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France – La Gourmandista

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Etiqueta: France

Mauviel 1830 : Consciously Working Since 1830

As a Mexican, when someone talks to me about copper, I immediately think in handcrafts, in pots, in markets. It reminds me of that small mining town in the state of Michoacán which is famous for the Purépecha Indigenous Group who very particularly work hammered pieces that they engrave and polish by hand. However, truly and sincerely, I had never stopped to think about luxury cookware in such a metal before I visited the Loire Valley a few summers ago and witnessed an exhibit with numerous marmites, pots, and pans made of copper and with their manufacturing date engraved. Needless to say, they were all at least 100 years old and in perfect conditions to begin cooking a soup or a jam on the spot.

They didn’t have a brand, however, the style was very particular. Reading here and there, and with the help of my professors in culinary school, as well as visiting specialty stores around the Les Halles quarter in Paris, I learned that many of these pots and pans came from a place very similar to the one I knew about in Michoacán, but, this one was located very near the Mont Saint Michel Abbey in the Lower Normandy region in France. Thus, I arrived to Mauviel 1830. Now, I learn that the main difference among both sites is that here the manufacturing began back in the Crusades. Back then, artisans learned how to provide warriors with utensils because they needed to. In time, the pieces became purely ornamental, and even though Mauviel 1830 is not the only manufacturer of the regio, they are the most important ones. They currently serve exclusively the culinary arts industry, even though, history may change again in the near future, thanks to the popularity copper has been recently gaining in the decorative arts.

Mauviel 1830 is located in a small town named Villedieu-les-Poêles. It has been a family business for 7 generations, and Ms. Valérie Le Guern Gilbert has been in charge since 2006 when she succeeded her father. Since then, Ms. Le Guern Gilbert makes her best not only to be the head of an international company, but that of an entrepreneurial family. Since the moment one enters Mauviel 1830, one can feel how how homey it is. True, not all of the products on sale now are purely copper, they also work with combinations of inox with different treatments, with ceramic, and even silver for contests such as the Bocuse D’Or which takes place every other year in Lyon.

To summarize my day at Mauviel 1830 is especially difficult. I can certainly say I found a company interested in their industry’s innovation, in doing a good job, in leaving their mark in the community, but more than anything, for their daily activity to be conscious. The company’s retirees frequently come back twice, even three times a week to carry on teaching their apprentices their handcraft professions and pass on the experience acquired throughout their years on the job at the company.

Mauviel 1830 has presence in Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and America, being Mexico and the United States two of the fortunate countries where one can find the firm’s products which have been described by chefs such as Yannick Alléno, who holds at least 6 Michelin Stars in France, as the best in the world, and you know something, I think it’s impossible to disagree with him.

Valérie  tells me that for some time, Mauviel 1830 has been available at the Williams-Sonoma stores in Mexico as well as in the United States, though in the latter you will find them in other specialty stores such as Sur la Table, since they are interested in their international presence. I think to myself, who knows? Maybe in the future the purépechas from my native Mexico might collaborate hand-in-hand with Mauviel 1830.

Paris Attacks: The Aftermath of the Deadly Shootings

I have been working on quite a few texts to share with you, however, my dear Readers, it is of utmost importance that I make a stop and talk about all that has been happening in my beautiful and lately not so calm Paris, especially since it has taken me three weeks to share my thoughts and experience.

It was Friday the 13th, for some it means good luck, for others, it is exactly the opposite. For me, it was a day I had circled in my calendar for I was going on a weekend to Scandinavia to meet up with three very good friends with whom I chat all the time and who I had actually never met in person. We were all very excited even though we had had not a lot of time to plan what we were going to do during our “Girls’ Weekend”.

I had planned to finish my activities around 3:00 p.m., go home and take a shower, grab my suitcase, and take the suburban train to the Roissy Airport. I had calculated to leave home at around 5:00 pm in order to have plenty of time and not be neither nervous nor in a rush. In the end, I decided to not take the train, but to take a Uber car and leave at the same time. Someone told me to leave with plenty of time, since there would be a soccer match at the Stade de France –which is on the way to the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Right on time I requested my private chauffeur service, grabbed my luggage, and went down the stairs. As customary, the service was cordial and the driver and I had a pleasant conversation on the way. We saw the stadium’s surroundings and he reassured me that once we were out of there, he thought there would be no more traffic jams. And so it was. I entered the terminal, printed the label for my luggage, dropped it off, and passed security. I sat down on the gate which had already been assigned for the flight, and thought it would be a good moment to have a chat with my better half as well as with my father. Thank God I did, I think now.

