Friday, April 24, 2015

Awareness

"Chef Pierre, le fils*, believes that what is lost in elegance is gained in a greater awareness of where our food comes from."

*Son of Chef Pierre, the elder.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Cheese Louise


goats cheese, Dordogne, France
On Sunday mornings at the market I always buy a small, simple, white, hockey puck looking thing. Watching Louise carefully wrap this small treasure into a piece of paper there is no hint of the hard work and long hours that she has poured into her precious shapes. Louise sells goat’s cheese. Goat’s cheeses that she has produced.
Louise Dunne, goats cheese, Cercle, France
Cheese, simple and complicated at the same time. From one source, the goat, one can create a variety of products. Soft cheese, hard cheese, feta, ricotta, tome, fromage blanc, caprice de diable, and milk. The recipes do not vary much. The differences are controlled by time, temperature, the method selected to strain the curds and whey, and even the mood of the goats and the maker. These variations have a dramatic effect on the texture and taste of the straight from the goat warm, opalescent liquid milk. And after many years of enjoying Louise’s cheeses, I can say that her mood is of a sunny disposition. 

For one week I followed most of the daily routine of Louise, affectionately called Cheese Louise. Louise is the shepherdess of a herd of 50 or so goats. The number of goats in the herd, like everything else in this process, fluctuates with the seasons and the whims of nature. During this one week I learned that the outward appearance of a shepherdess is calm and collected, but within that composure there is a doctor’s evaluating eye, a chemist’s calculating mind, an artist’s unthinking hand, and a juggler of so many plates that one gasps each time a new one is tossed up and added to the swirling calamity. 

Feeding the goats, milking the goats, getting the goats in and out of pasture, cleaning the barn, lambing in the spring time, carefully shepherding the quality and health of the herd, these are the day in, day out basics of goats cheese. Because without the goats--no cheese; with the goats-- a lot of work.


My days started in the washroom where strict hygiene is the rule.  Shoes off, no jewelry, don a white jacket and a hair net. Once in the cheese room Louise is transformed from rugged farm hand to cheese maker supreme. A magician that waves her wand over a jug of raw milk and creates the taste of earth.

By the time I arrive for the work day the goats have already been milked. Two milk jugs sit at the door stoop, waiting for cheese alchemy. Nothing goes into the cheese room without being sterilized, so we have to wipe down these heavy jugs before we lug them into the very white, constantly 21 degree Celsius room. After watching her demonstrate I,too, am able to heft the jug and gently pour the fresh milk into a large basin. Louise does this in one fluid motion. The milk is mesmerizing as it ribbons into the basin. My first attempt is a pathetic humph and I just about drop the jug back onto the floor, but I have also been instructed to be as gentle as possible while handling the milk. I place the jug back down and have to reevaluate the strength needed and the motions to follow. Like any artist she has made her work look easy. This will be a week of joy and awe as I learn just a little of the magic of cheese production. Mastery will not be achieved in a week. Actually this week will make the magic even more magical to me.

Here are some photos of my week. These inadequate images give you some small view into the magical processes I experienced in the cheese room. 












Nothing I say will replace the true experience. Here is a link to Louise’s website - https://www.vidados.com/cheese-making-holiday/6273/location Come on over and spend a week with her. I promise it is not all work and there is lots of play.

What fun to have you work with her for a few days and visit with us at the same time!

If you are not up to a visit to France I recommend seeing if there is a local farmer that will allow you to work with them for a bit of time. Once you have participated in the “creation” of something that you will be putting on your plates you will forever view the source and effort that goes into our foods in a different way. 


There’s no need to preach, but come visit us, bite into these delicious, simple circles that Louise and her goats have created and know what real food is. Thank goodness for the small farmers everywhere that are willing to work so hard.
Thank you Cheese Louise! An experience that changed my perspective on a lot of things!!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday's Petite Aquarelle

Brantome Market Morning Dordogne France
12" x 16" framed size


$120 including shipping 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

There and Here

When we say that we live in southwestern France some of you think here-
The land of Van Gogh,

crisp bright sunshine,
olive oil and lavender,

la torrida,
endless elegant dinner parties,
and rooftops perched to resist the mistral.
That is there. We are here.





Monday, March 30, 2015

Styles

It wasn’t like it was calling my name. No neon sign was pointing at the neat stack of fruit. There was no hot summer sun to put them in mind. The fact is that a tasty, ripe melon was the furthest thing from my mind as I entered the corner store to pick up lettuce and a few other salad fixings.
Yet as soon as I spied them I really wanted one. 

I had escaped their siren call and was checking out when somehow the owner and I struck up a conversation about how crazy it was that melons were nestled there among the oranges and celery roots at this time of year just barely past winter.
Then he said, “I had one for breakfast and they are dee-li-cious!” 

That was it. I cracked. I scurried back to the melons to sniff. They did indeed have a lovely, just ripe smell. Without even looking at the price I put that little temptress on the counter and paid up.

Back home I placed that jewel on the kitchen counter to keep it in mind for my afternoon snack.

Later in the morning a friend stopped by to chat. She too was attune to the siren call of the melon. But this time there was no lust in spying that taste of summer. My friend looked at me incredulously and asked, “What are you doing with a melon at this time of year? If you are having that treat now what will be your great pleasure in the month of August!?”

This is a quintessential, composed, French response.  One of prudent self denial, versus the impulsive American approach: immediate gratification.


Let me just tell you that, sitting on a garden bench under a timid spring sun,  immediate gratification-- with a dash of salt-- was oh so tasty.