Le Ventre de la France
La Rencontre: « One must eat to live, and not live to eat » Molière, L’avare, Act III, Scene 1. Apologies Molière, but that might have been one of the times when you were wrong…
“Oh my god that was good, I love my people”
Sometimes things can get lost in translation, but when it comes to expressing that pure ummyummyohMYGODgoodness of sensory ecstasy, c’est facile! These were the words of Jeanne Bernard, a visiting student at Barnard this year from the one, the only, Paris, and also one of your future guides to Le Ventre de la France. So introducing my Francophone “Watson,” the expert du goût and accomplice of all things French food : Jeanne, a twenty-year-old Parisian, baguette obsessed, and now re-impassioned French food enthusiast. Bienvenue et bon appétit!
This is a column about eating, learning, and finding out all about French food, culture, and the best places to discover the closest thing to its authentically delicious flavors in New York. Feeling your palette beginning to dawn a shade of blandness ? Check in with us every other week to spark your curiosity in the delectable ! That being said, Vous aimez vos croissants bien croustillants et vos époisses forts en goût? You’re just absolutely deprived after that glorious semester abroad in this sushi and yoghurt-on the go culture? You’ve never even heard of coq au vin, but Hell, doesn’t that just sound good? Point in case, all food enthusiasts’ welcome !
Now that brings us to the term you’ve been dreading to hear, dare you call yourself a “food-ie”? While right off the bat, I’ve just got to be frank with you– je déteste ce terme de “foodie.” “Foodie” implies an elite club that turns the simple recognition of a daily sensory MIRACLE into a dreaded image of pompous eaters that like the connotations that surround the wine and cheese clan today, are too “high class” for me and full of jerk-like snobbery (both the genre hipster and old-men included). So dear World, please do not do to America’s wonderful young generation growing more and more food-conscientious what you have done to the poor people of the vines, and soon to be cows too. Let’s keep food real and call ourselves “enthusiasts” because as Americans, we’re a little late to this whole art de vivre scene when it comes to loving good food, and it’s about time we just became hungry over food’s amazing quality to inspire our quotidian!
So some guidelines to becoming a good ‘ole “enthusiast”: the simplicity of good food lies in three things: Seasoning, Seasonality, and Simplicity- that is in regards to the crucial aspect of quality ingredients! And personally, being synesthesia-obsessed, I’m going to throw in Aesthetic Artistry of Craft in there, because however much I’ll acknowledge a good boudin (yea seriously google it if you haven’t dared tread the waters of « blood sausage ») does taste strangely good, you’ve got to dash some fleur de sel and speckle some REALLY bright greens on there to disguise that black blob of subconsciously hidden, but oh so really disgusting looking deliciousness before me. As however dubious it may be it’s actually a proven fact that color does influence our perception of taste! (http://www.eufic.org/page/en/page/FAQ/faqid/food-colour-structure-influence-taste/)
But here is where we arrive at our next fundamental issue; who am I to assert all these claims about food? Still working through some late philosophy homework here now, I’ll answer Hume’s jargon-filled Standard of Taste stipulations: What makes you a good critic and can taste be educated? Well, my name is Amelia and I’m also a new transfer student this year at Barnard. Long story short, I took a year off after high-school and went to culinary school in England for a while, did some pastry training in France, and came back and somehow started running my own little odd catering “company” (although let’s just say “lucrative operation” for now in case any Board of Health & Sanitation devotees are lurking in the background). Fortunately, the following year, I was lucky enough to spend my first semester abroad in Dijon, France, la maison de l’escargot, la moutarde, le cassis, et le MEILLEUR vin du monde (my apologies to all Californians reading). Anyways, my time in France, mostly thanks to my formidable host family, changed my whole conception about food and life, and most of all, how passionate I had become about food just through a culture (oh yes, did I mention my motivation in first learning to speak French the year before was mostly so that I could spend a semester EATING in France? Hey, don’t judge ok, food is puissante!). Fast-forward to my phase of one day aspiring to become a cheese-monger, all the way to last Spring when I found myself literally writing my transfer essay about the metaphorical education of “liberal arts through artisanal cheese” et me voila la bienvenue dans la ville de mes rêves, la capitale américaine de la gastronomie! So here’s a quick “taste profile” speed-dating: My last supper would consist of copious amounts of Mont d’or, a good bottle of Nuits Saints George Red année 2009, Belon Oysters, the deepest darkest chocolate hazelnut espresso dacquoise on earth, crispy duck with a huge pot of moutarde à l’ancienne on the side, Serrano ham, King Trumpet mushrooms, and spankin’ pink raw tuna- omg wait I forgot Humbolt Fog Goats Cheese on Polâine bread with lavender honey OF COURSE ! I know, the collected combination probably makes you wants to barf slight, and even in saying it aloud myself am slightly disconcerted- well, welcome to the world’s funkiest palette.
