Fromage by any other name would smell as…sweet?

PERSONALLY, I wouldn’t put the live fretting chickens, roosters and rabbits next to the cheese display.  I would think the ‘aroma’ of one would influence the sale of the other.  But no one asked me, the FDA was nowhere in sight and this is the way it’s been done for hundreds of years…voilà.

Welcome to the weekly frenetic Friday market in Ganges, France where the streets are closed to cars for the day and fresh, homegrown and homemade EVERYTHING is on offer.

But we needed cheese.  And the best cheesemonger was, indeed, right across from the rabbits.

Best and busiest…so you had to know exactly what you wanted…quickly…and in French.

We saw our chance and seized it…no one at the counter.

Bonjour Madame…Bonjour!    Yes, can I help you?

Ok, we remember the name of the cheese.  Oui, s’il vous plaît.   Tomme de vache…yes, she’s going right for it…we got the name right!  Uh-oh, people are gathering…a little pressure.   Combien monsieur? How much would you like?

(Now here is where all these years of shopping at Costco have trained our North American minds that more is better)

The people in line know if they want 100 grams or 150 grams and they know which of the 250 cheeses on display they would like.

We just know…about that big.  Put your 2 hands together to form a wedge…it’s very precise.  Comme ça?  she asks.  Like this?

Say smaller, say smaller, say smaller says the little voice in my head…’Oui, comme ça’ is what comes out of my mouth instead.

There are 8 families of French cheese…Fresh, soft with natural rind, soft with washed rind, pressed, pressed and cooked, goat, blue, processed.  Then within each family you can have different types of milk…cow, sheep, goat.  This creates between 350 to 400 different varieties of French cheese.  With lots of variation within each kind, that amounts to about 1000 different sorts of cheese.  Phew!  ok, now which one do you want and how much can I get you?

Cheddar, Kraft singles, processed,bagged, shredded mozzarella…there, we have pretty much covered what is found in an American grocery store.

The woman was, in all honesty, very helpful and actually let us taste a couple varieties…until the crowd started to gather around us.  At that point tasting was over and it was down to ordering.  The 100 grams method to be sure, is a more accurate way of ordering than making a wedge with your two hands.  The wedge method gets you enough cheese for the neighborhood, which is what we had when we walked away.

The chickens, roosters, rabbits and pigeons were still there, fretting, cackling and cooing,  less concerned about my French ordering skills than they were about their immediate future.

And,  it is amazing how quickly one can acclimate to the ‘aroma’ in an outdoor market.

 

 

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What doesn’t make you stronger, only makes you fatter

There is nothing more illustrative of “Journey. People. Culture. Food.”  than the traveling baker to the small villages in this area of the Cévennes.

St. Jean de Buèges, like many of the local villages, is not big enough to support a baker (or a store of any sort, for that matter) so the baker, the Boulangère, comes to us.

Pinch me!    How long have I dreamt about a traveling pastry truck driving to me?! Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: FROM ABOVE

This week’s Photo Challenge, to photograph something FROM ABOVE, instead of straight on, from the side, or any other angle allows me to show you pictures of the thing I (unknowingly?) seem to photograph a lot…Food.

 

Hmmm…now if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly got very hungry!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lunchtime

Forgive me…this is not today’s lunch with my camera phone…I often skip lunch, and that would be a pretty boring photo…

HOWEVER…

One of the most memorable Lunches I have ever had, was a Sunday lunch last summer in Les Arques, France at Le Recreation (I’m not really sure if there is any other restaurant in this village, in which case, I could just say, I had lunch in Les Arques!)

Elegant, memorable, wonderful ambiance, the most delicious food, and great friends…what could be better?

 

 

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Splash of Color

The vendors’ stalls in El Mercat de La Boqueria in Barcelona breathe life into color.

Once inside, you realize that you have never before seen red, until you saw the strawberries in front to you…you’ve never seen orange until that piece of Valencia next to it.

Splash of Color, La Boqueria

The myriad of fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, cheese, coffee, cafes, tapas…each vendor hawking his wares, looking you in the eye to make sure you understand that theirs is the best, the freshest, the tastiest, beyond compare.

Si, Señora, these are the best!

As soon as you enter La Boqueria, you are swept in, like a pebble in a river’s current, and the smartest idea is to go with the tide.

So many different colors of tomatoes

The fruits and vegetables bloom in the ultimate expression of their given colors…

while the grays, whites and pinks of the squid and octopus are pulsing as they writhe to escape the fishmonger’s table.

The colors fill the air, surround you and get into your nostrils as you inhale…

LIVING color…vibrant, palpable, LIVING color.

Chefs, grab your ladles

Much has been written about the gender wars when it come to cooking.  Who makes a better chef, a man or a woman?  Who pays more attention to detail? Does one gender have a natural penchant for cooking? (A-Hem) and so on…

But the real question is…why isn’t my husband making dinner more often? (No, actually, truth be told, I can’t say that…at all!  Steven is an excellent cook and I probably just got myself into a lot of trouble)

But what I mean to say is

Barcelona is a center of culinary delight.  The freshness that spills out of markets like La Boqueria and Santa Cristina is testament to that.  So what better place to learn some of the secrets of their ‘cuina’ (yeah! I know a word in Catalan!) than cooking school?

Steven and I went to the ‘Cook & Taste’ cooking school in Barcelona and learned some Catalan specialties…divine!  We also learned the answer to that long-debated question, who makes a better chef, a man or a woman?  The simple answer is…

Whoever puts down their wine glass long enough to get the work done.  In the case of our Catalan cooking class, it was definitely the men!

10 of us, eager students and food lovers, arrived at 11 a.m. where Maria, our instructor, had laid out all the items we were going to need to cook each dish.  She went through them one by one, starting with the Romesco sauce for roasted courgettes (zucchini).  Once she had demonstrated how each dish would be cooked, she invited us to start pouring our wine (Spanish, of course); after all, what self-respecting chef cooks without wine?

We laughed and savored our way into Catalan cooking and eating until well after 4 p.m.  We were stuffed and swore off eating…until about 9:30 that night (it is Barcelona, after all).

Maria, I need you for a dinner idea tonight!

(Click on image below for slideshow)

Next time you are in Barcelona, you can find them at:

Cook & Taste   Tallers de Cuina – Cooking Workshops

Paradis 3, 08002 Barcelona

T. +34 933 021 320         http://www.cookandtaste.net

(Have you ever been to a cooking class when traveling?  I would Love to hear about it!)