Posted by Heather on Apr 26, 2013 in FOODIE ADVICE
, FRENCHIE FRIDAYS
, GUEST POSTS
For Frenchie Friday and Beth Fish’s #WeekendCooking, Dana Gynther, author of CROSSING ON THE PARIS (Titanic meets Downton Abbey), talks about all that food aboard the oceanliner in her novel.
Take it away, Dana!
ONE OF THE DELIGHTS of writing “Crossing on the Paris,” set on a French Line ocean liner in 1921, was imagining the passengers’ meals. I confess, I spent far more time than was necessary researching antique steamer menus for sale on Ebay, from handwritten ones from the 19th century to those from emblematic ships like the Lusitania or the Titanic. Some dishes were mysteries to me—like Croûte au Pot or Charlotte Russe—and I had to look them up in my vintage copies of the Escoffier Cookbook and Larousse Gastronomique. I decided against using many of the fashionable recipes from the time—like sheep trotters and ox tongue—because they sound so unappealing today.
On ocean liners meals are the key events on board. My book has three main characters—two women travelers in First and Second class and a young woman in the Service Crew—and they all had to have different dining experiences, from the elegant, multi-course meals in First to the homey ones served family-style below. They were all, however, examples of traditional French cuisine in keeping with the fashions of the 1920s.
For example, Vera Sinclair, in First Class, could enjoy velvety lobster bisque with just a hint of cognac, prime sirloin cooked rare, and Peach Melba (a trademark of Escoffier, the first “celebrity chef”) topped with fresh raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream. In Second Class, Constance Stone, unused to foreign food, is disappointed with her cold soup, crème Vichyssoise, and disconcerted by the one-eyed stare of her fish. Julie Vernet, suffering from mal de mer (sea sickness) in Steerage, doesn’t eat but helps serve garlic soup and rabbit to hundreds of people. Solid French cooking from the most elaborated to the most humble.
ALONG WITH THE FOOD, part of the dining experience was the ambience, the clothes, the service and the conversation, which also needed to be different for each class. The First Class dining room on the Paris was a work of art, with an immense glass ceiling and a double staircase for making grand entrances. We can imagine the porcelain tableware, the fresh flowers, Chopin coming from the grand piano in the corner. In Second, for our bourgeois guests in velveteen and tweed, the ceilings were lower, the palms shorter, the service less fawning. Despite the lack of frills in Steerage, the conversation was lively at the long tables and the waitresses could occasionally join in on the joke.
Besides dinners and luncheons, for the upper classes, there were also high teas with the best French pastries, cocktails (especially those popularized in the “American” bars in Paris—martinis, sidecars, white ladies, etc), as well as the traditional on-deck snack of bouillon and saltines. After five days on board, the ship would dock in New York, and the passengers would alight, refreshed and energetic. Undoubtedly, they would also arrive with a few pounds of “extra baggage.”
AND FOR THOSE OF US WHO LIKE HISTORICAL COOKING, Dana has shared a popular dish Vera, her first-class character, ordered aboard.
CROÛTE AU POT
1 thin baguette
4 and a half cups fresh beef or chicken consommé
1 small turnip or parsnip
1 stick of celery
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 large tomato
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1. Slice the baguette into rounds. Brush each side with olive oil and bake until crisp and golden.
2. Pour consommé into a saucepan and heat gently.
3. Peel the onion, turnip, carrot and dice. Add to the consommé with the garlic.
4. Bring to boil, then immediately reduce heat. Cover and simmer until vegetables are al dente.
5. Peel, de-seed and finely dice the tomato and add with the parsley.
6. Place two are three “croûtes” (toasts) in each bowl, fill with soup.
A classic, the dish appeared on the Luncheon Menu of the Lusitania (see menu) but also on the sea trials of the Titanic in April, 1912.
