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Tuesday, 12th February 2019
Fair food prices
Having given this new law some thought, I think that it is a fair law.
The cost of hundreds of popular food and drink products increased last Friday, (February 1), as a new law came into force.
The Loi Alimentation - which also brings to an end so-called super-promotions, such as buy-one-get-one-free deals - aims to ensure farmers and other food producers are fairly paid.
From 1st February, supermarkets are required to make at least 10% on a wide range of processed foods, including hazelnut spreads (Nutella), formula milk, fizzy drinks, self-service fresh food such as ready-made pizzas, even mineral water will be affected.
The government is asking supermarkets to find a way to distribute margins differently, to distribute things better, the objective is to sell agricultural products at their fair value.
Now you can 't really argue with that.
On a personal level, no one want to see their weekly shopping bill increase but food is the cheapest that it has ever been and I sometimes do wonder how farmers can produce food so cheaply.
Tuesday, 5th February 2019
Brittany celebrates le Chandeleur with crêpes!
For the last couple of weeks all of the supermarkets have been promoting crêpe ingredients. I thought it was a bit odd as pancake day (Mardi Gras) isn't for another four weeks
Well, pancake day, has nothing to do with it, it is all to do with Chandeleur.
Saturday, February 2, was La Chandeleur - known in English as Candlemas - which celebrates the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple - and it has become traditional in France to mark this day by eating crêpes. I am struggling to see the link here, but I will run with it.
What I didn't realise was that crêpes have been in existence since 7,000BC - but they were originally thicker and look more like a ‘galette’ made of water and cereals.
However, this popular staple began to evolve after the crusades in Asia - when the French brought back the famous buckwheat known as ‘sarrasin’.
Although they could not make it grow everywhere in France as it requires a humid weather, they discovered that Brittany was the perfect region to produce it. Thus the crêpe bretonne was born.
Sweet or savoury, crêpes have since spread all around France, especially since the arrival of wheat flour - which are more commonly used to make sweet crêpes.
In Brittany, crêpes are part of the heritage, every town has a crêperie, and it really is impossible to visit Brittany without eating a crêpe or two!
If you want to try and make a traditional crêpe bretonne, here is the recipe:
500g of buckwheat flour
1 tbsp of wheat flour
A pinch of salt
50cl of milk
1litre of water
First, put all the ingredients together in the list order and mix them - being careful to ensure your mix is lump-free.
Leave the batter in the fridge for at least an hour.
Then, pour a bit of the batter on an oiled pan to give the crêpe its shape. Flip it when it is ready. Do not cook it too much, otherwise it may break.
Once cooked, you can add an egg, ham, and grated cheese on it or anything else you fancy.
If you prefer it sweet, you can eat it with sugar or chocolate and some fruits on top (bananas, raspberries…).
Thursday, 31st January 2019
Filling your car up is about to get a whole lot more complicated.
I always find getting petrol or diesel in another country stressful. It always seems to be me that arrives at a petrol station and there is no one in the little box and all the pumps are self service. This is when it all starts to go wrong. The little monitor is flashing up instructions, then the monitor is talking to me, telling me what to do, very loudly. I am wildly pressing buttons hoping that I have selected diesel. Then, the most stressful part. I insert my card to pay for the diesel and my card is rejected. Why oh why, do foreign pumps reject British credit cards. If I had paid the lady in the box it would have worked but the pumps NEVER like British cards.
Well the confusion is about to get a whole lot worse. Instead of “Unleaded” and “Diesel”, pumps will be labelled with standardised letters and numbers, corresponding to the type of fuel, and the amount of biofuel it contains. I don't even know what biofuel is.
For example, “Unleaded 95” and “Unleaded 98” will both be replaced by the letter “E” surrounded by a circular border, followed by a “5” for 5% biofuel, and “10” for 10%. New and current labels will initially be displayed alongside each other at petrol pumps.
Diesel will be identified by the letter “B” in a square border, with a choice of B7 or B10, depending on the fuel you require (7% biodiesel to 10% biodiesel).
The aim is to make the proportion of biofuel, which I now understand to be fuel from renewable sources, more obvious.
But for me, this will just make to simple task of filling up my petrol tank just a whole load more stressful.
Thursday, 10th January 2019
A New Year Quiz!
Before you read any more, quickly write down what you think are the 10 most-loved French words used in English.
