To all the Americans who thought that the US had cornered the market on bad eating habits:
You are not alone.
There is at least one other country that will soon be able to take some of the bad-food-bashing pressure off of your ever-so-broad shoulders.
To all the British who had been participating in said US bashing:
Look to your own.
One of the interesting things about going to the big supermarkets in France during August is checking out the trolleys of all the holiday shoppers.
They're easy to pick out: It's normally a group of people; could be 2 or 3 couples all shopping together, or a large, extended family. They carefully discuss every item and debate whether the prices are 'better here than at home'.
In our area, they are, almost always, British.
They're normally dressed casually, in shorts and flip-flops, something a local French person would never go out in public in, let alone to a supermarket or shopping center.
If it's a group of adults, they have lots and lots of wine in the trolley, along with smoked salmon, foie gras, saucisson, stinky, runny cheeses, baguettes…. and usually some nice peaches or apricots, some expensive cherries or strawberries, and a few bars of good chocolate.
Not bad actually. Everything, except the saucisson and foie gras, is healthy. Probably not in the quantities it will all be consumed in, but still, not bad.
It's the families with children that always make me look twice… And cringe.
They tend to be large families, both in individual sizes and numbers.
There will be the minimal salute to France with a few saucisson and cheeses in the trolley, topped off with tins of beans-in-tomato-sauce and white bread, a dozen or so 2-litre bottles of sugary soda pop and piled high, very, very high, with all the sweets they can get. Sugary biscuits, cakes, cookies and bars, frosted with more sugary icing.
One such family wandered into the produce section by accident when I was there a few weeks ago. 2 large size adults accompanied by 4 pudgy children. They were pushing 2 trolleys. The littlest boy was enthralled by all of the fruit and kept touching the peaches and nectarines, fondling the grapes. Daddy kept coming over to get him and drag him back to the candy department where the rest of the family had quickly gone.
The little boy kept coming back.
He'd worked his way around to the apples when Mum finally lost patience, and came to fetch him.
I heard this exchange with my very own ears:
Mum: No, we're not buying apples, we have enough food. The trolleys are full. Here, have a candy.
Child: But, Mummy, I really want an apple!!!!
Mum: I said NO.
At which point she grabs his arm and drags him back to the sweets.
I realize they're on holiday….. But to deny a child an apple?
They could have gotten a large bag of apples for less money than one of the packs of cakes.
Does anyone else have a problem with this?
Have I been living alone in the French countryside for too long?
I realize that eating 5-a-day is hard for some people, but an apple is a good start….
One of the ways I use to eat more vegetables is to serve them as a first course (in addition to a side dish). And I love timbales…
Shredded carrots and Gruyère cheese make an interesting combination. The carrot retains a light crunch, and the sweetness pairs well with the slightly sharp cheese. A bit of tomato sauce is all that's needed to finish. Using drained canned tomatoes give the sauce a much fresher flavor than using regular tomato sauce.
Carrot and Gruyère Timbales with Tomato Sauce
6 oz (180gr) grated carrot – about 2 medium
3 oz (100gr) grated Gruyère cheese – about 3/4 cup
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tbs crème fraiche or plain yogurt
Butter two ramekins and line the bottoms with buttered waxed paper (makes getting them out much easier). Put a medium saucepan half full of water on medium-high heat. Grate carrot first, then cheese, using the medium holes of your trusty box grater. Keep them separate, please. When the water is boiling blanch the carrots for 30 seconds, drain and rinse with cold water. Using your hands gently squeeze them dry. You now have orange hands – well done! Beat egg lightly. Add carrots, cheese, mustard and crème fraiche and mix well. Spoon into prepared ramekins. Cover with a circle of buttered waxed paper. Put into a roasting pan with deep sides – I use a metal bread pan, and add hot water (hot tap water is fine) so that it comes half way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 25 minutes at 400F (200C) – they should be set – firm on top. Remove from oven and from hot water. Run a table knife around the sides to loosen. After removing top sheet of waxed paper put a small plate over top of ramekin and flip over. Remove ramekin, and paper from top (formerly bottom) of timbale. Spoon tomato sauce around half of timbale and serve immediately.
1 can whole tomatoes, drained, 15 oz (450 gr)
1 clove garlic
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp basil
1 tsp sugar
1 tbs red wine
Finely chop shallots and garlic. Heat oil in small sauce pan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Roughly chop the tomatoes and add along with the rest of the ingredients. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Puree (either with a blender or immersion blender) and serve on the side.
Kitchen Tip: to line timbales cut a square of wax or parchment paper a little bigger than needed. Fold it in half, and in half again, and again, and again, always keeping the point of the triangle the same. When you can't fold it any more cut the edge opposite the point the length of half of the circle you want – unfold. Voila!
Apologies to all healthy eaters and shoppers of both countries….