ABOUT THE BOOK
In 1921, the Gilded Age is drawing to a close, but not aboard the great ocean liner the Paris, on its maiden voyage between Le Havre and New York. Amidst the luxurious wood paneling and plush carpets of first class is the aging Vera Sinclair, who has made the difficult decision that after thirty years in Paris she will leave her dearest friend behind and return at last to Manhattan. In the cozy family comfort of second class, Constance Stone revels in unaccustomed freedom as she returns from a brief, failed mission in Paris to her home in Worcester, Massachusetts, where her adored little daughters and dull professor husband await. And on the stifling, noisy lowest deck below the waterline, young Le Havre native Julie Vernet tests her wings in her first job—unenviably serving meals in the steering class dining room. Three very different women from very different worlds, yet aboard the Paris their lives will intersect.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dana Gynther was raised in St Louis and Auburn, Alabama. After college, she lived in France for eighteen months, then returned to the University of Alabama to get an MA in French Literature. In 1994, she and her French-speaking Spanish husband moved to his hometown, Valencia (Spain), where they work as teachers and translators. She enjoys traveling, reading and writing, making collages, riding her bike around town, but mostly, spending time with her husband and their two daughters. Visit her website, www.DanaGynther.com for more details and ancedotes about oceanliners in the 1920′s.
****(Both the recipe and menu were taken from “The Captain’s Table: Life and Dining on the Great Ocean Liners” by Sarah Edington).
Posted by Heather on Apr 12, 2013 in FOODIE ADVICE
, FRENCHIE FRIDAYS
Okay, so I wish I were on a trip to France, bathed in wine. I’ve been so busy I can hardly see straight. A couple nights ago I thought: TO HELL WITH WORK! WALK AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER. TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. So I did, and I wound up at dinner (grilled salmon over mixed greens with goat cheese and poached pears–YUM) and a wine tasting with a couple of friends. It had been eons since I’d been to a tasting, and no other store around does it quite like Divine Wine Emporium on the coast. Especially when we’re talking French country wines.
ONCE AT THE EMPORIUM, we loaded our plates with varieties of what I call stinky cheese, and fig confiture (OMG delish), and settled in to listen. The woman who presented was a hilarious American woman with a robust sense of humor and plenty of drool-worthy pictures of French countryside. As France geek extraordinaire, everytime she asked a question, I was like ooooh oooh, PICK ME! I had to sit on my hands so I wasn’t THAT GIRL in the front row, overly eager and embarrassing her friends.
At any rate, I was transported from sweatpants and computer, to a vineyard excursion. SIGH. And dude, did I need that.
AS FOR THE WINES, all of the grapes are hand-harvested by farmers and NOT processed through machinery like the vast majority of bargain wines and well, most wines made today. These wines had so much more class and pizazz–it really showed when we tasted them! So I highly recommend them for weekend cooking hosted by Beth Fish—because what is food without wine?
MY THREE FAVS:
CHATEAU LA TOUCHE–a muscadet that’s a white wine with a clean mineral taste that makes your mouth pucker ever so slightly–a perfect pairing with oysters or any other delicate seafood or chicken dish. This wine comes from the Loire Valley in France, a region famous for Joan of Arc, its gorgeous limestone châteaux, and the former stomping grounds of French royalty.
VISAN CÔTES DU RHONE–a grenache and syrah blend that’s a medium-bodied red with a fruitiness that would pair well with soups, tomato sauces, or grilled meats. This hails from the southwest of France. Rocky, hilly countryside, dry, hot sunshine. Yes, please!
Quick tip–if you ever need to grab a quick bottle and have no idea what to buy, just about any Côtes du Rhone is not only dependable, but delicious in my opinion. And they’re often $9-$13.
ESPRIT DE FLORE CAHORS–a malbec blend that’s a full-bodied red with a bite that would be delicious with a heartier meal, rich in fat. (Yum. Who doesn’t love fat?) It comes from the Bordeaux region, mostly famous for its many vineyards, but also for the beautiful coastline to the west.
Food and wine tour of France anyone? I, for one, am sold!