The Vigil in front of the the French Embassy in Copenhagen

The flight boarded and took off on time. The weekend promised a lot of fun, laughs, and not a lot of sleep, but no one actually cared. We just wanted to have a weekend full of good food, a bit of junk food, chick flicks, you know, kind of a weekend long slumber party. We had agreed that all of us traveling would be meeting up in a Starbucks located by the exit of the Copenhagen airport terminal. Evidently, to notify Lovey and my friends who were supposed to be waiting for me, I immediately logged on the free wifi service offered by the CPH airport. To my astonishment, I started receiving message notifications from every app one could imagine… WhatsApp, Facebook, iMessage, even Twitter. All of them asked me if I was doing alright, if I was safe and sound, but mostly what the effing had happened in Paris. I had been flying for almost two hours, and when I had left the City of Lights, all was calm. So, I answered I had no idea, that I was not in town, and that yes, I was fine. I answered as many messages as I could. Then, someone explained to me through one of these messaging services what had happened, sort of… all, while I was waiting for my luggage. To make the long story short, my evening, even though I was in total safety and very happy to finally meet with my friends, turned bittersweet.

The morning after the attacks I posted this on my social networks: “You know, I am not French, but in any case, I am a Parisian, for Paris has been the place I call home for some years now. Tonight, even when I am completely safe, and even though I know I will leave the city soon, I am crying, I can’t sleep, because my Paris, my home has been hurt once more.” All my friends posted something similar to let their loved ones know they were fine even though Paris looked almost like a ghost town that day. Everything was closed, even the parks. It was almost like a lockdown. The authorities, though not demanding people to stay in, they were strongly suggesting it.

My friends and I participated in the vigil before the French Embassy in Denmark that evening. I had goose bumps; I cried almost silently, and I say it silently because actual tears started to run down my cheeks. We held each other and paid respects.

Participating in the Vigil in Copenhagen

On Sunday, people started to step out of their homes. They needed the air, but I think mostly they needed to turn off their television sets and connect back with their city. Now, almost a month has passed by, and the bruise still hurts. Nonetheless, life goes on, and Parisians do their lives as normally as possible. People are out having fun in the Christmas Markets already, and terraces all around the city are getting busier and busier every day. We have to, the weather is beautiful. Security checks are much more common and thorough these days. The shopping center I prefer now demands that one opens jackets and coats, just to be sure you’re not a kamikaze and a patrol from the National Police is there, attentive that all of us remain safe while we go look for a book, make up, or just to have a cup of coffee. People look at each other in the metro wagons and on buses. We are being more cautious. We need to be.

The first piece of news I had was that there had been a shooting at a restaurant. I now have friends working in restaurants. I felt scared and just wanted to know which restaurant. When I was able to know the name I have to say I was partially relieved, for it was not where any of my friends worked, however, as I started reading the information I had access to –which was a lot- I had shivers. This sounded serious, scary serious, and even though I was miles away from my home, I stood awake until almost the sun rose, for it was 6:00 am Saturday morning when I finally turned off my light and decided to go to sleep. All through the weekend my mind was very near my beloved Paris and my friends. I tried to be as informed as possible. I contacted everyone in my book. I watched the local French news over the Internet to understand it all and mainly because should we have turned on the news, neither Swedish nor Danish are languages that I master.

On Monday, I came back, and I found a city grieving more than 100 deaths. My friends were scared. I didn’t know what to expect. Children were asking very difficult questions which challenged parents to answer. But, how the hell do you explain a terrorist attack to a 6 year-old who has been fortunate enough to live his life in a place where he can walk on the sidewalk and doesn’t need to be holding his parents’ hands or who can freely run around a public park? What do you tell them to reassure them and to make them feel safe if you, yourself are not at ease?

