The French Adventure

Some may have noticed that NerdCuisine hasn’t updated in about two weeks. The main reason for this is that I’ve spent ten days in France, where I’ve spent more time pointing at stuff in menus than cooking, and gone online almost only for important stuff and only with an iPad. I don’t fancy writing and photographing whole blog posts with an iPad.

And now I’m back home, feeling a need to post something, anything, and thinking that the popular type of food blogs other than those with recipes is the kind of blogs where people simply tell their readers what they’ve been eating lately. That’s what I’m going to do now.

First of all I must say that I’m impressed with the French food stores that I visited. The sheer difference in selection is humbling. Needless to say, I had a ball every time there was food shopping that needed doing. Even the gas station supermarkets had more stuff than many medium sized grocery stores here in Sweden. I certainly don’t know about any gas stations here that offer foie gras or fresh mushrooms.

We spent large parts of the trip in the small village of Blauzac, about 10 miles north of Nîmes, in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon. One of the more obvious features of the house was the fig tree in the courtyard.

I didn’t encounter a fresh fig until I was 23, and most figs I’ve ever seen in Sweden have seemed to be hours away from rotting and sold at 7-15 SEK each (about 1-2 USD), not to mention the dried ones, which I’ve never liked. Will look into the possibilities of pot-growing a fig tree on the balcony (might be too windy).

On the second day in France, I fell in love with Coeur de Boeuf tomatoes. I think they’re much more interesting than the more ordinary looking beef tomatoes we usually get in Sweden.

They turned out to be very good for grilling.

The next day was Saturday, which seems to mean market day in rural french towns, in our case Uzès, a short distance from Blauzac. The importance of the market is even more apparent when you consider that it was held as usual even though it was also Bastille day and the day when the Tour de France was going to zip through town.

Garlic is obviously important. This wasn’t even the largest pile.

Bought a piece of Gruyère-like cheese at the market to have something to snack on while waiting for the bikes. We had laid siege to a couple of café tables and ordered a steady stream of coffee in order to keep our seats without complaint.

After the spectacle had died down (see, the competing bike riders were harbingered by a continuous flow of more or less fanciful sponsor trucks, making noise and handing out free samples for several hours) I was glad to go home to Blauzac and finish off the cheese along with a fig.

This is probably the closest this post will get to a recipe. I was charged with the task of dessert. Figs with Brie, black pepper and balsamic vinegar. The vinegar came in a spray bottle. Very convenient.

Now I’m skipping a couple of days, not because the food wasn’t interesting, but because I didn’t take any pictures. We headed for the Mediterranean coast to have lunch in Bouzigues, a small town, but very big in the seafood business.

Huîtres gratinées – Gratinated oysters

Moules à l’aïoli – Mussels with aïoli

Moules farcies – Stuffed mussels

Not only did the restaurant we visited know very well how to make sure lots of molluscs hadn’t died in vain. They also were quite good at desserts.

Crème Catalane (which is quite similar to brûlée, only with milk instead of cream)

Fromage blanc au coulis de fruits rouges et yaourt – Quark with red fruit sauce and yoghurt

After the lunch in Bouzigues, we spent a few days in nearby Balaruc-les-Bains. Apart from an accidentally ordered starter of whelks, the food was good considering that we didn’t pay very much, but it wasn’t mindblowing either. Either way, I didn’t take any pictures since dinner often happens late in the day in France, and I didn’t want to use flash.

Having spent four nights in Balaruc, we headed back to Blauzac to settle down a bit before heading home again via Marseille. Cooking dinner at the house there is a collective effort since there’s often a lot of people to feed. We had previously provided a potato salad, grilled tomatoes and a brie and fig dessert but were completely in charge this time. We decided to grill some lovely merguez sausages and serve them with ratatouille and hand cut pommes frites/french fries/chips since the kitchen equipment included a deep fryer. I’ve eaten ratatouille on several occasions, but never made it myself before. It turned out rather nice, partly, I’d like to think, because of coeur de boeuf tomatoes.

The camera battery died before I could get a proper photo (which also happened a couple of minutes before the Tour bikes raced past us) so we’ll have to make do with a phone photo. The ratatouille pan and frites bowl looks a bit small in the picture, but they contain food for 12 people.

It’s only good and proper to also mention that while at the beach in Sète, near Balaruc-les-Bains, I asked my girlfriend to marry me, which she graciously agreed to do. Now you know, in case this and future posts are unusually silly or chipper.

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8 Responses to “The French Adventure”

  1. Aw, I can barely respond to all the lovely food talk with a closing like that. :-) Cross-continental hugs all around, congratulations, I’m very happy for you!!
    Now everything food-wise sounds divine excepting the shellfish.
    The figs and cheese must have been wonderful. I love the idea of creme brulee without the creme. And what an honorable country that stockpiles heads of garlic! Sounds like it was a most epic vacation in every respect.

  2. Thank you very much! I’m pretty pleased with my timing :) https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/s720x720/487253_10150917818971160_1968519472_n.jpg

    there were so many cheeses and so little time! And the figs were absolutely awesome. Luckily, my fiancée’s (wee!) aunt and uncle who own the house make fig marmalade on a near industrial scale, so we’ll be able to enjoy them for the rest of the year as well :)

    I like shellfish, but had to draw the line at whelks. Especially cold whelks.

    Every little greengrocer and gas station had a pile of garlic like that. There was an even larger one at the Uzès market, but I felt too much like a hopeless tourist when photographing stuff like that, so I didn’t.

    I’m not sure a vacation will be that epic ever again, but I take comfort in the fact that we didn’t do everything there is to do in the region, or even the village.

    • There will be some similarly epic vacation in fifty years on your anniversary, I predict. :-)
      I have had fig preserves, the marmalade reminds me. What could be more wonderful than fig marmalade I wonder??
      Yeah, sometimes around here tourists take pictures of cows and we sneer. You wouldn’t want to risk scorn on that level.

      • I’d like that, but I wonder how much epicity I can take when I’m 80 years old :)

        I can’t think of anything better than fig marmalade off the top of my head. Personally, I’d be interested in trying one that contains a very peaty single malt instead of brandy, just for the contrast.

  3. congrats for the YES :) i just have to say that i like the way you do ur blogs, the food looks yummie and the way is unique, the pic u take are great … waiting for new posts …

  4. Ok go when you’re 75 then.

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