Sunday, 2 February 2014

French cuisine...

I have been having quite a strange discussion on Twitter with the talented and very funny Jo Sandelson. It started with her latest post and a mention of Outnumbered and went onto eating hamsters, Guinea pigs and rats...

The Guinea pig part actually came from a real recipe that I have in a French recipe book published in 1950. I don't think that roast Guinea pig as Sunday lunch really 'caught' with French housewives ; I was just as surprised as the next non-eater of pets to find that recipe in my book.



Saying that... French people do like their rabbit, which I have never seen among any British butcher's ware or in any gourmet restaurant. I was myself quite partial to the rabbit stew my mother used to cook with red wine and mushrooms. I am going all misty eyed just thinking about it...

When we lived in Paris my mother used to go to a volailler (a butcher specialised in poultry) to by the cervelle that my brother liked as a little boy. Not my thing personally, I can't stand rubbery or floppy food. Although I used to eat snails at Christmas (that's festive French delicacies for you) but just because I loved the persillade (parsley and garlic butter) with which they were seasoned. Until I was old enough to realise that I could make the persillade and have it with something different. A whole childhood of being conned into eating slimy snails *sigh* ...

But, sorry to disappoint, I have never ever eaten frogs' legs and don't know anyone either who has.

I don't eat oysters, or Roquefort (blue cheese), didn't eat any strong cheese until I was at least 12 and only recently acquired a taste for foie gras. Believe me, coming from a family which half originated in the South West of France, with aunts making their own homemade foie gras, this was a major set back.

Talking of this part of the family, that's where the story about eating rat came from. Apparently one of my great great great, great... , aunts died during the siege of Paris because she refused to eat rat. Maybe not a story as funny as my grand dad's while he was working on a building site that involved tunnels. He and his fellow workmen used to hang their food from the ceiling to preserve it from the rats but they always found the rats had got at it no matter what! So one night they hid and waited. According to my grand dad they saw the rats giving each other a leg up to get to the food...!

Now my children... Although we go back to France regularly you can't help the fact that the food is ever so slightly different here. I mean, even if I made French dishes for every single meal, the ingredients are different. Sausages, minced beef, butter, milk, it's just not the same. So my children have a mixed Franco-British palate. When DD1 was only 3 years old we were on holidays in France and went to a bakery one morning. We thought it would be a treat to place our little one in front of all the enticing croissants, pains au chocolat, pains aux raisins, chaussons aux pommes, brioches... We asked her what she wanted and she said :

"I want a Chelsea Bun."



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