Archive for July, 2011

Awaken to Death in Revel

Posted in Food and Recipes, French Affair, French Travel, South of France, South West of France with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2011 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour my friend,

It’s my birthday week and it somehow turns my thoughts to life and death and the space in between. From year to year, this space is filled with every gammet of human emotion as well as our  dreams and biggest challenges. We all want this space to be magnificent. I hope it is for you right now.

Thinking about the cycle of life and death led me to thoughts of near death experiences. Those times when we experience a hint of impending finality here on earth and then perhaps something much more.

Have you ever had a near death experience? I mean a profound wake up call to impending death. I’ve read that these experiences are often documented with scientific and even religious significance but I’ve never heard of one that was connected to the taste buds…until mine.

Did you know that the French hold the honour of organising the world’s first ‘Near Death Experience Conference’? Yes, over 1500 delegates including doctors, patients and researchers gathered near the port of Marseille on this single day in 2006. I wasn’t present if that’s what you’re thinking.

A near death experience for me happened while holidaying in the beautiful south west of France in the village of Revel. I was left with one almighty aftertaste if you allow me to explain.

I had great recommendations of a fabulous Saturday market in Revel and I knew it was a lovely village to visit. Beautiful and interesting, it will keep you and yours happy for weeks and more as you wander around among the other nine thousand or so locals with plenty to see and do. But the main incentive for me this time was the hunt to find the perfect cake shop.

It was the divine trio of pizza, boulangerie and patisserie housed under the name of ‘Panetiere’ at 24 Boulevarde de la Republique in Revel which really caught my attention and as many of you will attest, finding the perfect cake is no easy feat. I’ve known maruding cake snufflers who go to great lengths to sniff out the best of cakes or pizzas  for that matter, like some truffle hunting pig and who do not fully exhale until they find their divine sweet or savoury treasure.

My dearest friend who masks sometimes as a formula 1 Driver, did just that. She had found Panetiere- PERFECTION in pizzas, breads and cakes. The Father, Son and Holy Ghost of pastry perfection across the entire south west of France and my french awakening could never ignore any great french culinary skills in pastry making! How could you?

Don’t get me wrong now. It’s not fancy in terms of Paris displays but it does offer divine little cakes and savoury morsels and marvellous pizzas. Rustic alluring pizzas at that. So divine in fact that their triggering of a single salivary gland has potentially high risk factors and I’m not talking about whispers of widening hips and calorific content!

So, here’s the patisserie…It doesn’t look much from the outside except that by now the wafting warm aromas of sweet pastry grew its beautiful tendrils in our direction…

and yes, yes, you will notice I’ve taken the photo from the middle of the road. I underestimated how long it would take to get to the other side and the pace at which the cars came speeding around the corner. Stupid I know. Patisseries and pizza parlours have that effect on me. I can’t help it… I think it’s genetic.

A car swerved to miss me and sprayed my legs with a sudden petrol gust in its momentum. I stood there motionless and of course, in shock. For an instant I felt a bright light. I can’t say how long I stood there. It wasn’t long enough to meet any dead relatives, but I felt transfixed to a bright light  in the patisserie window across the road.

About ten minutes later, on a bench around the corner, I asked myself,

“Was it worth it-the photograph? Sadly, No.

The pear tarte ? OH YEEES!”

For you too when you get to Revel, choose a little spot in the sun  to spoil yourself or find our park bench on Avenue Charles de Gaule around the corner from the shop. It will be the one covered with a few scattered crumbs!

I don’t remember what happened after that euphoric consumption. All I knew was that I had the aftertaste of near death in my mouth and I remained speechless for quite some time which is a shock to some. However, it didn’t stop our eating.

Jean Jacques Charbonnier, one of the French scientists who was present at the NDE Conference, claimed that his patients who had undergone near death experiences, actually felt that it was a positive thing and felt less attached to material things. I couldn’t agree more with the positivity but can one count a pear tart as a ‘material’ thing?

I would consider it ethereal. With a still warm, lightly aromatic poached French pear held in gossamer pastry, I knew why it tasted so sublime, so… heavenly. A gift from God, non?

Travel for miles for your pear tarte or your chocolate ganache if that’s your taste or you may not live to regret it.

Remember the Arbois chocolate hunt don’t you? https://myfrenchawakening.wordpress.com/2010/05/29/awaken-to-hirsingers-french-chocolate-in-arbois/

Life is too short. Death will come. Fill the space between with something magnificent.

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese

 

Copyright@Therese Waddell 2011

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Awakening to French Takeaway

Posted in Food and Recipes, French Affair, French Travel, Paris Shopping with tags , , , on July 10, 2011 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour my friends,

I’ve always been in two minds about takeaway food. I guess I grew up in an organised world where very little was left to chance and meals were carefully planned. There was only one day we digressed from routine and that happened to be on a Friday evening where the theme of catholic abstinence from red meat meant that fish and chips was the only real alternative in an era where the sushi train hadn’t blown its whistle.

