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Thanksgiving bloglibumneduTuesday before Thanksgiving is a good time to start preparing for Turkey Day.

You can make pie crust and buy any last-minute essentials. Making cranberry sauce is also a good Tuesday activity.

Make your Thanksgiving pie on Wednesday, so that you have less to do on Thursday.

Prep vegetables on Wednesday and put them in a pot of water or stock (cover with a lid) on the stove ready for cooking on Thursday. Alternatively, cook them on Wednesday to reheat on Thursday.

Make your turkey stock for Thanksgiving gravy ahead of time on Wednesday. Remove the wings from your turkey, joint them (for bone broth), sauté them with a tablespoon of salted butter until browned, then add water. Bringing the pot up to the boil and simmering sufficiently takes about three hours. Turn off the heat and leave to cool gradually to room temperature.

You can also make your stuffing then so that it is ready for the bird straightaway on Thanksgiving.

By the way, the secret to a good stuffing is plenty of butter. Use a ratio of 1/3 stock to 2/3 butter. Sauté chopped onion, mushrooms and celery with 125g — one stick — of butter in the stuffing pot before adding the croutons. Add another 125g of butter when you add your stock. Melt the butter in the stock then add the croutons, put a lid on the pan and turn off the heat. You will get a lot of compliments!

Finally, be sure to season your turkey well before putting it in the oven. Prepare a seasoned rub of your choice, adding plenty of salt. I also put softened salted butter with sage or bay leaves under the skin. It makes a huge difference to the finished product.

Salt and butter are your Thanksgiving dinner friends.

I mention this because the worst Thanksgiving dinner I ever ate was at a nurse’s house in the late 1970s. I can remember it to this day. She did not season the bird at all — or any of the side dishes. Furthermore, everything was low-fat. I ate out of politeness, but could easily have passed that dinner by.

Also, if it is easier for you to carve and dish up in the kitchen, do so. You’ll save time on the washing up, as you won’t have serving dishes to clean.

In closing, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a huge chore. Start now, so that you can relax a bit more with your guests on the day.

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Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 10:9-16

Peter’s Vision

The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour[a] to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

————————————————————————————————

Last week’s entry discussed the vision of Cornelius, a Roman centurion stationed with his family in Caesarea.

Cornelius was what the Jews called a ‘God-fearer’ (Acts 10:2), meaning that he was a Gentile who believed in the God of Israel and observed parts of Jewish law. He never became a full Jew but was welcome to worship and associate with the Jews. In the vision, an angel of the Lord told Cornelius to send his men to Joppa to fetch Peter and take him to Caesarea. The divine plan here was to make Cornelius the first fully Gentile convert. The Samaritan converts from earlier chapters of Acts were half-Jew and half-Assyrian.

Acts 10 is the introduction to Gentile conversion. John MacArthur describes how events in Acts unfolded (emphases mine):

We find that God prepares two people. First He prepares the Gentile, and then He prepares the Jew. The Gentile is Cornelius, and the Jew is Peter. It has to start somewhere, so it starts with two guys. It’s gotta be more than theory. It’s gotta happen, so He picks out two people, Cornelius and Peter, and He gives each one a special vision, which is like sort of training in preparation. Before they’ll ever come together, there’s gonna have to be a lot of soil tilled up, and so He begins with a vision here in the first eight verses or so to Cornelius, and then from verse 9 on, He gives a vision to Peter; and this, then, is the beginning of the Gentile inclusion in the church. By the time you hit chapter 11, the Gospel’s gone to Antioch and Gentiles are getting saved. By the time you come from there and you start moving ahead, you hit chapter 13, and all of a sudden Paul’s going full blast to the Gentiles, and the problem is…is moving out, and it’s becoming sublimated. The thing is really going, and Jews and Gentiles are coming together in Christ. Peter runs back to Jerusalem. Says, “You’ll never believe it. People, you’ll never believe it. They got the same gift we got.” See. And then the report comes, and the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, which finally comes to the conclusion that they will accept them fully as those who belong to Jesus Christ. So it all begins here in chapter 10 …

So, this vision that God gave to Peter is about moving him away from regarding certain foods and people — Gentiles — as unclean. Matthew Henry has this terse comment:

Peter had not got over this stingy bigoted notion of his countrymen, and therefore will be shy of coming to Cornelius … The scriptures of the Old Testament had spoken plainly of the bringing in of the Gentiles into the church. Christ had given plain intimations of it when he ordered them to teach all nations; and yet even Peter himself, who knew so much of his Master’s mind, could not understand it, till it was here revealed by vision, that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, Ephesians 3:6.

