I'm not really sure where that came from. I was a terrible French student in high school, had a mad crush on my teacher, Monsieur Trapp, and spent way more time looking up dirty words in my Larousse than learning verb tenses.
But my husband and I had recently traveled to Paris and I was dreaming of a time when we could return and Parisians would not respond to my attempts to speak their language by answering me in mine.
So, I enrolled in a French class at our local senior college, found a tutor, discovered an app on line called Duolingo, and found a French-speaking pen pal in Belgium who wanted to learn English in exchange for helping me learn French. My pal (ma copine), Claudine and I have been emailing each other for almost a year now, and Skyping once a week for the past several months. I find myself looking forward to Wednesday mornings, because our language exchange has turned into a lovely friendship for both of us. We talk about our families, our travels, what we did during the week, and our weekend plans, and we laugh...a lot. We sometimes struggle to understand each other but can often figure out unfamiliar words from the context of the conversation. One morning, she was telling me about an appointment she couldn't keep because the office was blocked by protestors. She used the word "pistolet" which my French dictionary defines as gun or pistol (duh!) so I assumed she was talking about police officers with guns who were there to make sure the protest did not turn violent. I then talked to her about strikes and protests in the US that usually did not require armed law enforcement. She began to giggle and then guffaw, and then patiently explained that in Belgium, pistolet also meant a small, round loaf of sandwich bread. So, apparently unable to keep her appointment, she went out to lunch! We both had a great laugh over that, and the following week when we Skyped, she announced to me in English that she had brought her gun, and pulled a small, round "pistolet" out of a bakery bag.
Food is actually a focal point of many of our conversations, and early in our correspondence, I suggested we exchange recipes (hers to be written in French and mine in English) and asked her to send me something typically Belgian.
The next day, I received an email with the typically Belgian recipe for...Rabbit!
Eeeew! I had never eaten it-- let alone cooked it--before, but in the interest of politesse, international relations and world peace, I decided to tackle it. And, o.k., despite my husband making snide remarks about eating the Easter Bunny, we polished it off. It was that good!
(Lapin aux pruneaux et aux lardons)
Although rabbit is not as readily available in the U.S. as it is in Europe, I have sometimes seen it in the frozen meat section of our grocery store, and I am able to get fresh, cut-up rabbit from a local poultry farmer at the Farmer's Market.Serve with puréed sweet potatoes or butternut squash (use ghee instead of butter) and steamed kale or other hearty greens for a perfect cold-weather meal. And if you absolutely cannot bring yourself to eat rabbit, this is probably very good with chicken :-).
1 rabbit, fresh or frozen, cut into four pieces
2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS ghee (clarified butter)
4 strips no-nitrate, sugar-free bacon, cut in one-inch pieces (either Vermont Smoke & Cure's Cider-Brined Low Sodium Bacon or Garrett Valley's Sugar-Free Dry Rubbed Bacon; if these are not available, just use no-nitrate bacon)
1 cup pitted prunes
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley sprigs for garnish
1. Season rabbit with salt and pepper.
2. Heat olive oil in pan and add rabbit.
3. Brown rabbit pieces on both sides, then remove from pan.
4. Pour off most of the oil, then add the ghee to the pan and put the rabbit pieces back in the pan.
5. Add a little water and cook, covered, over low heat for 1 1/2 hours. Check frequently and add water as necessary.
6. While rabbit is cooking, gently cook bacon pieces in a separate pan until fat is rendered.
7. 20 minutes before rabbit is done, remove bacon from fat with slotted spoon and add bacon to the rabbit.
8. 15 minutes before rabbit is done, add pitted prunes to pan, cover, and cook until rabbit is done (when meat is tender and separates easily from the bone). Serve garnished with parsley. (Note: Claudine only cooks the thighs and legs, les cuisses, because the breast section is quite bony. I have not been able to find just the leg and thigh sections for sale, so just be aware of all those little bones when you are cooking and eating all of the parts).
Some things are definitely lost in translation. In English this dessert would be called Mysterious Pears, so let's just call it by its lovely French name. This is an adaptation of another of Claudine's recipes. Her recipe calls for mascarpone cheese, which I've replaced with a Paleo version.
2 cups cashews, soaked in water for 4-6 hours
1/2 cup coconut cream (from the top of a can of Native Forest Organic Classic Coconut Milk)
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup, plus 1 TBS honey
3 TBS organic cacao powder
2 small ripe pears, the first peeled, cored and chopped, and the second, for garnish, cored and sliced, but left unpeeled
1/2 cup Livin' Spoonful Chocolate Sprouted Cookies (see Tips and Hints, 11/4/15), pulsed in food processor until they are coarse crumbs, optional
Fresh mint sprigs for garnish
1. Drain water from cashews and dry thoroughly. Discard water.
2. Blend cashews until they are creamy.
3. Add coconut cream and lemon juice to cashews and blend until creamy.
4. Add ghee, honey and cacao, and blend until all ingredients are incorporated and mixture is smooth.
5. If using cookie crumbs, place 1/4 of them into each of four small ramekins.
6. Place 1/4 of the chopped pears on top of the crumbs ( if not using crumbs, just put pears in ramekins)
7. Spoon the mascarpone mixture on top of the pears, then garnish with pear slice and sprig of mint.
8. Refrigerate for one hour. Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving.
Like Julie Powell, the eponymous main character in the delightful memoir (and movie) "Julie and Julia", I sometimes try to channel my inner Julia Child when I cook. When we were in Paris in 2012, the 100th anniversary of her birth, I made a pilgrimage to some of her favorite places: the apartment she shared with her husband Paul at 81 Rue de L'Université ( which she dubbed "Rue de Loo"); Dehillerin (which she called "the kitchen supply store of all time"); G. Detou ( a great food store, especially for chocolate,,whose name is a play on words--J'ai de tout or " I have everything"). We did not eat in her favorite restaurant, Le Grand Véfour, having experienced sticker shock when we looked at the menu in the window.
I have long wanted to bake Julia's Tarte Tatin, kind of an upside-down apple pie, and I was in possession of a new kind of Paleo flour, cassava, which purports to be a 1:1 substitute for wheat flour. Yeah, well not in pâte brisée, the kind of crust you need for this tarte. The idea is that you caramelize sugar in the bottom of a cast iron pan, add apples and butter ( I used palm sugar and ghee to make it Paleo), then cover with the pâte brisée, bake, and then carefully flip over so the caramelized apples are on top. A well-made Tarte Tatin is a work of art ( see photo on left) Mine, not so much (photo on right). The crust never held together, so it was pretty much of a culinary disaster when I flipped it over. It didn't taste bad, though, so we ate it. I will continue to seek the best Paleo ingredients to substitute, however, and if I succeed, I'll include it in a post....maybe in honor of Julia's birthday next August?
We weren't so wrong back in the '60s...Peace and love to all of us.