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Posts from the ‘Potpourri’ Category

the third course in a french meal–cheese

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” ―Charles de Gaulle

“The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” ―Willie Nelson

“I don’t have much patience for people who are self-conscious about the act of eating, and it irritates me when someone denies themselves the pleasure of a bloody hunk of steak or a pungent French cheese because of some outdated nonsense about what’s appropriate or attractive.” –Anthony Bourdain

Once upon a time I spent a week in Toulouse. I have fond memories of the city. When asked to tell a story about my stay there, I start always with a description of Les Halles in central Toulouse.

Les Halles in many cities in France is a “shopping mall,” a covered food market, with many many stations where different kinds of foods are offered. One can find cheese there, of course, but also charcuterie; there will be butchers, fish mongers, fruit and vegetable stands, wine and beer, chocolate, ready-made foods, and so forth.

At one time Paris had the largest one in France, Les Halles de Paris, which was demolished in 1971 and replaced with the Forum des Halles, now a center for boutiques. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!

why should i eat at a michelin restaurant when i can eat a dorade royale rôti elsewhere?

Let’s get real. Eating at Michelin restaurants is not fun, sometimes: they cost too much money for the formule of three courses, one must order three courses because à la carte is way way way–did I write “way” enough times–too much money, the ambiance is sometimes stuffy and formal and everyone knows the dishes will be refined and beautifully presented.

But . . . give me une dorade royale entière rôti any day. It is one of my favorite preparations for a freshly caught whole fish; and make it à la provençale, I will believe to have died and gone to heaven.

I want now to spend a few minutes describing some meals and dishes that can appear in ordinary, typical French restaurants.

At the end of La Plage de la Salis in Antibes is a small restaurant Casa Gianni that faces the Mediterranean Sea. I like the restaurant for its simple, good meals and for its terrace and large windows.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

The black slate outside of Casa Gianni, which are commonly seen at other French restaurants, is called an ardoise. It lists the dishes and suggestions for that day.

When I see a dorade (daurade) royale entière on the menu, I cannot resist it. Often it is served with rice and some vegetables. My favorite vegetable accompaniment is à la provençale, or a Provençal-style preparation, usually with tomatoes.

Ice cream is a wonderful dessert and after a meal of fish or meat it is an excellent palette cleanser. Many refined restaurants will make their own ice cream and sorbet. But wait, there’s more!

can you spot the lunch served at a 1 star michelin restaurant?

I live 6 months in Oregon and 6 months in France. When I am in Portland, I eat lunch occasionally in restaurants; I prefer to cook. On the other hand, in France I will eat lunch in a restaurant every day.

In Portland, a city celebrated for its food and where James beard was born after all, lunches consist of fast-food, such as pizzas, hamburgers, tacos, and so forth, plus food carts, and some good ethnic restaurants that might have started as food carts.

In my neighborhood in NW Porttland, called the Alphabet District, I have several favorites: Bhuna (Kashmir), Rice & Fish (Japanese), Fish Sauce (Vietnamese), Kim Jong Smokehouse (Korean), and Matador (Mexican). They are acclaimed, and I am lucky to live within easy walking distance to them.

Portland does have some restaurants where one can sit down and order two and three courses for lunch. Little Bird Bistro (French) comes to mind, and Bistro Agnes (French), Nostrana (Italian), and Piazza Italia (Italian). Notice they are European in style. There are other restaurants, but the two and three course meal is unusual for lunch.

Portland really excels during the dinner hours. The most acclaimed restaurants serve only dinner; they are never open for lunch.

That offers a segue to the French desire to sit down and eat a proper two or three course meal for lunch. It is one of the classic differences between the two cultures. On another occasion I have defined those meals. In short the French do eat fast food, and they like a main dish and a dessert.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

But wait, there’s more!

what does it tell you, the setting?

“Place connects characters to a collective and personal past, and so place is the emotional center of story. And by place, I don’t simply mean location. A location is a dot on the map, a set of coordinates. Place is location with narrative, with memory and imagination, with history. We transform a location into a place by telling its stories.”–John Dufresne, The Lie That Tells a Truth

Some years ago in another life, I taught writing and literature in a high school. Students at that level continue to learn about plot, setting, character, theme, the fundamentals of a story, in other words.

I liked teaching setting and how it could reflect a character. In other words, put a person in a room and tell me who she is from the description of it? What can you tell me about her?

My students, who were living in an upper middle class, suburban neighborhood, would have different perceptions and options than those students living in a big city, such as New York City.

A cautious person satisfied with her situation wouldn’t think of heading into the unknown. The surroundings for her in the story would reflect that. The setting reveals the person.

In one exercise I brought to the classroom a box of objects and spread them on a table. I asked the students to examine them. I asked, “Can you imagine a person from these objects?” (The objects came from my living room coffee table.)

I like mysteries. Whodunnits. I like trying to figure out who the villain is. I look for clues in the story much like a detective who takes out his magnifying glass à la Sherlock Holmes and begins painstakingly examining the scene of the crime. Surely from the setting of the crime one could find a link to the villain.

(Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!