Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Monday, 19 September 2011

Non-flying fragments from Brittany

TOO MANY cheap French restaurants have become pizzerias and no longer offer family food (daubes, blanquette de veau, rillettes) as Dish of the Day. So when I saw a chalkboard in Paimpol announcing choux farci (stuffed cabbage) I dived in and started stuffing. “What is the cabbage stuffed with?” asked an Englishman longingly at a nearside table who thought he’d ordered it but got something else. Visited by those twin eroders of the intellect – nostalgia and a full belly – I handed over a €10 tip on a €29 bill and addressed the muted staff of three: “You run an efficient restaurant. You have an extraordinary menu. And I am happy to be in France.” Methinks they talk of Justice Shallow yet.

THIRTY years ago, on another holiday in Brittany, I bought myself one of those indigenous white and blue striped shirts called marinières. It hung loosely and I imagined it made me look dashing. When it mysteriously became tight I discarded it. This time in boutiquey Paimpol I decided to buy another and Mrs BB did the honours. However, she also bought one for Zach and he definitely looks dashing.

I AM grateful to Lucy for several reasons. With Plutarch she encouraged me, by example, to start blogging, she reacted constructively (again with Plutarch) to my stillborn verse-writing, and when an intellectually posh website rejected my Shakespeare-into-French article she recommended another site where it was accepted. But it was a different matter when she spotted the device I lashed together for mounting satnav on my car dashboard. “Hmmm,” she said as she ran a finger along its rough-hewn edges.


The Crow said...

This post rounds out your trip wonderfully, BB.

So, what was the cabbage stuffed with?

Lucy said...

You must have mistook me, I had nothing but admiration for your homespun GPS mount!

The last choux farci I remember eating in a bar restaurant here, as I think I mentioned, had the stuffing very cleverly interlarded between the leaves in some way so that the form and internal structure remained intact. Yet I can't really remember what said stuffing actually was, whether it was hammy, porky or beefy...

So I've just looked up Mireille Johnston's recipe, which confirmed it was probably hammy and a bit porky, but which then became too complicated to read entirely as narrative without actually performing the actions, involving things like ancillary sausages and pieces of string, and an instruction to '[hold] on tight to the plate and colander, turn them together in a decisive gesture'.

Up on a windswept point out on the Bay of Morlaix, last year we enjoyed plentiful oysters and, which really endeared the place to me, a copious helping of poule au riz (and it really was a grainy and toothsome poule, none of your blandly textured poulet), with plenty of soft white rice, and carrots and peas in not thick creamy sauce, just the kind of thing you describe.

We went back this year and the whole experience was dismal; early on a Saturday night there were only 7 oysters in the place, the main courses were meagre, over-seasone d and sauced and over-priced, and the service was rubbish. I suspect a change of ownership; we left with our fists in our eyes. No 10 euro tip from us there!

Never mind, the less I am tempted to over-eat the closer I come to being able to contemplate wearing horizontal stripes again. Zach certainly does look dashing in his.

Barrett Bonden said...

The Crow: I was able to incise the cabbage with a surprisingly sharp knife and point to the stuffing for my interested neighbour. As far as I could see and taste it consisted of minced (ie, ground - US) beef mixed with mashed potato which the French confusingly call purée. I was pleased to do this for him since he was infinitely better dressed than I was and, I suspect, had a more expensive car. Some compensation for the fact that he lacked my communicational panache. In a rat-a-tat order to the waitress I included eau du robinet (from the tap - a necessary qualification, otherwise they often try and force expensive bottled Badoit on you) and when it came my neighbour's wife sighed, "Oh we could have asked for that if we'd thought." compelling Mrs BB to render an act of charity and offer them a glassful. All in all they hadn't done too well (His shirt, I must insist, looked superb) and I sincerely hope our conspicuous triumphs didn't cause the pair of them to jump into the adjacent harbour.

Lucy: Thanks for the untrumpeted X by the way, sneakily added to my post retrospectively

I apologise for misunderstanding your seemingly critical inspection of my GPS mount and for misinterpreting the sighs. Had you laughed it to scorn I would have accepted it like a man; Box Elder has demonstrated time after time the manual skills of its creator, whereas WW has striven to show that my only DIY quality is to finish the job - however big - in a day.

Your summary of the Mireille Johnston recipe (I intend to plagiarise "in a decisive gesture") hints at cuisine going in the wrong direction - ie, upwards instead of horizontally. It is the horizontal, traditional stuff I despair of finding these days in France and I am not reassured by a bass clef sign traced on my plate in raspberry coulis.

I grieve over your déja vu experience and hope it didn't carry the depressing coda often a feature of this kind of thing - that is, how many times did your recommend the place to others during the intervening year?

Rouchswalwe said...

The Zachster in stripes!