Us Seniors

Elder et Soeur Arn & Jody

Thursday, October 30


When one thinks of France, they usually think of French chefs extraordinaire, fabulous cuisine, dishes with delicate sauces that are exquisitely presented, sidewalk cafes and delicious cheeses and breads to go with all meals.
It is all true. The food here is more than fabulous. It's funny though that things we often think of as French, really are not. French fries were invented in Belgium. However, "frites" here accompany almost any lunch menu. The French people we talked to had never heard of the term French toast. They do, however, have the same thing only they call it "pain perdu" which means lost bread. French bread is not the same here. The baguette is much narrower and crispier than the French bread we get in the States. French onion soup is just onion soup here, but it is still really good.

But the quintessential French food has to be escargot. You can buy them fully prepared and frozen at the grocery store. We have even seen them sold from carts in the town square. We are sure that they are on the menus of all the better restaurants, although we have never been to one of those to know for sure.

The fresh produce is unbelievable. Everything is beautiful and very large. We found this giant cabbage at a roadside stand just outside of Paris.
This very large green pepper was also at that stand.

They even have some very interesting vegetables that we had never seen before.
This purple cauliflower was in a display with cauliflowers that were orange, bright yellow and various shades of purple. It tastes the same as our cauliflower but certainly adds some flare to the table.
Speaking of purple, these giant heads of garlic are a very delicate shade of purple. The taste is much the same as regular garlic, but the color is more fun.
This alien looking vegetable is called le Chou Romanesco - we called ours Oscar. It is very strange looking and tastes like a cross between cauliflower, artichoke and broccoli, but very sweet.
Elder Murray holding a large celery root. These are very popular. They grate them and serve them similarly to cole slaw. It is funny because even though they are so popular, you can hardly ever find stalks of celery.
We are not sure what this fruit is called, but it is very sweet and, again, a little alien looking. During certain times of the year, there are stands on the streets selling Cepes. These are very, very large mushrooms that sell for as high as 25 Euros a kilo. This picture is very appealing, but the Cepes that are at the stands are all very dirty and dark brown. We never bought any, but evidently they are wonderful and people wait in lines to buy them. We understand that they grow wild and local entrepreneurs pick them and sell them on the streets.

They also sell mussels, oysters, clams, etc. at these street side stands. Somehow it never seemed very appetizing to us to buy seafood from the equivalent of a kid's lemonade stand. These little cakes are called les bonnes madeline de Marguerite. We had to include them as they are named after our newest granddaughter and Arnold's mother.
JoAnn learned to make ganache and used it to frost Arnold's birthday cake. It is so easy and decadent. Ganache Recipe: 8 ounces (227 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces, 3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream, 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth. Makes enough ganache to cover a 9 inch (23 cm) cake or torte.
The pastries here are also wonderful. One of our favorites is called Paris Brest - after two towns in France.This lucky Elder received a 16.5 pound brioche. Brioche is something like a dinner roll only sweet.
Around the 9th of January, la Fête des Rois (Epiphany or Twelfth Night), most families have a galette des Rois, a rich pastry cake filled with frangipane (almond paste) [JoAnn's favorite flavor in France]. The cake contains a fève, literally a bean, as this is what was originally used. Nowadays the fève takes the form of a tiny plastic or ceramic figure. The person who gets the fève in their portion puts on the cardboard crown which comes with the cake. Elder Stucker is the lucky recipient.
With all this delicious French food, the Elders seem to have a penchant for Danish cookies, sold in these colorful tins and they keep forever.
More Elder food. About 75 percent of the breakfast cereals here have chocolate in them. Another 20 percent are highly sweetened. If that is not enough sugar, the Elders love Nutella on their toast. Nutella is kind of like peanut butter only they use hazel nuts with chocolate added.
They have most of the same soft drinks here with some additions. This guava drink is popular with the Elders. We never found root beer while we were here. They also have a drink called Sirop, which is kind of like Kool-aid only in a liquid form. You pour a small amount in a glass and add water. One of the favorites of the French here in Bordeaux is "mint" but it really has a menthol (Listerine) type taste. We never could get used to drinking mouthwash.

