Ariane was a nine-year-old pupil of the Ecole des Ruisseaux, and she never ate at the school cafeteria. Each school day, she had lunch at her grandparents’. Lucky girl.
Every school day, she would cross the school portal alone, and sing to herself “Youpi youpi, miam miam chez mamie!” while trotting with her square satchel swinging on her tiny shoulders. Petite chanteuse (singer, f.).
Every day, she would ring at the entrance door, shout “C'est moi!” into the intercom, enter the building, pass through the hallway, climb the stairs like a joyful lamb and ring at Grandpa's and Grandma's door. She would chime again “C'est moi,” kiss one cheek, two cheeks and go sit at the table. Then, she would start fiddling with the fork, the spoon, the rim of her glass and the empty bottom of her plate.
That Tuesday, Grannie had prepared a Soufflé au Fromage. Ariane loved the way it deflated under her fork with a soft puff sound. And, she loved even more the creamy golden taste when it melted in her mouth. The day before, Grannie had cooked a Blanquette de veau with rice and carrots, and Ariane got despondent because she had eaten so many tartines de rillette to get up an appetite that she was no longer hungry for the best to come.
“On me m'y reprendra plus,” she muttered to herself with a puckered face. On Thursday, Grandpa and Granny had guests for lunch. Granny cooked a traditional Coq au Vin and Grandpa opened a bottle of an old 1993 Anjou-Village rouge, Château de Brissac, along with a package of grape juice for the child.
That day, Grandpa and his friend José talked a lot about domestic politics (Grandpa got angry about the socialists), about foreign politics (“Qu'est-ce que la France va trafiquer chez ces bachibouzouks ?!”), and about the airbus industry. As for Granny and her friend Josette, they blabbered about the weather, the Internet and Josette's new personal computer. Grandma told Grandpa to stop speaking so loudly, and Josette reproached José for drinking so much. On Friday, the three had a beef steak with roasted potatoes. And, it tasted like beef steak-with-roasted-potatoes heaven. Ariane enjoyed eating at her grandparents.
Ten years later, Ariane started cooking for herself and her German flatmate. But, her dishes never tasted like Grandma's.
So, she asked herself the right questions:
What did Grandma always have in her fridge?
How do I roast potatoes so that they taste like Grandma's?
How do I cook my vegetables so that they taste so healthy?
What makes French cuisine so great?
What did Grandma always have in her fridge?
- salted butter
- homemade vinaigrette
- 7 different types of vegetables
- 6 different types of cheese
- 4 different types of meat and fish, from lamb shanks to pork ribs and river eels, and from chicken legs to tuna and veal liver.
Salted butter, mustard and homemade vinaigrette are the traditional condiments of French cuisine. They don’t alter the taste of food, but rather they enhance its flavor. This is typical of French cuisine: spices are very discreet and never dominate the dish’s main ingredients.
Grandma bases her cuisine on variety. She doesn’t cook the same meat twice in a week. You’ll always eat four different greens at lunchtime, as well as three different types of cheese made from cow, sheep and goat milk. For this reason, the inside of a French grandma’s fridge is always very colourful.
Tips to give your dish a French touch:
- Roasted potatoes: roast them in salted butter with a pinch of thyme.
- Chicken legs: roast them with salted butter, mustard and garlic, and serve them with roasted potatoes.
- Lamb shanks: roast them in salted butter.
- Pastas: soak them in the salted butter sauce from the lamb shanks with a pinch of pepper and fresh parsley leaves.
- Pork ribs: roast without fat on a red-hot grill with a pinch of salt.
- Cheese: strong
- Fruits: ripe
To put it briefly: Salted butter makes it better!
1. How do I cook my vegetables so that they taste so healthy ?
Grandma always stews greens in simmering water or in a pressure cooker. Sometimes she boils them. Cooking them at a low temperature preserves the flavour of vegetables, as well as their vitamins. Hence the fresh, healthy taste of French cooked vegetables that we love so much in France.
2. What are the essentials at Grandma's table?
- The baguette: crunchy outside, soft inside
- Strong mustard
- A bottle of wine from the nearby vineyard
3. Why is French Cuisine great?
In France, cuisine is a national art. And, as an art, it has its own cooking virtuosos:
- Alain Passard and his restaurant L’Arpège, 84 rue de Varennes, Paris.
- Philippe Conticini, founder of the most delicious bakery you can find in Paris, far better than the Ladurée and Fauchon clichés. The shop is called La Pâtisserie des Rêves and you can find it at 93 rue du Bac.
- Eric Frechon, who is the grand chef of the Hotel Bristol’s restaurant L’Epicure.
As an art, French cuisine has its own rituals and ceremonies. The wine ceremony is the most famous of all, but it also stands along with the rituals of pre-dinner (what we call Apéritif), dinner set disposal, table service and after-dinner. A Sunday lunch often lasts hours when you attend to every step of the eating ceremony.
And as an art, French cuisine has its own history, printed step-by-step in old dusty books since 1380 when Guillaume Tirel wrote Le Viandier, considered to be the most ancient book of French recipes. Since then, the French art of cooking keeps evolving. It’s currently moving towards the luxurious fashion of molecular gastronomy (the science of cooking) on one side, and towards the popular trend of organic food on the other side.
As any great cuisine, it enjoys a variety of ingredients. There is one common denominator to a great cuisine, be it Chinese, Indian, French or Italian food; they all developed from the dramatic diversity of ingredients available to their chefs.
This is no different for French cuisine. Five centuries ago, at the time when the now-famous French cuisine started to develop, the chefs working for aristocrats received no less than a hundred different ingredients every week in the royal kitchen. These ingredients came from the cold north, the gentle and humid west, the mountainous east and the Mediterranean south of France. Four different climates offered such a variety of ingredients that there could be no end to the chefs’ creativity.
Peasants also enjoyed such a variety of ingredients, thanks to the mildness of the climate and the fertile ground. Henceforth, many different regional cuisines developed:
- Olive oil and garlic tastes on the Mediterranean coast with influences from Spain and Italy.
- Red meat and mushrooms from the abundant forests of the center of France.
- Pork delicatessen in the cold region of Alsace where Christmas tastes like mountains of cinnamon and German cakes.
- Hundreds of apple and pear species can be found along the Loire Valley, each one best for a specific recipe of compote, or that one for jelly, that speciality for pear-tart and that one for apple in the oven.
- Fishermen brought dozens of different fish species from the open sea and as many from rivers and brooks. With all this, housewives and professional chefs cooked with their own generations’ art, traditions and innovations.
This is how a rich land brings forth a rich cuisine.
Variety is a synonym for Healthiness.
No comment. This statement speaks for itself.
- “La Cuisine! C'est quand les choses ont le goût de ce qu'elles sont !”
Cuisine! This is what we call, when food finally taste like itself!
- “Rien de remplace le beurre.”
There is nothing like butter.
- “En cuisine, la simplicité amène la perfection.”
In the art of cooking, simplicity brings out perfection.
- “On devient cuisinier; mais on naît rôtisseur.”
You become a chef; but you must be born a meat roaster.
--a mysterious proverb, isn't it ?
There is no better food than Grandma's food. Try it at home, and bon appétit!
(The little girl in this story in the author herself.)
French Grandmas' recipes
Cuisine Recette - Recette de grand-mère
Trucsdegrandmere.com - Le site de partage des trucs et astuces de Grand-Mère