I can recall vividly the ink print from thickened newspaper in which the hand cut chips were wrapped and there was no light seasoning of parsley and garlic that some gourmet places offer today. The smell of heavy salt and tangy lemons which had been cut into large quarters (lemons like everything else was so big back then!) nestled happily amongst fresh, thickly battered fish. The smell alone was unforgettable. Friday night fish and chips sometimes went hand in hand with a block of Cadbury’s Caramello chocolate for dessert (well it HAD to be Caramello as the commercial went…) Who remembers this ad on telly?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtMv4N9rN8c

The Caramello Block was evenly distributed by someone reliable and fair while the entire family watched television together. They were glorious evenings spent together and no one relegated themselves to some wee corner of the house with their own high tech gadget speaking a different language.

On other days our kitchen savoured great cooking and healthy eating which meant no takeaway bringing too salty, too sugary, too fatty, MSG and other additive enriched food oozing inconspicuously in today’s takeaway institutions. I guess I never grew an appreciation for this type of  food especially those which offered gimmicky toys and collector plastics.

It was not until I travelled to France when I discovered that good takeaway (and heavenly at the same time) could be purchased cheaply and quickly, savoured as much as home cooked or restaurant food and be a miraculous alternative when travelling across France.

My french awakening has come to the conclusion that quality is paramount in French takeaway food but I want you to be the judge of that. Allow me to show you some dishes I’ve purchased, photographed and eaten all for the cause from French supermarkets in the suburbs of Paris and beyond.

Here we have a delicious seafood paella which was purchased straight out of a brewing caldron…

I’ve bought many varieties of delicious sizzling seafood and beef casseroles and cold meats from the back section of any fresh food supermarket not to mention fab cheeses and crackers and even dirt cheap wines for as little as 2 euro!

While travelling through France, don’t be hesitant in wandering through French supermarkets. You’ll be able to pick up substantial meals at a fraction of the cost of a takeaway meal back home- and definately more appetitising! Each day offers different hot foods. Each a surprise. Take it all for a fun picnic under the Eiffel Tower perhaps. You may recall https://myfrenchawakening.wordpress.com/2010/01/29/awaken-to-the-eiffel-tower/

In the warmer months, salads can be bought over the counter like my salmon salad for instance…

Walk around a typical French supermarket and here’s a sample of things you could purchase, like these finds for breakfast or morning tea… Quetsches are plums by the way and makes a lovely jam!

Aromatic French tea and coffee,baguettes, jams, mustards and other condiments are offered here and are expensive elsewhere. This means you can have your own little French breakfast (petit dejeuner) such as https://myfrenchawakening.wordpress.com/2010/04/18/awaken-to-jam-recipes-and-french-breakfasts/ and relive France in your kitchen back home.

The Carrefour Group of supermarkets in particular, support French producers of fruit and vegetables. It’s very easy to spot French products now with the use of  little red, white and blue flags to draw attention to their own products. Perhaps we should do the same thing here?

The kiddiwinks and the young at heart however may dart into this aisle for an introduction into cereals and chocolate treats for making hot chocolate for instance.

I bought home quite a few boxes of French drinking chocolate for the kids from this aisle! Go into the sweets aisle and you’ll be hard pressed to come out alive if you don’t buy them French nougat and chocolate!

Supermarkets have an oasis of French products for you to purchase at half the cost. You can pick up your gifts to take home to family and friends across the globe and they will LOVE you for it!

We bought truffle wine and foie gras here too for the foodie in the family. (Moi!)

The diary aisle will entice you with a fresh array of heavenly cakes and custard desserts if there is no patisserie open. These were delectable and cost 3.50 euro for both- one for me and one for the driver. I call them ‘Heaven In Motion”!

There are well established gourmet food halls in Paris as you already know at https://myfrenchawakening.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/awakening-to-paris-gourmet/

which is a cook or chef’s delight, but the humble supermarket can give you results economically and quickly. Ther’es something to be said in trying to be local (when you’re not).

And yes, I like takeaway food in France. Do you? What have you experienced?

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

copyright@2011 Therese Waddell

Awaken to Evenings in Cult (70150), France

Posted in East of France, French Affair, French Gardens, French Travel with tags , , , , , , , on July 1, 2011 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour everyone,

How are we? It’s Friday here and the beginning of school holidays. It’s that fabulous evening when you breathe out real slowly and stop running on work time and kiss goodbye our “Groundhog Days” of  routine and minute snatching. For one solid evening we choose to run on empty-a sublime emptiness where new dreams are given enough room to unveil themselves and curl open in the back crevice of your brain. Ever feel like that yourself?

I start to imagine things I want to do and things which bring me great inspiration on these evenings. Strangely enough there springs to mind one beautiful evening in the miniscule French village of Cult, (with a grand total of 218 inhabitants), where I felt the same thing as this one- thinking about the possibilities. Thinking BIG.

Let me show you. I thought you might appreciate some snaps of my french awakening that particular evening when the earth stood still- as it should from time to time.

Perhaps they might trigger a few pulses of good intentions. As for me this evening, a new quilting project is brewing away to celebrate the holidays. (Good enough reason for now anyway). For you, if you’re maybe sitting miles across the planet and who are not on holidays, I hope you manage to snatch a few inspirational moments over the weekend.

Have a good one.

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese