How to Cook

Hello, friends and campers! Gourmet Girl Denise here!

As most of you know by now I have moved to France, which I feel has always been the centre of some of the best cuisine ever known. Now I know that all countries have their regional cuisine that it is wonderful, locally sourced, has been passed down through the generations, and is delicious too. And I am a huge fan of them all. However, there are some countries that just don’t get it. I know I am opening myself up for a lot of comment here, (by the way, we here at the Gourmet Girls on Fire welcome you to respond) but I just have to ask one question. Why do the English cook the heck out of everything?

In a prior post, I believe I mentioned that England has again invaded France, but this time the French have welcomed them with open arms. For many years the English have seen the value of moving to France; better weather,(even in Normandy which is cold and rainy too), and very reasonable prices for real estate, most of which are now owned by the English. Who can blame them? That’s why I came here too.  But I can’t help but be a bit underwhelmed by their presence when I find that they ask for much higher prices than the French do when they rent out their properties, and rarely learn how to speak the native language. And the food? Well, now that is worth a debate!

I was recently at a dinner party where everyone in attendance was British, and it was a lovely evening of discussion, sharing, and frivolity. And that is what it’s all about really, isn’t it? Well not exactly. In France, it is also about the food. French culture revolves around food and somehow most of them still keep their figures. They eat high-quality meat, seafood,

produce and grain, prepared with a careful attention to the balance of spice, fat and acid. And they do not overindulge. The meat portions may be small, but you will have several different meat dishes throughout the course of the evening, along with vegetables, and a starch of some kind and no one leaves hungry. Oh and then there is a dessert that will usually be too beautiful to eat. But you do.

One evening I was invited to dinner at my English friends home. There were several couples there and we had a lovely time getting to know each other and share our love of France. But then we sat down to have dinner. Mind you there was a lot of food on the table; bowls upon bowls of mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, a leg of boar, and salads of every kind. The trouble was everything was cooked to death! The vegetables were mushy and plain, and the boar was burnt on the outside and an awful shade of brown on the inside. It was as dry as the Mojave desert, and there was not a herb in sight let alone a sauce. On another occasion, in the same kitchen, I experienced a leg of lamb that had been charred to oblivion as well. At least that night it was served with a sauce to help a body swallow it down. And where were the garlic and rosemary? Oya! as my grandmother would say.

Now I do not want to sound ungrateful here. I was, and still am, very happy to share a meal with these new friends, I just don’t understand their concept of cuisine. It has been well established that if you are going to eat meat, you must not cook out all of the enzymes that make it nutritious. Why bother otherwise? And charring meat creates carcinogenic colloids that one is much better not to consume. This does not mean you have to eat it raw, just leave a little moisture in it. Think pink!

Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk ……/cooked-meats-fact-sheet

But as it turns out, this way of cooking is the English way, and I am never going to be able to talk them out of it. So what do I cook when I attempt to reciprocate? I recently invited that same British friend over for dinner. I cooked what was to me an incredibly simple dinner; roasted chicken and shallots with lemon and rosemary, scalloped potatoes, and a simple salad made of the local green, mache or lambs lettuce, with tomatoes, avocado and a lemon/olive oil dressing. I noticed that she picked out all of the avocado, much to this California girls horror, telling me later that she hates it, and she did not have seconds of the chicken. She did keep eating the scalloped potatoes though, so I guess the dinner wasn’t a total failure. At least she didn’t go home hungry. Sorry Mr. Chicken! Now this is fresh!

So, there you have it; a cultural difference where the English cook extremely simply, using no spices and abhorring sauces, and the French, who have the highest standards and elevate cuisine to an art form. Hey, that’s what makes the world go round right? I am just glad I got off of the merry go round here in the Loire Valley, France,  and am looking forward to my next meal!


Denise, Lindsey and Gail

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