Just last week I met a dear friend also from Mexico, and we concurred that one of the main reasons for liking life in Paris was the feeling of being safe. And that is exactly what these mad people are trying to steal from us, and this doesn’t mean I have no sympathy for what happens elsewhere, however, what is hurting me, what makes me ill, is knowing that people around me have been touched in one way or another by such terrible events. The girl who sells a baguette for my meals every day missed the concert because she couldn’t find tickets for the show, and therefore is alive, and all she wanted to do was celebrate her boyfriend’s birthday. One of the girls from the administration office in my school was supposed to be at the Petit Cambodge and didn’t go there for last minute change of plans, not to mention so many people who have expressed being there over and over to have an aperitif or dine with friends and family, and evidently, last but not least, that shouldn’t I had not planned the weekend escapade, I might have decided to go watch a soccer game at the Stade de France, because I’m going to leave Paris and will actually manage to have never been there, and no one would have thought I would put myself in an  unsafe situation should I have planned such outing. So, the story, the pain, the grief changes. Perception changes. All those who are close to my heart in one or another way are safe and sound. However, others, not so close to me, but who I know, have lost friends and family members. And then, it makes me grief, for them, for their loved ones.

A week ago, a very formal ceremony took place at Invalides. It is the first one to be held there and not be for members of the armed forces in the history of France. Also, I read something about people wanting for November 13 to be an official holiday to not forget about these terrible attacks, but none of that is going to bring back parents, couples, family members, friends…

Gardens and Gastronomy: A Trip to the French region of Berry

As my French Cuisine training adventure continues, the Intermediate Cuisine Syllabus is all about the terroir. It’s about getting to know what comes from where, and in many cases though we don’t get to try out the finest presentation, what we experience is the rustic homey style of a stew or a casserole, or what French grandmothers would prepare for their little ones when they get pampered. And this was what Chef Caals had in store for us as a mid-term Demonstration class.

And so, the journey began. We went all the way to the region of Berry. Karine, one of the school administration managers came to talk to us about it since she is originally from this area located in the center of France and told us a bit about the place where she grew up and her grandmother’s cooking for Easter. She said today’s menu reminded her of that. But I won’t spoil it, I remember she said, for Chef Caals will prepare it marvelously and I shall be back in a few hours to taste his delicacies. She left and we were ready to begin.

It turns out Berry is a region that was originally a Province of France and which disappeared during the French Revolution. It now hosts three Départements: Cher, Indre, and Vienne. But back to the cooking. Now, I want to assume that almost anyone who is familiar with traditional French cuisine knows what Coq au Vin is, or at least knows that it exists. Well, I thought THAT was what we were cooking, unless it wasn’t. It’s called Coq en Barbouille. It turns out they are similar, but the latter requires the sauce to be thickened with blood. And of course I am not scared of it, however, I am not fond of it either. In my natal Mexico people like eating blood sausages known as moronga, but it has never appealed to me either. So, I was not very eager to try it.

Barbouille, after a bit of investigation here and there I found has to do with “bad paintings”, so it translates to slang and someone who is lazy for he “paints on Sunday”, my source said -not Wikipédia. So, it seems it’s all about a lazy rooster whose hens are no longer producing eggs and it is destined to become “stew” since it is no longer useful otherwise. Sad, isn’t it? Now, the blood originally would come from the same rooster, but now it doesn’t -except in the farm, said Karine. Now we use pig’s blood. It’s just easier -and legal, to get ones hands’ on it.

In the end, it turned out that if we didn’t want to thicken with the blood we would be allowed to use something else like corn starch. I decided to take this road. A little voice in my head told me that pig’s blood wasn’t the healthiest choice… And I know it would have only been a droplet or two, but I think I was not ready to incorporate such an ingredient to my preparation. Who knows? Maybe I’ll try it more courageously in the near future. In the meantime, this is what I served at school as well as at home, and everyone seemed satisfied with it.

Oh, and Karine loved the one the chef prepared. I tried the version without blood and have to say it was not bad either.

Paris: The City of Lights, and Love

How many people can a person meet in his or her own professional path? I honestly cannot count each and every one of them. Many, if not I ought to say most of them have just passed by. They’ve left a memory or two, but few have stayed.

