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Old 11-15-2011, 12:15 PM   #31
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I lived with a German family in Northern Germany and eaten what folks eat at home...delicious pork roast rubbed with mustard, browned and then baked with 1 bottle of beer, onions, apples, raisins. Liver sauteed the same way. We ate a lot less meat than one eats in North America. Sometimes we'd roast a chicken, but not often. My housemate at grad school was from Rouen, France. She made a fantastic sauerkraut dish with local sausage and seasoned with juniper berries. She also made a great rabbit dish. She mixed her own fines herbes...and we ate our salads first. A lot of how people eat at home has to do with personal preferences. We ate a lot of soft cheeses when we were in grad school...in Germany, we ate a lot of Quark and Quark-based desserts. Quark on Schwarzbrot with sour cheery jam is a favorite of mine (when I can find Quark and Schwarzbrot). And, Pinkel with kale stew in the Spring when Pinkel was available...a Northern German dish. I think of the "sauerbraten" foods to be more common in Southern Germany. I remember great sausages, great fish, cheeses, various "one pot" dishes (Eintopf) and the yellow potatoes. Check out Laura Calder's recipes French Food at Home French Food at Home - OnTv - Shows - Food Network Canada. I love her pork in milk recipe...
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Old 11-15-2011, 12:38 PM   #32
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I think you're expecting "French cooking" to deliver so sort of focused cuisine, distinct from all others, and easy to spot wherever you might see it. But a large nation is just too big to have that. In fact, it's more unlikely than not for any region of any large nation to produce what you're expecting. Efficient transport and communication has provided almost all people with options far beyond the regional traditions that were very often simply making the best of limited resources, even if some of them are very good indeed. For simple examples, in in the 1980's, the prize for best foreign food restaurant in Paris went to a Tex-Mex place. And in the 1960's, iced tea, ubiquitous in the Southern US, was such an unknown in the Northeast US that my aunt had to ask for hot tea, ice, and water, and the whole place gathered to watch her make iced tea.

Each region of Italy has distinct practices (and it's not all pasta - rice dominates in some regions), while all know of, make, and eat the same things available throughout Europe. You might find cassoulet a big deal around Carcasonne in France, just as you find specific dishes in New Orleans or Jamaica of any other place with a distinct cooking style. But you can't characterize any nation's cooking except in some very broad principles, and that often doesn't represent the best of that nation. And it's easy to make serious errors. "Mexican food" is often thought of as in terms of US versions of "Mexican." Mostly, it's not even "Mexican," as the dishes arose and are typical of Texas or California or New Mexico, rather than Mexico itself. (Real Mexican cooking is among the most sophisticated in the world.) Even vastly farther from the truth is western "Chinese."

There are, however, some principles that apply in French food. One is an emphasis on freshness. It takes me a while to get over the shock and disgust of the typical American produce section when I come back from France. Much of what we buy would be thrown out as spoiled in France. And if a fisherman out of Nice doesn't sell some of his catch the same day, it can't be sold, and the police - not the "food police" but the regular criminal police - will enforce it. There is also a much different attitude toward meals and the time taken to enjoy them. And that tends to translate into greater care in preparation. I will agree that French cooking has been so often represented as a sort of international gold standard that it's not unnatural to go in expecting the whole country to sit down three times a day to a unique array of meals, all very different from other nations. But that's not true of many places on Earth, and, again, the places where it's true are generally those with little choice.

So, what's the big deal with French food? For a small nation, a remarkable range of foods and a willingness to do wonderful things with almost everything edible. But, exactly like anywhere else, you have to actively seek out really good food, and you have to seek harder for really good food unique to the region. And, like in the US, you're not going to find it every day at the average urban family table.

It's also true that, if you are looking for what you expected to be especially refined cooking, you no longer need to be in France. The same forces that have shrunk the globe have made it possible to find restaurant cooking to a nicely refined French standard in most large cities in the US and elsewhere. But, while that's true, the fundamental difference in the relationship with food means you very rarely find in the US the amazing performances found in so many tiny and very rural French eateries.

Also remember that the French reputation dates back (not so long ago) to when you almost had to go to France for anything like it, and absolutely had to go if you wanted the best. The ready availability of a wide range of international foods or even interregional foods is a very recent phenomenon, one that you won't realize unless you're maybe 50 or older. Of course, if we really want to go way back, the Italian Medici chefs taught the French to cook, so maybe it's not surprising that Italian cooking meets more of your expectations.
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Old 11-15-2011, 12:44 PM   #33
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Escargot are often cooked in tons of butter and garlic. Pretty much anything would taste good cooked like that-maybe even cauliflower.
That's what I figure. You could cook an art gum eraser in butter and garlic, and it would be delicious. Oh, wait a minute. That's kind of a lot like escargot, anyway.
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Old 11-15-2011, 01:25 PM   #34
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That's what I figure. You could cook an art gum eraser in butter and garlic, and it would be delicious. Oh, wait a minute. That's kind of a lot like escargot, anyway.
You guys are BAD! Escargot are delicious. and they're easy to fix. I like them best done in their traditional garlic/parsley/butter sauce, and then tossed with bucatini. Or just take cocktail picks and spear them off a pile of them. Delicious with sparkling wine or cold beer. REALLY!
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Old 11-15-2011, 01:45 PM   #35
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You guys are BAD! Escargot are delicious. and they're easy to fix. I like them best done in their traditional garlic/parsley/butter sauce, and then tossed with bucatini. Or just take cocktail picks and spear them off a pile of them. Delicious with sparkling wine or cold beer. REALLY!

I never said I didn't like escargot. I do. I was just commenting on how preparation can effect results.
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Old 11-15-2011, 07:26 PM   #36
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i love snails. i love them prepared the french way with butter, i love them chinese style in black bean sauce, and i love them simply grilled -foot side up so all of the delicious liquor stays in the shell. they're delicious when uou pull off the foot pad, then suck out the meat and liquor. yummmm.

and just like shrimp or squid, if you overcook them for even a minute or two they turn to rubber. so, if you've had rubbery snails, whomever cooked them for you screwed it up.
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Old 11-15-2011, 07:47 PM   #37
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I love snails too, even rubbery! Learned to love them in high school, we had a student-run international food fest. Lovin' the mollusk ever since.
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Old 11-15-2011, 08:32 PM   #38
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i always thought my family was weird because we ate salad after the main plate, and then often had cheese with mustards and raw veggies (onions, radishes, carrots) a little bit later as an evening snack.

i never realized how french we were being. i'm going to have to ask my parents how we came upon those traditions.
I wonder how I came by such traditions. My parents and sister always ate their salads first, while I pushed mine off to the side until last I even ordered it last when eating out, preferring bread before my meals.
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Old 11-15-2011, 09:28 PM   #39
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Snails are a great pizza ingredient. Put them on top of the cheese so they get a bit crispy.
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Old 11-15-2011, 09:31 PM   #40
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Snails are a great pizza ingredient. Put them on top of the cheese so they get a bit crispy.
That sounds good, Rock. I've used them in pasta sauce too.
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