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Say hello

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Sylvain came home from the market this morning with plenty of bounty. Figs bursting with sugar and bunches of flourishing coriander. He also brought home some langoustine, winkles and telline.

Sylvain will be cooking the winkles (bigorneaux) using his mum's traditional recipe (basically boiling 'em for a few minutes with stuffs in the water, which we'll then eat with home-made mayonnaise), then we're planning to pan-fry the telline open with chunks of garlic and coriander (a portugese recipe), followed by a small garlicky pasta dish with the langoustine tails.

I've never tried telline before but have seen them often on the shoreline and I love any type of seafood, as long as it's fresh. The langoustine are going to be divine, but I'm feeling a bit guilty about the winkles.

They were crawling out of the bag when Sylvain brought them home, then he came into the lounge room with one in his hand, its little antennae waving about curiously, and said, "say hello to Monsieur Bigorneau!"

And I'm pretty sure, as I'm typing this out, that I just heard him murmuring to them again in the kitchen.

Crisis averted

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A couple of years after I arrived in France, our local supermarket started stocking cheddar. Delicious, tangy, yellow cheddar that they would chop off the wheel in enormous chunks for me. Despite the enormous selection of cheese that is available in France, nothing melts like cheddar on lasagne.

I, in my smugness, even used to bring gifts of cheddar to my less well-connected expat friends when I visited them. Because everyone loves cheddar.

At the start of the year, they stopped getting the fancy schmancy cheddar in and began selling blocks of white cheddar. Not quite as good, but still seriously satisfying on a toasted sandwich.

Then, all of a sudden, in July, they stopped getting the blocks of white cheddar altogether. And despite the enormous anglo population in my 'hood, they're not planning on getting any more. I voiced my concerns, but apparently they are not listening.

We went over on the ferry to the UK, which meant we had a large car boot to fill with cheddar-y deliciousness. We got as much as we could without running the risk of being judged by our travelling companions. A month has gone by since we got back from the UK and I have been getting anxious, watching the number of blocks of deliciousness slowly diminish.

That is, until Friday, when Sylvain went to the local hypermarket. We normally avoid going there because of the obnoxious amounts of people, but he had taken the day off and he didn't want to be caught lounging around the apartment whilst the cleaning lady vacuumed around him.

And he found this :

FW: Yay

Looks like I'm not going to have to make monthly trips to the uk after all.

You lose some

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Despite the fact that smoking has been forbidden in all public places here in France, we get a regular dose at around 10pm every night, when our neighbour lights up at his open kitchen window (so as not to bother his partner) and his cigarette smoke flies straight into our kitchen vent, which then inevitably drifts its way into the lounge room.

It's basically as if he walks into our aparment and starts smoking in our kitchen.

Every night, we unfailingly find ourselves scrunching up our noses and rolling our eyes at each other. Delightful.

You can't win all the time, I suppose.

Chicken little

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Now, I don't want anyone to panic or anything, but I think the sky might be falling.

Although given The Coriander Incident, one might have to wonder if there is not something a little more sinister going on.

Last night, I ate asparagus.

And liked it.

Taste-testing

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One of the things that I love about France is the rich gastronomic culture - every time we've had international guests, we've really enjoyed showing them around the country through their taste buds.

And that is why taste-testing different food and beverages (armagnac, cognac, wine, vodka, etc.) from all over France is a very civilised way of spending a Saturday afternoon. Especially when you're in extremely fine company.

Of course, the wee headache that I had on my return had nothing to do with the mix. Nothing at all. Oh, and then we podcasted about it. Of course.

Hippocras

Mums-mums

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Of course, he noticed the pseudo mouse pad had not been changed. Within half an hour of coming home. And he made a smart-arsed comment about how I've obviously been so busy since he's been gone and that must be the reason I hadn't bought myself a "proper" mouse pad.

But I can't really complain. He brought me mums-mums. Nearly birdie num nums and close enough that I squealed in excitement. Apparently he couldn't go past without getting them.

He knows me too well. Chocolate! Marshmallow! Biscuit! Mums-mums!

Birdie mums mums! (almost birdie num nums)

For those people who are interested back home (and elsewhere, why not?), check out his flickr stream for a couple of photos of his snow-covered adventure.

More cheese, please!

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We can now add Silver Beets to the list of Food That Katia Will Eat. Who knew?

And speaking of food, in an unexpected turn of events, the new fromager has agreed to order some cheddar. Apparently I'm not the first to ask, and the shipment should be arriving shortly.

Thanks to everyone who so kindly commented and emailed me with offers to ship cheddar to me. The internet is really really great... for cheese.