Interesting meals we have been served include the following:
Raclette is a type of cooking appliance that sits on the table. Each person cooks his own food on the Raclette machine. It is kind of like fondue in that regard. Meats and fish are usually cooked on the top and special Raclette cheese is melted on the bottom tier.
Potatoes are cooked ahead of time and each person peels and mashes his own potatoes on his plate. Then you add the meats, etc. and pour on the cheese. They also fry eggs on the top tier. Elder Warren and Elder Stucker fixed this for us when Laura and Susan came to visit. They borrowed the raclette machine from the DeFranchis. They also have what they call a "missionary raclette" which is all the same ingredients but baked in the oven like a casserole, for those who do not have a raclette machine.
We enjoyed a middle eastern dish at Toon and Ellys called tangine which is cooked in this interesting ceramic cooker.
There are many dishes you can buy ready to eat at the mall, in small Mom and Pop stores, or sometimes in the parking lot of other stores.
French crepes are sold at the mall. Believe it or not this is a Ben and Jerry's ice cream store. They also make crepes while you wait. They serve them with sugar, whipped cream, nutella, jam, chocolate, etc.
This paella was being sold on the street at an outdoor market in Sarlot, a medieval town we went to with Laura and Susan. The shrimp and mussels were huge. It is served also with chicken and sausages - all over saffron rice. Very delicious.
There is a very large middle eastern influence in this part of France. "Kebab" is very, very popular. It is similar to gyros that we get in the States. Mondial Kebab was our favorite place to get kebab.
They serve kebabs in a pita like this or on French bread or in a tortilla like wrap. Many places put the French fries right on the sandwich. This is Elder Fish enjoying his kebab.
Elder Warren with an especially large kebab. It takes at least two hands to hold it. They are a good deal as you get a lot of food for around 2 Euros.

We didn't get to eat out very often and took pictures of what we ate even less. Here are pictures from two of the restaurants we ate at.

These first ones are from a little restaurant in Weiterswiller, where Arnold's ancestry came from - Weiterswiller not the restaurant.
Pork steaks, salad and potato pancakes.
Sausages, cold cuts, eggs - the appetizer.
Delicious creamy soup. We thought the dishes were especially charming.

These next pictures were taken at a seafood restaurant in Arcachon. We went there with Laura and Susan. It is a ocean side town and all the restaurants along the beach were very expensive. We thought that this one had a reasonable price for one dish, but after we were seated we found out that was the children's menu price. Anyway, we tried some interesting things that we might not have otherwise tasted.
This is what Arnold ordered. He splurged and got a very expensive item, but it was well worth it. Every bit of it was outstanding. It was some kind of sea bass.
JoAnn's was less expensive, but also very delicious. The tall skinny thing sticking out of the fish is a piece of toasted spaghetti.
Laura's meal was the most adventerous of all. We were not sure exactly what it was.
This is a close up shot of whatever it was. We think maybe some kind of octopus or squid. Laura was hesitant at first, but we were all so hungry that she dove right in and found that it was really good.
Susan's was the least expensive. She had a fish soup which came with this bread. We didn't get a picture of the soup, but she said it was actually worth the price.

There are some of the most beautiful food displays here. They make everything so inviting to the eye and make it almost irrestible. We figured if we tried a new delight every day we still would not have time to try everything. But, at least we are giving it a try. Spices are sold in these colorful displays at outdoor marches (markets). We never tried any but they sure looked great.
This shell fish display was just outside of the restaurant we ate at in Archachon.
Their pastries are all a work of art. They are almost too beautiful to eat - well maybe not. They looked so good, how could you resist.Breads are displayed everywhere. They have so many different shapes and varieties.
Paella sold at the outdoor marche in Sarlot. This pan is about as big as large coffee table - about four feet across. The shrimp, etc. were very, very large (even the long skinny red antenna). "Could be meat - could be cheese." (George Carlin) We think some kind of meat.

They had a way of displaying their fresh produce that would make even a vegetable-hating kid want to take some and try it.
If you have a sweet tooth, France is the place to be. They have so many varieties of candy and they are displayed with such flare. The only caveate is that often they put liquor in their candies. Bordeaux has a speciality called canneles. They looked so good and we thought we should try them since they are so associated with Bordeaux. But then wine is also associated with Bordeaux. These canneles were soaked in rum. Boy were we surprised and disappointed when we had to throw them in the trash. We think the picture below is of a variety of olives. We got this picture from one of the Elders.
There must be at least a begillion kinds of cheeses in France. The display cases go on and on and on in the grocery stores alone.
The Merrells had a little hedgehog that crept into their yard at night and helped himself to the cat's food. We're not sure what this has to do with this treatise on French food, but it was too cute not to put in here someplace.And to quote Oliver: "Please, Sir, can I have some more?"