March 29, 2015

Local Food At Home and in France

A new piece appeared in today's Valley News about how French and American people consider local food. The link is here and in the list to the right.

March 28, 2015

Souper Good

Soup is hot. Soup is pretty cool. And, in France, soup is borderline obsession. I asked my neighbor what French people eat for dinner. He said, "Un potage." That's French for "soup." Of course, "soupe" is also French for soup, but no matter. 

When we were in the southwest of France in late February, our hostess made Trash Can Soup: leftover lentils, bendy carrots killing time in the crisper, zucchini that should be making out with a Hefty Hefty Cinch Sack, mashed potatoes loitering behind the milk. Nothing a little water, salt, and crème fraîche won't cure. 

Soup comes with caution, naturally. A dietician recently commented on the radio that an all soup diet was no good because, "soup, it is just water and vegetables. We need protein, fat, and dairy in our diet." Clearly, this was a woman who had never tasted my wife's sausage/spinach/white bean soup dusted with parmesan. 

So what can you not make soup out of? I consulted my French "I Know How to Cook" cookbook. The answer is: Nothing. Want to make "economical soup"? Heat some chicken broth and grate an uncooked potato over it. Cook for 10 minutes, add some butter, salt and pepper. Serve and eat. 

March 17, 2015


When it comes to weather, Burgundy is in that tricky time of year. The sun has been rising bright and cheerful each morning, and lingers in the evening sky, covering the landscape in pinks and oranges. From inside the house, it is easy to think it is shorts and t-shirt weather. But it is still winter, and there is frost on the windshield most mornings before eventually heating up. Yesterday, we experienced a 68 degree temperature swing in under 10 hours. Regardless, after the cold we had in January and February, it is most definitively hiking season. In the past few days I have climbed up logging roads, down narrow woods trails, scaled rock faces, and, of course, walked trough some of the most famous vines in the world.

As noted in a previous post, French people like to brag about the diversity of their geography. As un-noted elsewhere, it can be extraordinarily annoying for an American to concede that the French are right. The problem isn't with the substance, it is just that they are always so blasé when you tell them they are right. "Beh, oui," they say, shrugging off any compliment you pay to them about their food, history, traditions, landscapes, wines, or architecture. It is as if you have just told them that the Sahara can be hot and dry.

March 11, 2015

Road Trip

Gorges d'Ardèche
French people love to brag about their country. Their favorite claim is that France has everything that America has, just in a much smaller area: mountains (Alps, Pyrenees, etc.), sea and ocean (Cote d'Azur, Biarritz, Normandy, etc.), rivers (Seine, Rhône, Dordogne, etc.), a world capital (check). But dig past these obvious ones, and one does discover amazing variety. In our recent 10-day vacation, we saw the chateaux forts perched on the rocks of Périgord, the deep gorges in Southern Ardèche, and the crowded Rhône river valley at Vienne, a town I had never heard of before arriving. 

In addition to memorable sightseeing, nice walks, and a big-time bike race that leapt up out of nowhere to surprise us in the hills around Vallon Pont d'Arc, we learned a lot about food and our children's ability to handle life on the road. 

Our French adventure started in December 2013 in Sarlat. We stayed with the family that hosted me in Paris in 1995-96. They closely monitored the way we fed our children -- aged 3 and 8 months at the time, who had just left the only home they had ever known, all their routines, all their extended family, their native language -- and found it woefully lacking. Our hosts deemed an innocent chicken sandwich as backwards as broccoli for breakfast. "Why are they eating dinner at 5:30pm? Children eat at 7:00pm." You get the idea. 

Now, back at the scene, our boys had mastered the schedule and were happy with their breakfast of cereal and chocolate milk, family lunch at noon, the nationally-mandated afternoon goûter at 4:00 or 4:30, and dinner before their parents. I confess I was a little proud of them.