And from this handful people, if one is lucky enough, there’ll be a couple of them who arrive unexpectedly to our lives and a special connection happens. Then, I think I just blinked for a moment, and almost ten years have gone by. What we’ve got is some kind of soul sisterhood, and I am thankful, for it, but being almost 10 thousand kilometers apart can make one wonder if such a friendship may loose its momentum. The truth, for us, at least on my part, is that we make the most of the moments we have to be together and every chance we get to talk and be up to speed with each other we make the most of it. I am grateful for they host me when I visit my country, they make me feel at home, and they help in whatever way possible. I feel really lucky. It’s been quite a ride. Through thick and thin, making the thin lighter and the thick more enjoyable. I sincerely hope it’s been a two-way road.

When we first moved to Paris, they were there in the kiss n’ cry area to see us off. Just one month after, we met. I had the most pampered celebration possible where I was trying to set my roots. It was extremely nice of them to plan their stopover in this city to stay for a couple of days with us and visit. Truly, I must admit, we got lost, got wet, went up and down the same street quite a few times, but enjoyed the places, the views, and of course, being together. During that first visit we said it would be nice to go beyond the ‘périphérique’ and get to taste some French flavors of its provinces. It sounded like a good plan.

In 2012 there was no chance for the meet up to take place during the Birthday Season, a.k.a. October-November, but we managed to get together throughout the year and be up to speed with what we had all been up to.

But 213, was completely different. We met in Spring, then in Summer, and finally in Autumn. Weren’t we lucky? And we did it on both sides of the Atlantic. We got to spend part of the Birthday Season together, and to discover new places and adventures together.

As 2014 started to develop, we met in March, just as in 2012 and 2013. Back during that reunion a plan for the Tour de France we had talked about a few years ago started to find a calendar as well as a route. An exceptional weekend took place in June thanks to a business trip and two thirds of the group got together, but we anxiously couldn’t wait for the Fall to arrive and the plane to land at Charles-de-Gaulle Airport.

October 18 finally came. I arrived with plenty of time, so I sat down at the Arrivals area of Terminal E and patiently waited for them to cross the doors and enter La France. Honestly, as the minutes passed by, my emotions started to own my body and I couldn’t read any more, so, I stood up and decided to walk in front of the windows that allow one to see the carrousels where luggage is delivered to travelers. First, there was a flight full of Chinese?, who knows… finally, at the end of the hall I spotted the Mexico flight. Don’t ask me how? I just knew by looking at the people, and, there they were looking for their luggage. They saw me as well and we waved hello. I ran back to the Arrivals’ Doors. A few minutes later, we were all together and ready to take the streets, landmarks, and even the railroads of La Métropole et La Provence. It’s evidently difficult to say how much I enjoyed having them here, chez nous. During the following two weeks we met whilst they made stopovers in the City of Lights, and went everywhere we could, because we would have liked to have more time. Nonetheless, we had a marvelous time.

For the moment, none of us know when the next meeting will take place, nor do we know where. Yet, I am grateful for our get togethers every chance we get.

Can you imagine a life without limes?

At home we had no fruit trees because they just didn’t grow. Nonetheless, the garden had oranges, limes, and Palestinian sweet limes. I remember that once we had tomatoes and tomatillos. We had a whole bunch of Mexican black cherries, known as capulines, and of course, we always relied on René and José Luis, our most trusted fruit and vegetable vendors from the market stand always ‘threatened’ by my mother to bring back the produce if it wasn’t tasty enough. And as a matter of fact, she never did, because they were excellent merchants and their produce was of top quality, delicious to say the least. I must say that I stopped buying from them only when their location and mine stopped being convenient. Once, I remember someone telling me they had no idea I would be so savvy and agile when buying at the market, but until they saw me interact with my prefered produce providers on the corner of Avenida STIM and Bosques de Reforma in Mexico City. As any woman living alone and working all day, every day, my consumption of all agricultural products started to come from the supermarket, and when I wanted to be more stylish I went to get organics. I wasn’t, however, worried for the availability of a papaya, or a jicama, or for the price of the watermelon, or seedless limes.

