Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Homework

Were you one of those kids that just loved to do their homework? Did your children come home from school and ask if they could get rigth to their homework ? No prompting. No whining. Funny, the thoughts that are going through your mind right now are the same as those of studetns and parents all over France. Homework is a pain.


Families in France have the same homework dilemas as their counterparts in the States. No need to tell you, you know all of the issues and buttons.

Twice a week our little village offers an after school homework club. Students come directly from school to the community hall for an hour and a half to work with a group of volunteers. The hope is to take a little pressure off this exercise for at least these two days and to establish a rhythm to the work time; snack, homework, play.

Snack will be two long baguettes slathered with butter, accompanied by blocks of chocolate or jam. Yes, a buttered slice of bread with chocolate. In winter the kids are good about eating an amazing amount of clementines. At this time of year they settle for applesauce.


After snack it's time to get down to business.  Procrastination suddenly sets in. It takes a good five miutes to get out the homework notebooks. Then they have to find something to write with and of course getting their bottoms into a chair is pert near impossible.




Even without the distractions of home it can take a moment to buckle down to conjuations, multiplication tables, poetry memorization, and spelling list. A five minute exercise can take a good 15 to 25 minutes, longer, depending on the obstinancy of the child.




Ah, but once it is done it's play time. Dodge ball, tag, paper airplane competitions, games as universal as the afterschool homework.


I know you can picture the emotions of homework, but  I wonder if you can picture yourself giving a child bread and butter  with a slab of chocolate to get them going. It just wouldnt do if there wasnt at least one big difference between here and there. 

Try the bread, butter, chocolate - you'll thank me!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gourmet Wisteria??



Wisteria Dessert Treat

According to the local newspaper "it is the moment to regale your senses in observing, in smelling and yes...even in eating the flowers of wisteria that are bursting in the gardens. Originally from Asia, the wisteria produces flowers with an unequal odor. But watch out, if the flowers are edible, the leaves and twigs on the other hand are toxic".

The second part of the "it is the moment to..." is this recipe -

Wisteria Souffle´
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. 
Mix 75 g of flour
4 soup spoons of sugar
1 egg
10 cl of milk
then blend in 4 egg whites whipped into snow whites
Add 100 g of wisteria flowers equeutees - "to remove the stalks from". Often my recipe includes a French English dictionary.

Cook in ramekins for 15 minutes - be sure not to open the oven during this time









I was pleasantly surprised by how lovely the soufflé´looked. But, Tom and I both agreed that there was really not much flavor. For some reason we thought of the story of The Emperor's New Clothes. The notion of wisteria flavor being so exotic it seems it would be easy to persuade you to test your culinary sensitivity to this amazingly sublime taste - but, is there really any taste....?



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