Thursday, September 17, 2009
French pigs ( "pâté de tête" )
DISCLAIMER: O.K. before I start this weeks story, which happens to be about food.I feel I should point out that Im from a place where great taste and bad taste both exist side by side. A gastronomic disaster if you will. A land where taste buds have long been extinct and maybe never really existed.YES! you guessed it England. I feel I should tell you this up front, because Im about to make a little fun of my friend who happens to be French and who happens to be an amazing chef. Yes you heard right, An Englishman making fun of a French chef. Very cheeky of me Im sure. When I was growing up I watched my mother in her garden all hours of the day and night. I watched her grow nurture and basically coddle her fruit and vegetables. Needless to say they tasted amazing.Grown with true love. Every mouthful was a sheer delight, a pyrotechnic display of flavor that had my taste buds jumping hoops for joy. This was of course before she cooked them. The fresh cabbage, peas, carrots, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts all murdered before my very eyes.A crime most English. My dear sweet mother would boil every bit of life and of course taste out of them, let alone the goodness. My mother was not alone, it seemed the whole country all joined in on this most bizarre act. Volumes of steam, belching out of every kitchen, every sunday, as lunch was being prepared (I use the word prepared lightly) So when people say that English food is the worst in the world (apart from Holland that is) I have to agree with them. BUT! only after its been cooked .
Which brings me to my friend Blandine (yes a funny name but all names seem funny to me in France) She is from the country in the south, from a region called Cevennes. Its real peasant country (and I mean that in a good way, really I do) She was telling me about her amazing school lunches. Blood sausage, rabbit liver pudding, oats porridge soup and goat and chestnut milk. suddenly my school lunches didn't sound (or look) so bad. I wish I could tell you what they consisted of, but to this day I still don't know.I can tell you that all the food was a light grey. A boiled light grey.The parts that were not as boiled, were dripping with lard.They were a colour I had never seen before or since .A shiny colour. Anyway, Blandine was telling me romantic(slaughter) stories of how the kids, aged between 6-11 would watch the pigs get slaughtered.How the blood would spill from the 'slit opened carcass' into a large pan. How an older woman would stir the blood and remove the fibers, so as to stop the blood congealing (my god!, to think at the same time I was reciting Shakespeare) I would have traded the Bard for a slaughtered pig display, anyday. When I told Blandine that I was working on a project, and I needed parts of animals, like tongue and eyeballs and pigs feet and yes even a pigs head etc, she didn't batter an eyelid (and when I say batter, I don't mean the English fish and chip sort), She set off to harvest my animal bits from around Paris. Every weekend I would go to her apartment (because of the great light and because she has a fridge big enough for a pigs head) and start shoot these beautiful and horrific parts for my art. I will tell you more about this project a little later in the year when its finished (actually it is finished) but more later. Have you ever wondered what to do with a huge pigs head when you don't need it anymore? Well, I hadn't but Blandine had. COOK IT!...Im not going to give you all the details now, only because I made a small 3 minute film (which has not been edited yet) that I will show here on this very blog in the next few weeks. I will let Blandine narrate the film and tell you what a great tasty dish this is. She will tell you how country people don't waste one part of the animal. She will tell you that in the country, people know how to create great dishes using natural ingredients to bring out the true flavor of the beast. She will tell you that English food is the worst in the world (apart from Holland) You will have to excuse me know, Im steaming some veggies for dinner. Its been on now for nearly 6 hours so they should be almost done.
Ah! like mother like son..............
FIRST EMAIL response from Blandine. She writes... the strongest memory of my first time to England is all smells : in the small village of Welwyn, Herts, a lingering smell of cold beer mixed with the sharp stomach wrenching cheap vinegar drizzled over fish (white flaky flounder ?) and chips and the love-hate smell of tepid takeout chicken and curry pie, and above all the microwave reheated steak and kidney pie with the barely cooked gravy soaked bottom dough...hmmmmyeeek
Then my first scones, first gooseberries, first potted chicken liver paté, first cucumber sandwiches, all served by bluish haired ladies on Royal Doulton, I could go on and on...
SECOND EMAIL from Blandine...she does go on and here it is...
I am all love/hate
About hate :
Beans on toasts
Plastic looking fruit
Dreadfull fish flour fed chicken tasting like fish (in the 70's)
tepid beer smell
Worcestershire sauce (I love it now, in tiny quantities)
bad bitter Madras curry powder
grey boiled vegetable
jello powdered gravy
in fact anything artificially flavoured or processed which is always worse than french processed food
this was in the 70s, it improved so much since... (note from me)...IT HAS?
If you have the urge to read more about Blandine ...Here is her blog link blandineboyer.blogspot.com