When I started working at Chez Panisse, there was something called crème anglaise on the menu…and my job was to make it. Of course, I had no idea what crème anglaise was – other than something with a funny name that I got in trouble for pronouncing wrong on several occasions. But I pretended I knew what it was when everyone was talking about making it to go with the desserts. And luckily for my career, after a few years, I probably made at least one batch everyday for the next thirteen years, and stirring up a batch of crème anglaise became second nature to me.
Results tagged lait from David Lebovitz
This week I watched a television program on the phénomène of locavorism in France. Being a resolutely agricultural country, the French are no strangers to being connected to the earth and to farming. But those days are waning and the announcer went to a supermarket in Paris and came out with a basket containing just a couple of items in it. (One was pain Poilâne.) And when she inquired about that, she was told, “There’s not much grown on the Île de France.” (The IDF is the départment where Paris is located.)
But if she had gone to the local fromagerie, she would have likely seen several substantial disks of Brie de Meaux resting on the counter, a cheese which is made about an hour outside of Paris.
There is an interesting emergence of things that are ‘green’ or écologique, in Paris. Words like commerce, responsable, équitable, éthique, durable and solidaire are being seen on more and more products in supermarkets, and even on some restaurant menus these days. Paris has two popular organic markets and discount grocery stores are now offering products like bio (organic) crème fraîche, butter, and pasta. And the city even has an official to preside over sustainable development and ecological initiatives.
(Although no one has asked me, I’m sure quite a few trees could be saved if there wasn’t so much paperwork to fill out, photocopy in triplicate, classify, then re-classify, around here.)
The forward-thinking action that got the most press internationally was the Vélib’ bike program. The program still has a few kinks to work out, though, most notably the costs and excessive vandalism: a recent article in Paris Magazine estimates that the annual upkeep for the program is €20 million and if the roving bands of repairmen were to stop fixing them, there would be no operable bikes in Paris within ten days.
As a user of the program, I think it’s pretty great, considering that they had to reconfigure a good portion of the city, and some attitudes around here, to accommodate it. Yet in spite of the obstacles, it has survived the initial grousing by drivers and other naysayers. And the bikes, along with various other initiatives that have been applied by the local government, has helped to reduce pollution in Paris by approximately 30%.
The other night I was sitting at Le Garde Robe, minding my own business, trying to get down a glass of natural wine. Being seven o’clock, naturally, in addition to being thirsty, I was starving, too.
And the lack of food (and sulfides) must have started affecting my brain because I started thinking about how I often hear tales from visitors, such as when they told a Parisian waiter they didn’t eat meat and shortly afterward, were presented with a plate of lamb. Or they ordered a salad, that was supposed to come with the sandwich, and was actually just a single leaf of lettuce. Hoo-boy, and yes, I’ve made a few gaffes of my own, too: I once ordered a glass of Lillet (pronounced le lait, which isn’t well-known around Paris) and the perplexed café waiter brought me out a long, slender glass of le lait (milk), presented with great panache, on a silver dish with a nice doily. Of course, everyone was staring at the grown man who ordered a tall glass of milk. And I don’t think it was because of the starched doily.
Anyhow, I was scanning the chalkboard at Le Garde Robe, looking at the various charcuterie and cheese on offer, and noticed filet mignon, and thought, “A steak is a funny thing for a wine bar to serve, especially one that doesn’t serve hot food.” Until I remembered what it is in French. And if everyone wasn’t already staring at the idiot at the wine bar, nursing a stemmed glass of milk, I would’ve kicked myself for thinking that’s a big, juicy steak. Which it’s not, in France.
1. Mixing Up the Mignons
Mignon in French means “cute”. And to my pork-loving friends and readers, that can only mean one thing: pigs. French people think cows are attractive.
The yogurt aisle in any French supermarket is the largest, longest, most well-stocked aisle in the store. (Wine, I think, runs a close second.) While there’s a disconcerting number of dubious treats there (coconut macaron or lemon madeleine-flavored yogurt anyone?) the simplest varieties are wonderful.
I’m hopelessly boring, but I like whole milk plain yogurt, which is my afternoon snack. I eat it with dried fruits, a tipple of berry syrup, or just slicked with honey. Luckily yogurt here comes in handy 4-ounce portions, the perfect size, and I don’t miss those hefty pots of purple, super sweet, gelatin-thickened gloop, which barely resembles what yogurt even is.
In between all the yogurts here, you’ll find a few oddities buried in there.