidulées. Elles cuisent aussi plus vite…IMG_2173 _Snapseed

L’huile d’olive extra vierge. La plus chère possible :0) Utilisez l’huile bon marché pour les cuissons simples. Selon mon expérience, une bonne bouteille d’huile d’olive provenant d’une production naturelle et artisanale coûte au moins 20€…IMG_7614 _Snapseed

La persillade maison. Comptez 2 belles gousses d’ail pour une botte de persil plat. Le persil frisé est plus décoratif, mais le persil plat a plus de goût.IMG_2925 _Snapseed

Si vous avez en plus des pâtes, des oeufs ou du bon pain, vous aurez toujours chez vous de quoi préparer un petit festin même si les amis débarquent à la dernière minute… Ah, et une bouteille de rouge!IMG_4067 _SnapseedIMG_5534 _Snapseed

Tout pour une cuisine simple, rapide, peu coûteuse et pleine de goût!

Quelques combinaisons possibles:

  • Oeufs au plat, tomates confites, pâtes fraiches et parmesan
  • Frotte à l’ail: faites griller du pain, frottez de l’ail frais sur la croute, beurrez et salez
  • Pâtes fraiches, persillade, Comté rappé
  • Soupe de légumes et bacon frit avec quelques croutons aillés
  • Oignons dorés, bacon, pâtes et parmesan
  • Frotte à l’ail à la tomate confite (remplacer le beurre de la frotte à l’ail simple par de l’huile d’olive)
  • Pain grillé, oeuf au plat, bacon, Comté (en sandwich)
  • Une bonne soupe à l’oignon (recette dans les archives du blog? Tapez “soupe à l’oignon dans la boite de recherche)

I always have the following ingredients on hand in my kitchen. The list is not exhaustive and will of course vary from one cook to another and from one region or country to another. You will add ginger or fish sauce in Asia. Curry in India. Feta cheese in Greece

I call these my magic ingredients because they provide a strong and distinct flavor that goes very well with many different dishes. They are “magical” because they can turn any boring dish into a culinary masterpiece… Another advantage: they hardly cost anything :0)

I can’t think of many dishes that wouldn’t be made better by adding one or several of the “magic” ingredients…

On my list:

Fresh butter from the farm (non pasteurized!!!). Incomparable hazelnut taste!

Bacon. No sandwich is complete without it! I also use it in my soups…

Thyme, chives and rosemary. It’s very personal. These are my favorite herbs…

Garlic, roasted or not, for Lamb, mashed potatoes and in almost all sauces

Comté cheese and parmesan cheese for salads, ALL soups, pasta…

Yellow onions, red onions and shallots. Simply fry one of them into a little butter and your kitchen will smell like “haute cuisine” right away :0)

Candied tomatoes. I make a batch at least once a week. I freeze them in portions and use them as ketchup to accompany meat, fish, eggs or pasta. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and place them in the oven for 30 minutes at 400°F. I like to use cherry tomatoes because they are available year round, are very tasty and cook much faster

Extra virgin olive oil. The most expensive you can find from France, Greece or Italy :0) Use cheap olive oil if you have to for simple cooking. In my experience, a good bottle of olive oil costs at least 20€…

Persillade. Count 2 large cloves of garlic for 1 bunch of parsley. Curly parsley is more decorative, but flat parsley has more taste.

If you have pasta, eggs and good bread, you will always have all you need to prepare a last minute feast for your friends… Oh, and a bottle of red wine (Bordeaux of course :0)

Now you have all you need to cook or improve quick and inexpensive recipes that are full of flavor!

Here are a few delightful combinations using the “magical” ingredients:

  • Fried eggs, candied tomatoes, fresh pasta and grated parmesan
  • Toast a slice of bread, rub with garlic, spread butter and salt to taste
  • Same thing with candied tomatoes (replace butter with olive oil)
  • Pasta, persillade, grated Comté
  • Vegetable soup and bacon with some garlic croutons
  • Browned onions, bacon, pasta and parmesan
  • BLT sandwich
  • Traditional French onion soup (in the blog archives. Just type onion soup in the search box)

A ghost in my kitchen – Un fantôme dans ma cuisine

Une des choses qui me plaisent le plus dans cette vieille maison, c’est que je ne suis jamais seul… J’ai mes fantômes. Les principaux sont ceux de ma grand-mère et de mon arrière-grand-mère (en photo ici). Elles sont toutes deux mortes de leur belle mort et veillent sur moi. IMG_1328 2

La maison est vieille et couverte de boiseries du sol au plafond à tous les étages. Et pourtant, bizarrement, il n’y a jamais un bruit… Pas de bois qui travaille, pas de hurlements du vent dans les combles, rien! En revanche, depuis mon installation, les objets se déplacent régulièrement. Ça va du bureau qui se retrouve en plein milieu d’une pièce, à des coups dans les murs de la lingerie, en passant par les fenêtres verrouillées retrouvées grande ouvertes au matin et les tableaux que je retrouve complètement de travers… Ont dit que les bons fantômes bougent les objets pour ne pas nous effrayer et que les mauvais se montrent… Ma famille est persuadée que je suis somnambule et que je déplace les objets moi même la nuit. Moi j’aime encore croire aux deux fantômes de ces femmes qui me manquent tant…

En tous cas, quand je serai moi même parti, j’ai décidé que je hanterais la maison avec elles. Je me chargerai de la cuisine bien sûr:0) Pas un seul de mes successeurs ne pourra faire monter une mayonnaise et j’aurai assez de placards à ouvrir et à fermer pour m’occuper pendant des années:0)mamie, manée

One of the things I like the most about this old house is that I’m never alone … I have my ghosts. The main ones are those of my grandmother and my great-grandmother (pictured here). They both died a natural death here in these walls and are watching over me.

The house is old and covered with wood paneling from floor to ceiling on all levels. And yet, strangely, there is never a noise… No wood working, no howling wind in the attic, nothing! However, since I moved in, objects move regularly. The desk will be found in the middle of the study, there is banging on the walls of the laundry room, locked windows are regularly found wide open in the morning and the pictures on the walls of the gallery are found crooked at least once a month… People say that good ghosts move objects so that they don’t frighten us (just trying to communicate) while bad ghosts will show themselves to you… My family is convinced that I’m sleepwalking and that I move the objects myself during the night. I still like to believe that the ghosts of those two women I miss so much are here with me:0)

In any case, I decided that, after I die, I will haunt the place with them. I’ll take care of the kitchen:0) Not one of my successors will be able to make a mayonnaise and there are enough closets I can open and close to keep me busy for years:0)Image 12-12-12 à 11.51 _Snapseed

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