Apparently according to Le Figaro newspaper, these are the 10 most-loved French words used in English :-
1. Je ne sais quoi.
Apparently there isn’t an English word that quite grasps the quality of something that can’t be easily described or which has an indefinable flair.
This literally means ‘already seen’. However, when used in English it is usually used to explain a phenomenon of feeling like you have lived through an experience already.
In English this phrase tends to have romantic connotations but rather boringly in French it literally does just mean a meeting or an appointment with no hidden meaning.
Used to describe someone that you intend to marry. It comes from the verb ’fier’ (to trust)
Used to describe a woman with brown hair. There aren’t many words in French that need several English words to convey the same meaning! This is one of them!
6. Bon appétit
Always used by the French before they eat. In restaurants, other diners, complete strangers will also say ‘Bon appétit’ to you when your meal arrives. According to Le Figaro this phrase dates back to the Middle Ages.
7. Baguette and Croissant.
Years ago, I think the baguette was called a ‘French Stick’, but a croissant has always been a croissant.
This word describes a certain fashionable elegance
In France, this just means a normal shop. In England, it is used to describe a high end fashion shop and more recently the word ‘boutique’ is used to describe something small, well designed, highly desirable and luxurious, such as a ‘boutique hotel’
This French phrase is used to describe new and experimental methods in art, music and literature.
I would not have got all of these!.. my list would have included restaurant, café, apéritif and entrepreneur!..
Thursday, 3rd January 2019
This beer is not for everyone!.. Two friends in Toulouse (Occitanie) have combined the region’s local dish with their favourite drink, and created a cassoulet beer.
Cassoulet is a dish typically made with meat such as duck or pork sausages, and white haricot beans and is a common, traditional dish of the Occitanie region.
The meat juices, made from duck and pork, are cooked very slowly with a bouquet garni of herbs for over a week. The idea is to keep the flavour of the original dish, without keeping the fat, and making it a smooth, drinkable beer.
Flavour-wise, the beer highlights the soft texture of the white beans, which contain starch, just like normal barley malt in beer and this is combined with the rich taste of the meat.
This doesn’t really appeal, I may be old fashioned but I would rather eat the cassoulet and drink a real beer!
Wednesday, 26th December 2018
Christmas in France
Christmas customs, originating in the Middle East were introduced to France by the Romans. Reims was the site of the first French Christmas celebration when, in 496, Clovis purposely chose the day of the Nativity to have his 3,000 warriors baptised.
The fir tree was first presented as the holy tree of Christmas in Strasbourg in 1605. It was decorated with artificial coloured roses and apples, and symbolised the tree in the garden of Eden.
As in England, French houses start to get decorated in early December and we have found (at our cost!) that if you don’t buy your Christmas tree by 15th December you can forget it!..
Another custom is that of the manger, ‘la crèche’, which originated in the 12th century is placed in the centre of many towns. Rochefort en Terre always has ‘la crèche’ and some fantastic lights.
At midnight there is Christmas Mass, which in Brittany is very important to most families. When the family returns home after midnight mass, there is a late supper known as ‘le reveillon’. This meal varies according to the region in France, in Alsace, a goose is eaten, in Burgundy, a turkey, in Brittany, galettes with sour cream and in Paris, oysters and foie gras. So we get galettes and the Parisians get oysters! ...
Friday, 21st December 2018
Perhaps a bottle of frozen wine with your turkey?
Harvesting grapes always conjures up warm images of farmers waiting until late summer to ensure that their carefully tended grapes have received the optimum anount of sun before they are harvested before temperatures start to fall.
However, Vineyards in Savoie (Anvergne-Rhône-Alpes) have just started to harvest their grapes, and this is intentional, they aren’t just a bit behind their Bordeaux collegues!
Late December, as winter deepens, farmers of vineyards in Savoie rise in the early hours of the morning when temperatures are barely above freezing to pick the Jacquère grape whilst it is still frozen on the vine.
The grapes remain frozen as they are pressed and will stay below 3 decgrees C for the next 24 hours.
Then the frozen grapes and their juice are suspended from a helicopter and are flown high up into the dizzy altitudes of Mount Blanc where they are frozen for a second time.
This process of double freezing results in a highly concentrated, high sugar wine which I guess (and I am guessing!..) gives a higher alcoholic content.
This wine is very expensive and is not destined for our supermarket shelves!