French Food Culture.
Great food experiences start from the heart.
I haven’t even arrived in Paris and I’m already dreaming up ideas. What ingredients are in season, what will I cook and what food experiences will we have at the markets, on the streets and in local restaurants.
I’ve explained my appreciation for French food culture in previous articles, but I never get tired of telling the story because I find it so very poetic. I would confidently say that French food culture, like any food culture means something uniquely different to everyone. One thing I’m certain of however is that no matter the region or type of food, food culture comes from the heart. It’s feelings and emotions that generally shape my food habits in France, where I shop and what I buy.
“You may be thinking that feelings and emotions sound a little airy-fairy, entertain me while I explain.”
I’m currently en route to Dubai where I will publish this short article when I check into the transit hotel. If you don’t use the transit hotel you should, even for two hours it is such a luxury and is enough time to have a swim, 25 minutes in the gym, a shower and freshen up before changing clothes and jumping aboard the A380 for the seven hour fight to Paris. The other more practical benefit is that the hotel meet you at the gate when you land and rush you though an express security clearance. I rarely splurge so this is a luxury for me and I love it.
For eight hours into the fourteen hour flight, I’ve been thinking about all the seasonal produce together with the dinners and lunches we’ll be sharing together and with friends. Not exactly the entire eight hours, I have squeezed in a two hour snooze which was fabulous and surprisingly comfortable. We’ve hosted some incredible lunches and dinners at our farm house in the Charente Department, they are always such happy times and as soon as I start to consider menus and the all important shopping list, I remember the feelings, laughter and great satisfaction we’ve gotten over the last seven years preparing food for friends.
I usually picture the experience and sense the feeling we want to create from a long table lunch or dinner, then I design the menu around that. Food is such a great talking point, and it is fascinating to get to know the local dishes and ingredients that belong to the earth of that region. Take Limousin for example, they are well known for beef, but are also known for having some of the most beautiful summer cherries, and whilst I’m not the best pastry chef, I’m longing to cook Clafoutis this summer. Clafoutis originated from the abundance of cherry trees locals had in their gardens across the region, poetic right?
French food culture for me is also about three other very simple, yet special things:
The three really do go hand in hand. You see having the time to cook and cook well for many people is a luxury. Knowing I have an entire day (or two) to slip into my apron and carefully prepare ingredients properly might sound simple, but for me it is the greatest sense of joy and contentment. Having the time to respect great food and follow more traditional methods cooking is such a rewarding experience.
The transferring of flavours is so important in French food culture. It’s not just about cooking the onions, it’s about gently marrying them with the butter and ensuring they turn translucent, not brown which would impact the flavour of the dish. I talk about this in my Beef Bourguignon recipe. Once the onions are cooked, they’re removed, then the lardons are added and removed, then it’s the mushrooms turn to soak up not just the flavours of the lardons, but also the flavour of the butter you’ve selected for the dish. I love French butter, it is one of my favourite things, we have a local butter from the Charente region which you can actually buy at David Jones in Sydney. It’s a game changer not just for Beef Bourguignon, but also for scrambled eggs, omelettes, sautéed beans and carrots, I could go on.
I’ve just realised this short article is unapologetically turning into an essay. I love talking about food, particularly french food and the experiences we have in France.
We’ve met the goats who produced the cheese we’ve bought, farmers who proudly grow their own beautiful fruits and vegetables, and artisans who so eloquently spend their days preparing food in charcuteries across France.
Food means something different to everyone. For me, food culture starts from the heart, which makes that long table filled with friends and food so very special indeed.
If you enjoyed my article I would love to hear from you – please leave a comment below with any questions you may have and I’ll get back to you very soon. Follow my Instagram @mikeygalvin and Facebook to tune into this years summer in France.
As always, Bon Appétit, Mike X