- Black Chocolate
This week a local newspaper reporter asked me what was a typical American Christmas Dinner tradition. From this corner of my French kitchen, I stumbled over the usual suspects: roast turkey- the French do that, too; ravioli- my Italian family’s contribution; there’s always eggnog- try explaining that to a Frenchmen! In my stuttering Anglicized Phone French, I finally found the one safe and very American idea- Christmas Cookies. So relieved to find this safe haven from political discussions, I volunteered to send a recipe or two.
Full disclosure: I am not a cookie baking sort of cook. I love cookies, of course, and can eat my weight in uncooked dough, but if I’m going to make something homemade, I want it to have my own personal stamp. Perhaps not so typical, but all mine. So, I looked to my 2011 Christmas post about Italian Chickpea and Chocolate cookies, and reached back to a duckfat shortbread recipe. I thought I’d throw in a few gingery gingerbread pigs as well just for fun. Recipe to follow!
I am on my own at Camont this Christmas (waving at my Boston family from here!!!), but I am making batches and batches of cookies to take to my farmers market friends tomorrow. They are my French family. After all, they work hard all year for me and what are a few cookies and a Gascon hot toddy going to taste like on a cold December morning ?
From my Kitchen-at-Camont to yours- have a wonderful holiday season and share some of your favorite cookies with someone you love. Thank your farmer with sweetness and armagnac.
I Heart French Farmers!
And I Heart all you Faithful Readers, too!
Why go to the market?
I mean the local farmer’s market, of course.
Fresh, simple, direct- a bargain.
Inspiring, colorful, nurturing- satisfaction.
Diverse, diverting, fun- amused.
All those words pop into my head when I think of the many very good markets I can throw a Gascon stone at from Camont. But versatility is reason I stay faithful to one of my first loves in this area, the little true producer’s market nestled under the unattractive eaves of the Chat d’Oc strip mall on the Avenue des Landes. Not only can I buy just picked old-timey vegetables out of neighboring market gardens, get a great baguette at l’Envie de Pain (thanks Pierre & Valerie!), take my weekly beekeeping lesson from Narcisse, pick up some house paint or maybe get a blood test at the Laboratoire and get Bacon groomed, I can also wash my car at the best carwash in town! It’s a full service strip mall French style… with wine.
What the Chat d’Oc lacks in French country charm it makes up in seriously good content. Here’s a sample of what I picked up yesterday before our MAGYC Day Cooking Class with Michelle & Rochelle where we started with a little fresh herb soup we drank as a hot cocktail. Read More
May Day. All is quiet this early morning but the vast aviary outside my kitchen door. In France, this first seasonal holiday, Labor Day, is the promise of Summer to be. Although it still smacks of worker’s right and labor issues, waving red flags or lily of the valley, it is just a very quiet day in the Gascon countryside.
Mayday- Mud! The famous Garonne River Fog is late this year; it has rained, rained, rained these last two weeks. So much rain now that with the soggy bottom clay silt soil holding moisture like a sponge, the promise of a clear sunny sky later makes morning fog. My own little micro-climate at Camont alongside canal & river is good for the garden…if I could only get to it though the muck.
This week’s market also shouted “Mayday” with a rouge abundance of rhubarb, strawberries, peppers and early tomatoes. Instead of pique-niques, boat rides, country walks, and gardening, I’m sticking close to my Keeping Kitchen and brewing up some seasonal treats- micro batches, single jars, starter vats. Here’s the list from the market booty…
- a place for making food to keep for the winter.
- an edible way of keeping traditions alive.
- a gathering then sharing of abundant harvest.
Over the years, I’ve referred to my French pantry, the way of keeping it stocked, and the very kitchen at Camont as the “Keeping Kitchen”. Within these stone walls at Camont, I have been keeping the traditions of Gascon cooking alive as well as adding to it with my own fresh take on authentic recipes- folding in a new good idea here, leaving out an old bad habit there but always keeping true to the spirit if not the actual letter of the laws of the kitchen.
Good friend and co-conspirator in Italy, Judy Witts- the DivinaCucina diva and I hatched the idea of another combined blog effort like the Going Whole Hog blog project we did a couple years ago. We wanted more than a way to keep tabs on each other’s gardens, kitchens, and lives in Tuscany and Gascony. We want to share our euro-view of what surrounds us as not-quite natives/not-quite-expats. Trends come strong and fast up the internet pipeline but from here they can actually be old world news. We decided to share our everyday cooking habits for stocking the Euro-Larder otherwise known here as the Keeping Kitchen.
Where does it begin?
“It” being the Frenchness of the good food made here in Gascony.
“It” being the idea for recipe.
“It’ is an homage to a certain way of life. My life.
For me, it begins and ends 100% with a list of names that sketch across the Gascon landscape like 18th Century signatures.
Jehanne = foie gras, rillettes, vin de peche.
Narcisse = amber bramble honey
Pierre = dense and crusty baguettes
Chapolard = charcuterie- deep and porky
And most newly arrived at the Saturday Market at Nerac…
Marie de Chèvre = Creamy goaty goodness, clean sweet hay milk transformed into a plateau of delicious chèvre. And what did I do with the 4 creamy fresh faiselles I scored? Here’s my recipe for les petit gateaux de Marie.