A Day of Food in France


Flower Market in France


I’d like to take a moment and tell all the Chilean miners trapped in the bowels of the earth for two months just how much I admire their spirit and their ability to deal with adversity, including the lack of food until food began to reach them through the efforts of people above ground. I wrote this post before the miners began their journey to the surface. I imagine their idea of Paradise would be something entirely different at this point. But this is mine, what (I hope) would sustain me (in part) if I ever I sit in darkness for 20 days like they did, not knowing what my fate would be. I spent most of October 13 keeping those men and their families in my thoughts and prayers. And so I dedicate this post to those 33 ordinary men who survived extraordinary events. The saints and prophets tell us, enjoy the moment, live in the now. Eating is one way to be present to the moment, and that is why I discourage multitasking while eating!

A day in a French market. For me, that’s like bellying up to Paradise.

If you’re like me, and most food lovers, France still exudes a sort of mysterious aura, an inexplicable pull no matter how much you adore Chicken Tika or how many avant garde pizzas comprise your kitchen repertoire.

But first, I’d better confess something.

Once upon a time, even though I owned both volumes of Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, French food still represented nothing but snobbery incarnated. Until I actually stepped on French soil, that is.

How could I not love a cuisine that featured croissants with little bits of chocolate nestled inside, like butterflies nesting in a cocoon? How could I keep ignoring a cuisine that seemed to demand the freshest food possible, not just because nobody’s apartment boasted a refrigerator (and if it did, that fridge could do double duty in a Playskool kitchen), but because people really cared about what they ate?

Truth be told, I felt like Alice in Wonderland when I first discovered the real food of France.  With my first bite of an Opera (cake-like confection sold in most patisseries or pastry shops), I went to a place in my being where I knew I’d never be the same again. Remember that scene in the film “Julie & Julia,” where Julia tastes her first bit of sole fried in butter? I identified completely with Julia at that moment.

And so, when I go to France (and I don’t often enough), I walk through the open-air markets (which, on this last trip in September, I thought might be diminishing in importance, usurped by supermarkets like Franprix and Inter Marché) and I press my nose up against the windows of bakeries and stare through the glass at some of the most beautiful art in the world and I take pictures of food that I can’t cook, because I don’t always have a kitchen at hand.

The following pictures represent several paradisiacal days in France.


Hot Chocolate in the Morning



Croissants, oui!



Cheese in the Open-Air Market



Organic Bread in French Market



Cheese Plate



For more on French markets, and a Cheese Soup recipe:

The Ethnic Paris Cookbook, by Charlotte Puckette and Olivia Kiang-Snaije (2007)

Markets of Paris: Food , Antiques, Artisanal Crafts, Books & More, by Ruthanne Dixon Long and Alison Harris Long (2006)

Open-Air Markets, Vanishing Communities” [previous G & T post]

Cheese Soup for a Fall Day
Serves 4

This soup is a lot like fondue, thinner, but quite satisfying on a crisp fall night with plenty of toasted bread.

1/4 pound Gruyère
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
4 T. unsalted butter
3 T. flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup dry white, fruity wine like a dry Riesling (Fendant if possible)
White pepper and sea salt to taste

Bacon, fried crisp, and sliced green onions, for garnish, or chopped parsley

Cut the cheese into 1/2-inch cubes. Set aside. Sauté the onion in the butter until translucent in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the chicken stock and the cream. When just about bubbling, add the wine. Heat to boiling. Stir in the cheese cubes and stir gently with a wooden spoon until cheese melts; do not whisk. Season with white pepper and salt. You may make some large croutons and serve the soup poured over the croutons. Garnish the soup with some crisp bacon, cut into matchstick size.

© 2010 C. Bertelsen, text and photos

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