It IS to my taste

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When I was about 13 or 14, one of my mum's best friends admonished me for constantly saying, "yuk".

She convinced me that it was much more polite to say, "that's not to my taste," instead of rudely declaring that everything was "yuk". This bit of advice has served me well over the years, especially when confronted with some of the more exotic dishes that I've experienced here. Thanks Sabine.

There were a lot of things I didn't eat, but it's funny how ones tastes really do change as you get older. I was told that I would change all the time when I was younger, but you don't really believe such words of wisdom until you actually experience it. Being in another country probably opens my mind as well - I'm a different person, in my head, my heart, so it is only logical that my palate follows suit. Who would have thought, six years ago, that I would enjoy eating snails and foie gras? But it's not all exotic stuff - oysters, rare steaks, olives and cheeses-other-than-cheddar have also been added to the list of Stuff Katia Is Willing To Eat.

The most recent addition to this growing list is Coriander (cilantro). I have long disliked this herb, shying away from the smell and refusing to eat certain parts of meals that had even been touched by coriander - it just didn't taste right. But I always kept a little powder in the spice drawer for certain indian dishes, and it all began when I realised that I didn't die of revulsion when I added a little more coriander powder to such dishes, then all of a sudden, I liked the green leafy stuff!

Now, like a rabbit on crack, I can't get enough. I exclaim more! more! more! as I enthusiastically chop up the coriander for the tikka masala I made for dinner, and make choo choo noises in excitement as the spoon heaped with saucy chicken and flecks of green herbs heads towards my mouth. Tonight I scoured my cookbooks for all the recipes that I had previously discarded for containing the forbidden herb.

Who knew that it could suddenly taste so fabulous? Or that the discovery that now I really do like this little bit of herby goodness could be so exciting?

What could possibly be next? Coconut milk? I would like to like laksa, one of my sisters favourite dishes. Perhaps some asparagus? Then I could share in Sylvains or my parents excitement when they see asparagus appearing at the market. Imagine the possibilities!

Mushrooms, I hear you say? Surely not... I think that's one thing that will remain on the list of Stuff Katia Won't Eat for a good while. I do like picking them though... Maybe it's a start.

Lunchtime

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Once in a while, everyone has lunch together together at work. Everyone. Celebrating birthdays, events, arrivals and departures.

Today, lunch was in honour of summer and a good start to la rentrée. Those who went away for the holidays brought something from the region where they visited, and the table groaned under the weight of the abundant gastronomic goodness.

One hundred gazillion different types of saucisson and chorizo.
Ham, rilettes du Man, empanadas from Galicia in Spain, pâté, cherry tomatos bursting with flavour.
Mounds of crunchy, crusty, melt-in-your-mouth bread.
Wine and beer from all around France, Spain, Croatia.
Cheese, cheese and more cheese. Little cakes of Brebis from the mountains of Spain, some covered in charcoal, some in herbs, some simply oozing with cheesy goodness. Hard Spanish cheese, whose name I didn't catch, eaten on crusty bread with quince jelly. Huge slabs of Maroilles.
Charentais melons, fragrant in their bright orange goodness.
Homemade tiramisu. Oh how I do love coffee.
Tiny mountain figs, as small as a mirabelle plum. Purple, red, bursting at the seams with sugar. So sweet that I could feel my blood sugar levels rising just by looking at them. Of course, I couldn't help myself and ate two.

I was made explain, yet again, what Australian cuisine is (how does one explain a cuisine that brings together the best parts of every culture in the world?), and promised to bring some Australian delicacies back to France. I'm sure they'll be disappointed when I don't bring back an esky of kangaroo meat. I don't think it would travel all that well.

And I think I don't need to eat anything for a few days now.

Spag bog

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Despite the hilariousness of recent events, further reflection has reminded me that I can't really criticise the behaviour of others when it comes to fussyness and food.

I remember getting upset, even angry, when my mother even dared consider using minced beef for anything except bolognaise sauce. I even recall tears being involved when I was told that the garlic and onions being sautéed in the pan were not destined to be the base of bolognaise sauce. I also recollect throwing a rather large hissy fit after my sister was slightly heavy-handed with the chilli and ruined (in my opinion) a perfectly good meal.

Without a doubt, spaghetti bolognaise is my favourite dish. I basically lived on the stuff when I was at university. And the menu chez the aussie lass, the frenchman and the burmese tonight includes spaghetti bolognaise. Because when I was little, I swore that I would eat it whenever I damn well pleased.

If Sylvain gets sick of it, thank goodness he knows how to cook.

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