Gourmet Girl Denise here from the Loire Valley, France.
As I sit here hunched over my big electric heater at my computer writing this, I can’t help but remember a post on a website group that I belong to, ‘Expat life in France’. They were asking what you miss the most from your country of origin. Since most of the expats here in France are from the British Islands, most of the answers were about things like Marmite and proper British scones. I answered ‘Forced Air Gas Heating’. This does not exist here in France. At least not in the countryside and not in most of the old stone houses here. There’s no place to hide the ducting.
I am stunned by the fact that most households still heat their homes with fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, and wood pellet burners that rely on electric starters. Older homes run their heating on oil imported from Russia that heats up water filled radiators. The French government is phasing them out as of this year and thereby eliminating one of the cheapest forms of heat available in the country. This is a viable source of heat for many on the east coast and midwest of America too, but the oil to run this form of heating is fueled by domestic oil, not imported. And those precious forced air gas heaters everywhere else run on natural gas that has been a huge cost to the environment in the form of fracking. But it’s cheap energy and we Americans are used to the luxury of having gas clothes dryers, water heaters, forced air gas heating and eight burner gas ranges, all fed by pipes in the street that deliver it to just about every home in the states, except those in more remote areas.
Here in rural France, you have to buy butane or propane in individual tanks to run your range top and just about everything else is electric. Most new buildings and retrofitted older homes have electric radiators, and since all electricity in France is generated from nuclear power plants (there is a huge one on the banks of the Loire at Chinon) it is super expensive. Electric bills here can be around $200.00 per month in the winter. So no wonder wood burners are the number one choice here for heat. Wood and wood pellets are cheap. Very few folks here have a clothes dryer. We hang our wet laundry in the attic or on tall racks in front of the wood burner or electric heaters to dry in the winter and outside in the sun in the summer. And it works pretty well.
Needless to say, it has taken a while to get used to living without all of the luxuries I enjoyed in the states. But there is something to be said about living a ‘low-tech’ life. The pace is slower and the winters longer. But spring is just around the corner and as you may have seen in some of my prior posts, it is glorious here. So though I worry about the environmental concerns of burning wood, I will throw another log on the fire, curl up with a good book (I just finished A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I highly recommend it!) and wait out the coming snowstorm.
Oh and perhaps throw a couple of Smores on the fire! Here are a few ideas for some tasty smores:
These were served at ‘Porch’ in Carpinteria, California at a food event where I served up my Cast Iron Rattatouile (pg. 142) and Grilled Peach and Proscuitto Salad (pg. 162). For more Smore’s ideas see page 207 in The Gourmet Girls Go Camping Cookbook. What have you been cooking recently? What have you been reading? Share with us here.
Denise, Gail, and Lindsey