“Mastering the Art of French Eating-Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris” by Ann Mah

December4

When I read a culinary novel (my obsession), I make note of the pages which do a particularly appetizing job of describing the food or a feeling evoked by the dish or an unusual recipe that I have had the pleasure of tasting.  Often times I have 2-3 pages noted but in the case of scouring through Ann Mah’s recounting of her solo time living in Paris, I had scads and scads of pages noted.  Her book is that appealing to a foodie like me.  After making a really tough decision (“oh poor Kath” you might be thinking -“if only all my decisions were so gruelling”…), I have decided on this excerpt.  Read on and then I will explain why.

Mastering1

From page 171.

I had come to Alsace with the intention of eating choucroute at every meal.  But whenever I sat down in a Winstrub, the same thing happened: I looked at the menu, resolved to order the choucroute garnie, summoned the waitress, and asked for…something else.  I was cheating on choucroute with tarte flambée.

Despite its fiery name, tarte flambée is not a pie filled with burning embers.  It’s a sort of pizza with crisp edges, topped with crème fraiche,  onions, and bacon, cooked in a wood-burning oven.  In Alsatian it’s called flammekueche, or “flame cake”, and was traditionally a plat du pauvre, prepared every two weeks on bread-baking day, when the village’s communal wood oven was lit.

page 172

A lump of dough is rolled thin, spread with luscious crème fraiche, strewn with slivers of raw onions and bacon and singed golden in the kitchen’s ancient wood oven.  “It only takes one minute to cook” Roth said.  The restaurant also serves a non-traditional version, sprinkled with grated Emmental cheese.

I ate both the plain and gratineed varieties under Roth’s watchful eye, savouring the contrast of tangy cream against the luxuriant salty-sweetness of smoked bacon and onions.  Roth brought them out one at a time, waiting until I finished the first to produce the second.  “It’s best eaten hot” she admonished me when she caught me photographing my food instead of eating it.  And when I had finished both, she wanted to know which I preferred.

 

BeFunky_IMG_5106

The first anecdote which came to mind from this excerpt is that D always teases me that he has not eaten hot food since I started “this blogging thing”.  The second is this: Winnipeggers do not need to travel half way across the world to eat authentic tarte flambée (French) flammekueche (Alsatian which sounds German to me) because we have Chez Sophie where they dub their version “French-style Pizza” to avoid confusion.  They still use the onions and bacon but add tomatoes and instead of the traditional thin crust they also offer medium and thick.

Mastering2

The third goes like this.  I have never been to Alsace but it is on our list of “must travel to” destinations.  D and I have long been intrigued by the region which is quite literally half French and half German being geographically on the border of both and having changed hands back and forth during wars fought over territorial rights.  When we first tasted Alsatian wine we were delighted that the flavours were like a bottle of French and German white wines that had been blended together.  We were sharing a bottle at a restaurant that no longer exists, the first time I told D that I loved him (he would ditto my sentiments but not until a couple of weeks later).  Tastes are often associated with milestone events in my life.  Is the same true for you?

Kath’s quote: “What keeps me motivated is not the food itself but all the bonds and memories the food represents.”-Michael Chiarello

mastering3

D and I the evening of our 30th wedding anniversary before dining out in Boston where we had honeymooned.

Love-that is all.

Please share...Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on YummlyEmail this to someone

Email will not be published

Website example

Your Comment: