A while back, there was a spate of books about how to ‘sneak’ ingredients that are ‘healthy’ into food for your kids, to trick them into eating better. (Raymond Sokolov wrote an excellent rebuttal to that.) And recently there have been a few books written about how kids in France eat, and behave, better than their counterparts elsewhere. I can’t really comment on them in-depth because I haven’t read the books, but I do know two things from my own observations.
Results tagged prune from David Lebovitz
In what could be the hardest-sell on the planet, I always try to talk people who come to Paris into trying Pruneaux d’Agen fourrés, which are prunes stuffed with prunes. In spite of their reputation, prunes are a great delicacy in France and rightfully so; one taste of even just a regular pruneau d’Agen (especially mi-cuit, or “partially dried”), and you’ll plotz the first time after your first bite. (Although sometimes you need to give it a few hours for the full effect.)
I started reading Blood, Bones & Butter, not quite knowing what to expect. Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef of Prune restaurant in New York City and for those who haven’t been, it’s a rather modest little place that aspires (and succeeds) in doing nothing more than serving very good food, simply prepared, in a friendly space.
Hamilton is a very good writer, but I wasn’t sure if her story would be anything that I could relate to. Was it going to be a nasty retelling of events in her past? Were we going to learn her philosophy of cooking? Was she writing to settle some old scores? Thankfully it was not really any of those, although they’re woven into her story as she reveals some things in her life (and hides a few) that made her who she is today.
It’s hard to write a memoir and be honest, while at the same time, not alienating readers. For example, people think that living in Paris means sitting around in cafés all day eating croissants and macarons, and someone has to show them otherwise ; ) Life isn’t always rosy and showing your flaws, and pointing out a few in others, is just part of reality. One doesn’t need to dwell on them – and Hamilton certainly doesn’t – but she does include a number of incidents that manage to convey to us “the inadvertent education of a reluctant chef”, which is the apt subtitle of this book.
Coming from San Francisco, a place where there essentially aren’t any seasons, it’s been an interesting transition living in France, where each season has its own rhythm and distinct feeling. Winter, as you can imagine, is the least favorite season of the year and this past winter was particularly somber and dismal. Parisians refer to the dreary gray days of winter, and the tristesse that accompanies it, an effect of la grisaille.
Yet when seasons change here, it usually happens in one day. All of the sudden, you find yourself able to open a window and you might head out with just two, instead of seven, layers of clothing. And from that day on, it’ll stay that way until the start of the next season.
The French have a lot of protests and manifestations. Some of the issues they march for are a bit of a reach and we roll our eyes. And it’s annoying when the trains and other forms of transport go on strike and you need to get somewhere. But on the other hand, it’s good that they feel strongly about certain issues, enough to hit the streets. So yesterday there was a mouvement social in my neighborhood. But the one yesterday was an issue I could easily get behind.
Many people have an image of France as being an agricultural country, packed with farmers growing produce and selling it at local markets. This is pretty true outside of the major cities, but only two of the outdoor markets in Paris are “farmer’s” markets: a majority of the merchants buy produce from Rungis, which they boast is the largest market the world, and the produce gets resold at the open air markets sponsored by the ville de Paris.
I vaguely remember my first visit to J’Go. I think it had something to do with a wild night at the bar, and involved French rugby players drinking Armagnac shots off my belly. But unless someone has photo proof, I’m going to just assume that my memory may be off. (It very well may be, if it involves my having a belly concave enough to hold any sort of liquid.)
The name J’Go is a jeux de mots, a play on words for ‘gigot‘, which is pronounced exactly the same and means ‘leg of lamb.’ But here, it’s a bit of Franglais, since it can mean “I go” if you’re mixing the two languages up. But if you’re someone who likes great spit-roasted lamb, I’m not sure how to conjugate that in a similar fashion, so I’ll just tell you that j’go’d to J’Go three times this month alone,
Prunes are serious business in France and unlike Americans, it doesn’t take any name-changing to get the French to eat them. Prune fans, like me, are partial to those from Agen, in Gascony, which are mi-cuit; partially-dried. Their flavor is as beguiling and complex as a square of the finest chocolate.
Interestingly, the prunes cultivated in California are grafted from the same prunes grown in the southwest of France.