Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Simplicity | 24 May


charcoal sack

local breads

Good ingredients, simply prepared. Sometimes it’s what you really want, not an elaborate plate that required days of work by a kitchen team. 

We’re back in the Gatinais, a land of plains dotted with small hills topped with tiny villages. Our village is so tiny it’s not even listed on most maps, nor do signs from the adjacent town point out its direction. Tourists don’t come here. It’s agricultural. No fancy cathedrals, no museums, no big department stores filled with expensive fashions. This is a place of fields, ancient stone churches, swallows that swirl and dive over the landscape and sky.

Luckily, there is a good butcher and a wine cheese and produce market in Puiseaux, about ten minutes away by car by tiny roads crossing wheat and sugar beet fields. 

The boulanger sold us a sesame bread and a type of baguette with a fancy name. Perhaps because of the weather, none of these had a terrific crispy crust normally associated with bread in France. We’d already noticed this from other bakers. A pretty big disappointment when you fly 6,000 miles and end up with the same quality of bread you’d get in your local supermarket in Sacramento!

We bought lamb chops from the butcher, along with some ham and a saucission. From the other store, we bought a large red coeur de bœuf tomato, tangerines, carrots, garlic, a lemon and a beet. We moved to the cheese section to buy cantal, a tomme de chevre, a muenster au cumin and a saint nectaire. We thew in a bottle of Mas de Mare l’Original 2010, a hearty red wine from the Pays d’Oc recommended by the owner.

We tasted most of the cheeses before we bought them. Perhaps because of my accent, we were repeatedly warned that some of them were very strong. This was especially true for the very mature tomme de chevre, something that was a bit runny, covered in a thick moldy crust with a flavor that hit like an enraged goat and stuck to your tongue with a vengeance. I could imagine someone, shocked by the strength of the cheese, scraping his tongue with anything available to free himself of the taste.

The supermarket furnished us with a label rouge chicken, fed only on grains and much tastier than the generic fowl adjacent to it. We added some yogurt and our shopping was complete.

Lunch was simple: a table in the garden, surrounded by passing bumblebees. We started with a salad of grated carrots with a bit of lemon, salt, pepper and chopped parsley, followed by ham, a bit of cheese and a tangerine for dessert. 

Dinner was only a bit more elaborate than lunch. We started with the salami. The lamb chops got seasoned with salt and pepper, oiled, and thrown on the grill. They were sprinkled with fresh chopped rosemary toward the end of cooking, then taken off to rest. The tomato was transformed into thick slices, seasoned and grilled while the meat rested. Afterward, the cheese, all washed down with the Mas de Mare. 

We sat and watched the swallows circle overhead, serenaded by a merle who sat on the adjacent roof, some tourterelles and a pigeon ramier or two, while the flavor of the tomme de chevre slowly faded in our mouths.


It's now the beginning of August, 2012. I wrote this over two months ago, and nobody ever read it. Not one person. Bad title, or is simplicity just not worth reading about in our over-complicated lives? I don't know - nobody comments on a post they never read.

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