Disappearing Act: Will Centuries-Old French Fruits and Veggies Go the Way of the Dodo?

According to an article (in French) recently posted on the ASFS (Association for the Study of Food and Society) discussion list (a great list for people interested in food and culture in all their permutations), 25 — yes, 25 — familiar fruits and vegetables  — many that you might consider quintessentially French —  will soon disappear from France’s agricultural repertoire if recent production  rates  continue.

Unfathomable as it is, the stark statistics tell a gloomy story for those of us who love rustic French food and wish more people could discover it.

Leeks

Belgian endive

Parsley (see soup recipe below)

Leeks

Cherries

Peaches

Brussels sprouts

Parsley, etc.

Celery

Pears

Clara Peeters*, Still Life with Cheeses, Artichoke and Cherries, c.1625 oil on wood, 46.6 x 33.3 cm, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Artichokes

Granny Smith apples

Golden Delicious apples

Cauliflower

Mirabelles (small plums)

Oats

Escarole

Table grapes

Garlic

Tomatoes

Asparagus

Rye, Normal and with Ergot

Rye

Soybeans

Peas

Cucumbers

Thanks to  blogger Jim Chevallier for his sharp eye in finding this article and sharing it. Jim writes erudite articles about French breads (and many other things), so take a look at his blog when you have a minute.

*Not a French painter, Flemish. However, the food in the painting is  likely to be close to what people in France knew. Besides, I like the painting!

Cream of Parsley Soup
Serves 4 – 6

6 parsley roots, scrubbed and peeled
Parsley stems
3 T. unsalted butter
2 large shallots, peeled and minced
2 T. unbleached all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
Pinch cloves (just a smidgen!)
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 cup heavy cream
Chopped parsley leaves for garnish

Grate the parsley root. Heat the butter over medium heat, add the grated parsley root, cook until almost tender, then add the shallots and cook until translucent. Stir in the flour and cook until bubbly and beginning to turn golden in color. Slowly pour in the milk, stir until well blended, then add the parsley stems, salt, pepper, cloves, and nutmeg. Cover and let simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes. Remove stems and run the soup through a blender or food processor. Return soup to the pot and heat over medium heat, add cream and stir until warmed through. Serve immediately with chopped parsley leaves on top of each serving.

© 2010 C. Bertelsen

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