Friday, October 10, 2008

Food for Thought

Like thousands of others I'm following the fortunes of the 'Restaurant' wannabees. I watch the programme with a mixture of disbelief and embarrassment. Why, in God's name aren't they better prepared and better organised? And above all what on earth drives them to submit themselves to the scrutiny of several thousand viewers, their poor, starving customers, two of the most humourless adjudicators and the eagle eye of the great Raymond Blanc ? Are they mad?

It must be the lure of the prize, their own restaurant. The idea that they will be running their own restaurant is somewhat fanciful, as the prize winners will still be working for someone other than themselves ....Raymond himself. And sweet, kind, charmingly Gallic as he may seem, he'll be like every other successful entrepreneur when you actually work for him. A very, very hard taskmaster. How do the hopeful contestants think he got to be where he is today?

Observing the shenanigans of the contestants from a distance is quite enlightening. I've been away from the UK for so long, I've actually forgotten that a decent bottle of wine can cost twenty quid from an off-licence.And I've also forgotten that British restaurants 'turn tables'.

What a philistine habit that is. It's almost unheard of here, certainly in rural eating places. When we first came to France I would ring up to book a table, and then wonder why they didn't ask me what time I wanted it for. They weren't interested in my carefully rehearsed time-telling. If I wanted a table for lunch, well they opened at 12...why should I stipulate a time? No-one else would be taking our was ours for as long as we wanted.

Being asked to vacate your table would be tantamount to committing catering hari-kari. No-one would ever patronise the place again. That's one of the joys of eating out in France. There's no whisking away of plates, or suggestions that you take coffee in 'the lounge'. Ninety-nine percent of restaurants don't possess a sitting area anyway. And that's something I really like. In the UK nothing would annoy me more than being 'stacked' in a restaurant bar for half an hour or so, while waiters try to chivvy on the diners occupying our booked table. Being shovelled into the same bar for coffee afterwards was even worse. In France meals are to be enjoyed, lingered over, chatted over...even at times argued over.

Whilst on this epicurean subject,I thought an A -Z to some of the more obscure items you might find on a French restaurant menu. might be useful.
So here's:


abats : offal

agrumes : citrus fruit

aïgo bouido : Provençal garlic soup served over pieces of bread

aigre : sour

aigre-doux : sweet-and-sour

à aigrir : soured - wine or milk

ail : garlic :

gousse d'ail = clove of garlic

ail semoule : garlic salt

aïoli : a Provencal garlic mayonaise sauce,

airelle : cranberry
alevin : white bait

amuse-gueule , amuse-bouche : cocktail snack

anchoyade : Provençal purée made with anchovy, garlic and olive oil

babeurre buttermilk :

barbouillade : stuffed eggplant or eggplant stew (Provençal)

bavette (steak) : minute steak; the top or skirt of beef

bécasse woodcock

becassine snipe

beignet : doughnut : (beignet, doughnut, fritter)

betterave : beetroot

blé : wheat (useful if anyone has a wheat allergy) :

- germe de blé = wheatgerm

blé noir : buckwheat

blette: Swiss chard

bouchonné : corked = wine that's gone off, with the taste of its cork

bourride : Provençal fish soup, prepared with tomatoes, garlic, onions, herbs and olive oil, and served with aïoli sauce.

brebis : ewe as in fromage de brebis

brouillade : a Provençal type of scrambled eggs

broyé : crushed


cabillaud fesh cod ..... salt cod : morue

cacahouète : peanut

calmar : squid

câpres : capers

capucine : nasturtium

cardoon: an edible thistle, related to the artichoke, with edible root and leafstalks which resemble overgrown celery.

carvi : caraway

cassis :blackcurrant

cassis, creme de : blackcurrant liqueur

chapelure : bread crumbs

chapon : crust rubbed with garlic

chapon : capon a young castrated and fattened chicken

chevreau de lait : milk goat (kid)

chicorée frisée : chicory lettuce

ciboule : spring onion

ciboulette : chives

citrouille : pumpkin

coco rose : small bean, white with pink veins

coing: quince

confit : preserved, confit de canard is duck joints cooked and preserved in its own fat

confit de [fruit] : candied, jellied or crystallized fruit.

confiture : jam

counne : rind, skin : example: "couenne de porc" is porc rind

courge : squash

crème chantilly : whipped cream

crème èpaisse : thick cream

crème fleurette : light cream : a low-fat cream used in cooking, in place of crème fraîche; also "crème liquide"

crème fraîche : cream, full-fat : used for making butter, sauces, etc.

cuire au four : bake in the oven


daube beef stew

dinde : turkey :

dindonneau: young turkey

dorade : sea-bream

doux mild or sweet


ecorce : rind

écrasé: crushed or flattened

écrevisse : crayfish, crawfish

en poudre : powder

encornet : squid

endive : chicory.

entrecôte (steak) : ribsteak

entremets : sweet desserts and sweet side dishes.
épicé : hot, spicy

épinard : spinach

à éplucher : to peel


farci : stuffed = légumes farcis

farine : flour :

farine de sarrasin :buckwheat flour

faux-filet (steak) : sirloin steak

fenouil : fennel

fève : broad bean

filet (steak) : tenderloin steak

filet mignon : small tender end of tenderloin of beef (or of veal or pork)

fondu : melted

fougasse : a type of flattened Provencal bread often stuffed with olives

four : oven

fourré : filled ,stuffed, creamed

fromage blanc : a soft white cheese like a thick yogurt

fromage de chèvre : goat cheese

fromage rapé : grated cheese


germe de blé : wheatgerm (Again useful for those with a wheat allergy)

gibier : game - pheasant, boar, etc.

gigot: : Leg of lamb or leg of mutton, or kid usually roasted

girofle clove : "clous de girofle" are whole cloves, and "girofle moulu" or "girofle en poudre" are powdered cloves. ).

gousse clove, pod : clove (of garlic); pod (of bean or pea)

goût taste : (arôme = aroma; goût = taste; parfum = flavor of ice cream;

à goûter : to taste

grenade : pomegranate

grondin : gurnard,

gros sel: rock, or coarse salt

haricot : bean

haricot blanc : white beans

haricot coco rose d'Eyragues : small white bean with pink veins

haricot rouge : kidney beans

haricot vert : green beans

Next Time : I to P


Annie Wicking said...

I love the sound of having your own table all night. No wonder the French family are so close if they have learn how to sit and enjoy not only the food, but the company of their family and frends.

Best wishes and enjoy your good food...


Jo said...

The family is the thing that still(just ) holds French society together, Annie . Sunday lunch in a rural restaurant means setting aside at least three hours, and the sight of a long table of probably 10 or 12 place settings usually means there's a family celebration in the offing... and that often results in a glass of something bubbly for the rest of us.
I fear that Ronald Macdonald is making inroads into the traditional family lunch, however.