The Ancient Story Behind Veterans’/Armistice Day, or, The Significance of St. Martin of Tours

"On the morning of November 11 I [Colonel Thomas Gowenlock] sat in my dugout in Le Gros Faux, which was again our division headquarters, talking to our Chief of Staff, Colonel John Greely, and Lieutenant Colonel Paul Peabody, our G-1. A signal corps officer entered and handed us the following message: Official Radio from Paris -…

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Cheese + Flour + Yeast + Salt + Eggs = The Ancient Mystery of Bread

To contemplate bread even more, please go my previous post, Panis Gravis, or, Bread, Endless Nurturer. I’ve baked bread for years and years. In fact, except for the odd hamburger bun, my family never eats “boughten bread,” as my mother-in-law called it. In a time when “carbohydrate” evokes images reminiscent of horror films, singing the…

Food First, First Things

After a long day flying, and given the "food" served on the airplane, the first order of business when I arrived in Paris included real food. I needed to drop my bags in the apartment and seek sustenance. Quick. (Actually, after taking the RER from Charles DeGaulle airport to the center of Paris, through the…

Panis gravis, or Bread, Endless Nurturer

A whole world dwells within each tiny  seed. Of porridge,  of bread, of love it whispers – in all these lies the promise of wheat. With it all comes both the caress of crumbs and the sour stink of brown bread and garlic, the pain of brokenness ... and the bitter bread of exile. But…

Water, the Essence of All

Begin with a washing of hands, cleansing and purifying, before approaching the stove, as to an altar. Pouring water into a pot, do you remember the source? Rain, clouds, rivers, streams, lakes, oceans … Transformation, from elements and compounds and chaotic matter to life. Essence. Alchemy. In your hands, a cook’s hands, water shape-shifts into…

Panis focacius, la Gibacié, and la Pompe à l’huîle, Kin Under the Crust, One of the Thirteen

Christmas cakes were baking, the famous pompou and fougasse, as they were called, dear to the hearts of the children of old Provence. ~~ Christmas in Legend and Story A Book for Boys and Girls I've always loved the "Jacob's Ladder" look of fougasse. The lacy leaf-like lattice reminds me of the connection between bread and…

Another Last Word on French Cuisine and UNESCO’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage” Program

The recent inscribing of  "intangible cultural heritage" status  to "the French gastronomic meal" by UNESCO brought both cheers and jeers to the table. As I wash my hands and get out my Le Creuset terrine baker for the paté de campagne en croûte for Thanksgiving appetizers, I'd like to share a quote with all of you…

At the Tables of the Monks: Daily Fare (Part III)

Fermentation provided a number of foods on the tables of medieval monks. Beer, cheese, wine, sausages all result from fermentation processes. While it is true that medieval monks invented none of these foods originally --- the Romans made cheese, wine, and sausages and Norsemen enjoyed beer --- the monks, after the fall of Rome, guarded…

A Symbol of the Season

Many years ago, I read A Precocious Autobiography, by Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. One passage moved me to tears and I am sharing it with you this year, during this season symbolic of hope. In the darkness of winter, at least now in the Northern Hemisphere, we face the longest night, lighting candles and Christmas…