Alright, now before I lose you, here’s my quick “philosophy” on Hume’s second stipulation; educating taste (in the realm of food). Here’s the thing, of course “good food” (well-prepared with quality ingredients) is going to taste good, that’s an innate sensory reaction that we all posses. But, like walking into MOMA and staring at a painting that makes you feel something inside- some sort of emotion, but you just don’t know what or why. Donc, being a cook will help you be able to identify and appreciate ingredients and original stimulating combinations. Secondly, being exposed to a lot of different flavors and good dishes in your life, will ultimately help you get from just Pepperidge Farm, to asking for that brioche bun actually, s’il vous plaît. Thirdly, growing up in an environment that appreciates or places importance on food might make you more prone to love this artistry we forget to classify as an art form often (Fact: The shaping of taste preferences begins in the womb and continues through the rest of our lives. Even Though our ancestors have gathered taste experiences, our own food behavior is rarely mere intake, but rather coupled with emotions, social aspects, and digestive processes that may influence the mere exposure effect (http://www.eufic.org/article/en/health-and-lifestyle/food-choice/artid/how-taste-preferences-develop/). That being said, I am no child of diverse Brooklyn-hipster parents, and sure my mom threw a Greek yoghurt in my lunchbox, but I didn’t grow up particularly obsessed or interested with good food (but to my wonderful mother’s defense, thank-god she never let me buy Fruit Roll-Ups). I’m a cook (leaning more towards aspiring pastry chef/cheesemonger one day!) but I’m no “pro,” and I still haven’t crossed Ethiopian or Kimchi off my list. All I am, is a girl who loves to cook, eat, encourage others to recognize the daily delicious art form we can experience every day, and someone who fell in love with a particular cuisine through a culture where food is life. So here’s the prerequisites guys for French “food-ist” appreciation initiation: To appreciate food- French or not- just please get hungry, in both the literal and figurative sense, to be more conscious of the miraculous in the seemingly mundane, and just maybe why it is so. To be a true enthusiast, is to just be hungry.
Bon, finally this is a blog about French Food, but why so? Because it’s what I love and I know (and am still learning myself!), not because French food ranks high on some stupid “hierarchy” of worldly cuisines. French food has got a Hell of a lot of history, a lot that makes it no better than, but definitely special, among the world’s cuisines, and is more so a living part of culture that so fiercely defines its patriotic roots in the distinctness of its wonderful people, who in turn identified themselves originally by hundreds of years of strongly regional culinary traditions- of which these days will literally they will do anything to protect (heard of the AOC? Google away!). So here we go, a gourmet parisienne et une américaine obsédée par le monde francophone, are here to guide you through the best places to find “authentic” French food in New York (and Paris!), the ins and whimsical details of its food and cultural education, and of course, offer some mouthwatering tips and tricks to recipes, shopping, and finding l’esprit du ventre français in your everyday life. So don’t be afraid- yea, you’re twenty-something and you’re hungry to be enthusiastic about French food.
Bon Appétit à tous !
Check Back in a few days for our first OFFICIAL post on demystifying le “Bistro” and get to know our newly arrived frenchy – you know that one who’s in such a tiff over all the yoghurt she has been eating while walking.
A.A et J.B