Posted by Heather on Feb 8, 2013 in FRENCHIE FRIDAYS
FOR FRENCHIE FRIDAY and Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking this week, I HAD to talk about Mardi Gras. In Nice, France carnival or “carne levare” (“away with meat”), lasts for fifteen days and culimnates on Fat Tuesday, the day before Catholic lenten fast. Merriment in the streets and gorging on goodies is typical, as it is in the U.S., though the two day boob flashing and frat boy frenzy à la New Orleans takes excitement to a whole new…um…level. The first carnival tradition in France dated back as far as the late 13th century, (Italy & Spain also had their own versions.).
I GOT THE BRIGHT IDEA of escorting a pack of high school kids on a trip to France during February vacation one year when I was teaching. Needless to say, we ended up at carnival. We raced along the Promenade des Anglais to catch the flowers they threw. We gaped at the massive body-shaped floats that looked like politicians, and the edgy controversial floats like the giant floating embryo. That was a conversation starter! So very different than the floats you’d see here in the U.S.
The crowd runs around wearing masks in the streets, throwing confetti and spraying silly string on random strangers. (A little odd, by the way, if you don’t expect it.)
BUT MY FAVORITE PART was tearing a couple of my female students away from the “cute French boys” they were groping in the adjacent park.
So this weekend I’m hitting a Mardi Gras party, New Orleans style. I’ve got my mask and beads ready to go and I’m responsible for the dessert. How could I NOT bring Bananas Foster Bread Pudding? Yummm. Pass the rum. So I lifted this recipe straight from Emeril. There’s no need to improve on something that’s already perfect!
BANANAS FOSTER BREAD PUDDING
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 firm-ripe bananas, peeled and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch thick slices
1/4 cup banana liqueur
1/2 cup dark rum
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 cups (1/2-inch cubes) day-old French bread
Vanilla ice cream
Caramel Sauce, recipe follows
**Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 10 by 14-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside.
**Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 cup of the brown sugar and the cinnamon and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes.
**Add the bananas and cook on both sides, turning, until the bananas start to soften and brown, about 3 minutes.
**Add the banana liqueur and stir to blend.
**Carefully add the rum and shake the pan back and forth to warm the rum and flame the pan. (Or, off the heat, carefully ignite the rum with a match and return to the heat.) Shake the pan back and forth, basting the bananas, until the flame dies. Remove from the heat and let cool.
**Whisk together the eggs, remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, the cream, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl.
**Add the cooled banana mixture and bread and stir to blend thoroughly.
**Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake until firm, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
**To serve, scoop the pudding onto dessert plates. Top each serving with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzle with caramel sauce, and serve immediately.
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup whole milk
**Combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a medium heavy saucepan and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves.
**Let boil without stirring until the mixture becomes a deep amber color, 2 to 3 minutes, watching closely so it doesn’t burn.
**Carefully add the cream (it may splatter), whisk to combine, and remove from the heat. Add the milk, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
**Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature before serving. (The sauce will thicken as it cools.)
Yield: a generous 3/4 cup
Posted by Heather on Feb 3, 2013 in CONTESTS & HOPS
, FRENCHIE FRIDAYS
I’ve been selected by the lovely Jackie Buxton for the Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you, Jackie! But this fine award reminded me that my blogging schedule needed revamping. This is what I came up with:
- Twice per month, author interiviews.
- Twice per month, editor/writerly advice.
- The odd contest or blog hop
And the new category that I’m very excited to share will be:
- Frenchie Fridays, consisting of cultural tidbits about my favorite French topics or recettes delicieuses (delicious recipes). I’m SO excited to share these!
As for random blog hops, I’d say it’s time for another! So without further ado…
WHERE’S THE LOVE? BLOG HOP
February is the month of love. So unearth your favorite amorous scene from your novel or short story, (let’s keep it R rated or less. No XXX please), post 250 words to your blog and hop around to others. Receive and give craft and plot feedback, or just enjoy the love! The hop goes live February 14th & 15th. Sign-ups begin tomorrow.