Whatever little time I have at the moment is spent almost exclusively drooling over the thought of calissons. That no doubt someone in my family has just eaten or is about to eat (if it’s my father as a side to coffee) because it’s Christmas time and calissons flow freely this time of year.
It’s more than six years since I’ve eaten one… Can’t… take… much… more!
(Image from here)
So ‘Chemical Yeast’ in French translates to ‘Baking Powder’ in English. And when recipes call for half a packet (it’s understood it’s a packet of Alsa, which is a kitchen staple in France), it’s 5 grammes-ish.
The lightbulb just went off in my head. It’s a bit embarrassing considering I’ve lived here 9 years and brought home baker’s yeast countless times (direct translation, see?) and didn’t bother to investigate on Wikipedia until this morning, even when the resulting cakes and biscuits tasted a bit too much like bread.
(Image from here).
I was recently given a medical diagnosis and, simply stated, I won’t be allowed to eat bread for the rest of my life. Ever again. Or anything made with delicious pastry (adieu croissant, pain au chocolat, brioche…*). Please don’t anyone suggest there are plenty of alternatives, because I am freakishly gifted at detecting the taste of tapioca flour, and I am not ready in my mind to accept some grainy and squishy Frankenstein as the same thing as baguette. Or tartine.
Not to mention that in my own country, I am now a ‘little nature’: it’s not looked at with very much mercy not being able to eat everything. Let me tell you: the Frères Jacques sang about the difficulty of eating jam on a tartine. Not on a corn cake.
And by the way don’t be fooled by their black tights: I think that song is a cunning metaphor for how unpredictable and sticky life can get…
(*Says I in the spirit of Jean de la Fontaine).
(Image from here).
My mother doesn’t like to cook; this means as long as she sticks to a recipe it’s fine, but the second she tries to improvise bad things happen.
As far as baking is concerned, no one can touch her trusty gâteau au yaourt, but any forays into freehand baking tend to be disastrous. So my mother earned a bit of a reputation: ‘the Michelin baker’. Not intended to reference the number of stars (or absence thereof), but the resemblance of her pastries and cakes to the texture and weight of actual rubber tyres. Or as my sister would say: ‘throw one of her cakes against a window and it will break the glass’.
I on the other hand like to cook, and while I have produced my fair share of shapeless unidentifiable meals (What? It’s polenta and lentils!) overall my success rate tends to be higher than Maman’s. Except lately… On Friday I tried to bake some bread (and substituted/skipped some ingredients I didn’t have, thinking it would be totally fine…) – and I instead produced a Michelin loaf. Dense and rubbery, squeaky when you try to chew, with unmistakable glass-breaking potential. I have been eating little bits of it since then (taking a good 10 mn to work through a single bite), probably out of guilt to have teased her all these years.
Add to this my recently developed habit of falling asleep in front of a film, waking up to see the credits rolling and immediately asking ‘What did I miss? What happened?’ (and failing to see why it might be irritating) – I have to come to the following conclusion. I am becoming more and more like my mother. Next thing I know I’ll probably start dancing doing her stretching pussycat move. Help me…
(Image from here)
PS: I love my mother to bits, Michelin cakes, pussycat moves and all.
After years of having to live without it (years I tell you!), why did my undying love and passion for pain viennois come crashing down on me this morning?
For some strange reason, pain viennois is an absolute rarity in Melbourne (or I haven’t been looking in the right places).
If anyone knows where I can get some, be kind and save me from my drooling madness.
(Image is from here)
You should take my word for it: I grew up in Provence and it is beautiful all year around. But especially in spring: the air is still fresh but the sun shines and the sky is blue as my Christian’s eyes (which are very blue).
If you don’t trust me (and think I am biased, which I will admit to), then trust this man: Anthony Peregrine, an English expatriate who lives there (and is regularly called a ‘filthy English pervert’ by one of the old colourful characters in his village who cycles past his house to get his bread every morning).
Monsieur Peregrine even writes a paragraph about my home town of Aix-en-Provence and has lovely things to say about it (he’s after my own heart I think). Read it in all its glory here.
And now I am going to go drown my nostalgic home sickness in a bowl of soupe au pistou (best soup in the world – yes, biased again).
(Picture from Anthony Peregrine’s article).
Of note, I am also in the mood for seriously kicking in the shins anyone who is nutty/deluded enough to add/advocate anchovies in tapenade*. And anyone who calls it ‘Olive pâté’ or ‘Olive paste’.
*But I probably won’t: I’m fairly non-violent, and too tired.
(Image from here)
If you are wondering whether I’ve lost my mind, no: it’s a quote from the Simpsons … one of my favourite episodes (the one where Lisa screams ‘Wild beast’ at Mr Burns because she’s being chased by a forest goat, and he screams back ‘Liberal midget!’. Classic).
I am talking about something different though, namely how I can’t get a break at home. You see, Christian thinks it’s hilarious to diss France and rag on me whenever he can. And I have to admit he does it in such a witty way I always near pee my pants laughing (yet engage in fake indignation, just to save face).
So one of my many nicknames at home is ‘Eurotrash’. The TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, our bullet train) which is ungodly fast and has broken records (has it? I’m sure I remember it has!), well you see it’s no achievement at all because France is such a puny country it’s no big deal going from end to end rapidly. I have to be contrarian and difficult because it’s the French way of life. Pre-vegan days, I got so excited over the lift of the roquefort embargo to Australia that Christian still quotes me saying ‘I have fantastic cheese news!!’. Can’t get a break…
And now because it’s getting late, Eurotrash is going to make some dinner. 1, 2, 3, 4.