Photos by Ashleen Brydum
The cooking class with Jeremy allowed us to make and taste different foods from the Languedoc region. From baguettes with tomato and tampenade to crepes with chestnut marmalade, and baguettes with goat cheese and honey everything we made was delicious!
Pain Bagnet a L’olive
This was probably the most culturally different dish. You start by grilling half a baguette. Then, you take a peeled garlic clove, and rub it ALL over the grilled bread until your hands smell like garlic for the next three days, your crying, and there is garlic juice ALL over your bread (NO KNIVES!!!). Then repeat these exact same steps with half a tomato (try to keep the juice off the floor). Now for the fun part, pour a little olive oil on the bread and “ski slope” it all down the rest of the bread, so it covers the bread (yes, this is the technical term). This step is how the bread got it’s name, translated it means bread soaked in oil! This way of making bread sans utensils is quite different from how we do things when cooking in the states. Last step=best step, tempanade! Tempanade, is this amazing, delicious spread from the region, that we had never had before. It is made of olives, capers, and anchovies, and it is absolutely addicting (Erin bought some and tried to bring it back to states with her. Unfortunately, it did not make it to the airport, as it was all consumed before the flight… oooopppss….). You spread as much, or as little, as you would like on the bread and enjoy!
Pain des Garrigues
This was another lovely addition to our taste pallets, and again, quite different from what we are used to in the states. To make this, we once again started with half a toasted baguette. This time instead of garlic and tomatoes, we rubbed fresh goat cheese on our bread. Again, without utensils, this was quiet a different experience (and somewhat difficult at that) but it produced a delicious experience in the end. The fresh goat cheese from the region is unparralled in the States. Cheese (fromage), both pasteurized and unpasteurized, are somewhat staples of everyday French life. Almost all meals incorporate cheese into them somehow whether that be through the ingredients of the meal itself, or as a dessert. If you are a cheese connoisseur we highly recommend you come and explore France in that it seems to have never ending choices for types of cheese; everything from light and lacking aroma to covered in mold and admitting quite a strong smell. After we had (somewhat) successfully rubbed our cheese onto our baguettes we were given local miel (honey) to drizzle on top of the cheese. This struck many as odd, but as we were in France we all had an adventurous spirit and tried it anyway. We finally topped our creations with a sprinkle of mixed herbs, once again, native to the Langedoc region, this mix included rosemary and thyme. Finally, we got to enjoy this very french creation and it was scrumptious! There is something about the bread (another staple of almost all French meals) that just tastes better then the States. Perhaps because the bread is such a staple of daily life, the bakers take more care in preparing it, also they seem to have perfected the art. Food in general seems to overall be prepared with more attention and care in France then it does in States, this goes from the small bakeries, to the chain food stores, to the nice sit down restaurants There is a different mentality toward food that is accompanied by a respect for it that involves actually taking the time to sit down and enjoy it. It is not uncommon for meals (including lunch) to take over two hours, because one is expected to enjoy their food and their company. This is something that Ashleen has come to very much appreciate and would like to bring back this sort of philosophy to the States with her.
The art of flipping crepes is one not easily mastered, however (with the exception of Nikita and Ashleen) our class seemed to be naturals! There is a tradition in france that you hold a coin in one hand while you flip the crepe with the other and this is supposed to bring you luck financially. While no one can attest to the validity of this tale yet, we can all attest to the delicious taste of these crepes we got to make from scratch!
The chestnut marmalade they provided however was anything but delicious. Some people liked it, it was earthy and dark and… not nutty, but similar. Preferring nutella banana crepes as a rule, my taste buds rebelled. I’m not sure I’ll ever try chestnuts on an open fire now. The strawberry jam, that was how I expected the crepes to be. Sweet, delicious and highlighting the natural flavor of the crepes.
Whether they were crepes and chestnut marmalade, tempenade or goat cheese and honey, our tongues certainly discovered new combinations we would never have tried before. And they are certainly better for it. The next question is… are our cultural differences so ingrained in us that agricultural products are irrelevant in this economy? (Translation: WHERE IS TEMPENADE SOLD IN THE US?)
Happy cooking and bon appetit!
~Ashleen Brydum and Erin Stinger