Therefore, when we crossed the big blue Atlantic Ocean, one of my worries regarding the way I ate wasn’t precisely about availability, but price. Then, when I started to become conscious about what I was craving, I got worried about finding how to satisfy such craving, and I even started to talk and learn about seasonal products. But the first thing I had to cut on were limes. If you’re reading this and you’re not of Mexican origin, let me share that in my country limes are EVERYTHING. We put lime juice everywhere, promise. As a matter of fact, we’re not fond of and even dare to not like lemons. For us, lemons are limes, and limes are Palestinian sweet limes. That’s it, and that’s how we like it! Hahahaha! We drink lemonade (made with limes, obviously), to hydrate ourselves when the weather is hot, we use it to hydrate ourselves at all times. We pamper our bodies when we have a cold by putting its juice on tea, on chicken soup, on noodle soup, and even in tortillas when there’s nothing else to put in them and make a taco out of that and a little salt to tickle the taste buds. Anyhow, I could jot down a very very long list including even junk food to which lime juice is added, and I promise, you wouldn’t even believe it’s true, and yet, it would be. Thus, when I first went to the supermarket and the market, I got goosebumps when seeing that 3 lemons would cost me 1,00€, and to make it worse, they were lemons, not limes. So, with the spirit quite down, we started to eliminate much of the lime consumption. With time, I gave in, and bought it. I even found little bags with 1lb. of lemons at Carrefour, but when comparing them with the quality of the 3×1,00€ the difference was abysmal, so like I said, I gave in again. When I felt like dominating the situation, I found I could buy my precious lemons at the same price. Two years later, they have gone up and now cost 3×1,50€, but the shock has passed, and the consumption has increased with time. And when there are no limes, I enjoy lemons.

But one day while I was reading the news and my Twitter and Facebook timelines I found everyone at awe. The price of limes had skyrocketed, and even in Europe it had become cheaper than in the Producing and World-Providing Mexico. When I visited my country a couple of weeks later I was able to confirm it. Unbelievable! I went to a popular supermarket in the middle of the city and THERE WERE NO LIMES! It was a total scandal and newspapers were saying that wholesalers in the Central Market were pricing them well beyond 50 USD a case. A never before seen kind of crisis. Were my fellow Mexicans facing something similar to what each one of us who live abroad goes through upon arriving to conquer new latitudes? When will the so-called self-defense groups let these round juicy and delicious harvests from the states of Colima and Michoacán before they rotten? Someone even told me we would suffer the consequences in Europe. I have to admit that in all confidence I answered:

– No, the Brazilians will provide them.

And so they did.

In the meantime, and even when the Mexican government made as much damage control as possible, I have heard many say that if life gives you lemons… now, you’re a millionaire.

Here, the price hasn’t gone up. You still pay 1,50€ for three lemons… or limes, whatever you prefer to get at the market. Nonetheless, the season for lemonade and veggie crudités with lime juice is just around the corner, however, I think MY BELOVED MEXICAN LIMES will be absent, for I want to keep on enjoying it, and hope you do the same as well.

Driving Nuances from the Foreigner’s Eyes

Drivers’ Ed is something I remember as much more serious in the United States than in Mexico. Or at least that has been my perception from what I remember from my teenage years. I am not sure how it works out now with youngsters in my country nowadays, but back in the 90s it was either a parent or the high-school sweetheart the one who taught one how to drive. In my case it was my father, and if I had to go through it again I am sure I wouldn’t choose him as a professor since he scared the hell out of me every time I was behind the wheel, he taught me well… yes, of course I learnt more after that horrid accident I got myself into at the age of 16 where I miraculously survived with barely a 10-stitch scar I still have on my left knee.

But let me be honest here for a moment, after that humongous accident, I have only suffered a couple more misfortunes as a driver which in fact have mostly been taken care of with a little wax or a change of tires. Nothing serious. And yes, I became a pretty good city and highway driver. No, I still don’t do neither ice nor snow, but that is because I have never needed to do so, just once a couple of years ago, and frankly I didn’t do bad either. Of course, I was over 30 already, so I am pretty sure that doesn’t count by now, hahaha!

But then, what happens while in France? Well, for starters I am not a holder of a recognised drivers’ permit, for the Mexican Driver’s License is just valid for tourists, and since I have been here for more than twelve months, I am no longer considered a tourist, so, I haven’t driven around, but I am seriously considering taking the test. I mean, how hard can it be? Yes, I am surely going to need a couple of lessons in order to understand the traffic signs which are different to those I am familiar with, but for the rest I am not worried, not at all. Hey, not even the parking. My dad taught me that one really well, and here, let me just say I would stick the “wide turns” sign to most cars.