Verse 9 tells us that as Cornelius’s men were on their way to Joppa, Peter went on the roof to pray. He had no idea what was coming next.

Recall that Peter was staying with Simon the tanner in Joppa. Simon was an unclean person in the eyes of the Jews because of his occupation.

Roofs in that era and in that part of the world were terraces — places where people congregated or enjoyed peace and quiet. Peter went on Simon’s roof to pray. No doubt he was observing Jewish patterns of prayer which meant he prayed several times a day.

The ‘sixth hour’ means this was at noon. Given the time of day, he was hungry. Henry has this observation:

From morning to night we should think to be too long to be without meat; yet who thinks it is too long to be without prayer?

How true.

While the midday meal was being prepared inside the house, Peter fell into a trance on the roof (verse 10). Henry explains:

probably he had not that day eaten before, though doubtless he had prayed before …

The trance was:

ecstasy, not of terror, but of contemplation, with which he was so entirely swallowed up as not only not to be regardful, but not to be sensible, of external things. He quite lost himself to this world, and so had his mind entirely free for converse with divine things; as Adam in innocency, when the deep sleep fell upon him. The more clear we get of the world, the more near we get to heaven: whether Peter was now in the body or out of the body he could not himself tell, much less can we, 2 Corinthians 12:2,3. See Genesis 15:12,Ac+22:17.

The hunger and the prayer was the perfect time for the divinely sent vision of a large sheet — like a tarp — with four corners, containing all manner of animals, reptiles and birds (verses 11, 12). There were no fish on it, because Jews are allowed to eat fish. It is a ‘neutral’ food, by the way, meaning it can be combined with meat or dairy in Jewish dietary law.

We talk about the four corners of the earth. Peter is seeing this before his eyes. This is not only about food, it is also about spreading the Gospel around the world via the Church. Jesus died and rose from the dead for everyone, not only the Jews.

Henry tells us:

Some make this sheet, thus filled, to represent the church of Christ. It comes down from heaven, from heaven opened, not only to send it down (Revelation 21:2), but to receive souls sent up from it. It is knit at the four corners, to receive those from all parts of the world that are willing to be added to it; and to retain and keep those safe that are taken into it, that they may not fall out; and in this we find some of all countries, nations, and languages, without any distinction of Greek or Jew, or any disadvantage put upon Barbarian or Scythian, Colossians 3:11. The net of the gospel encloses all, both bad and good, those that before were clean and unclean.

Also:

it may be applied to the bounty of the divine Providence, which, antecedently to the prohibitions of the ceremonial law, had given to man a liberty to use all the creatures, to which by the cancelling of that law we are now restored. By this vision we are taught to see all the benefit and service we have from the inferior creatures coming down to us from heaven; it is the gift of God who made them, made them fit for us, and then gave to man a right to them, and dominion over them. Lord, what is man that he should be thus magnified! Psalms 8:4-8. How should it double our comfort in the creatures, and our obligations to serve God in the use of them, to see them thus let down to us out of heaven!

A voice from heaven said, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat‘ (verse 13).

There is no instruction there about vegetarianism.

The Lord gave Peter a vision of animals and other edible creatures, not of plants.

Peter resisted the divine order by saying he had never eaten anything common — i.e. defiled — or unclean (verse 14). He obeyed Mosaic law as laid out in Leviticus.

MacArthur explains:

all of these dietary laws were given to Israel, and so, consequently, in the mind of a Jew, there was a division between clean animals and unclean animals; and no self-respecting kosher Jew would ever eat anything but clean animals; and Peter was this. He never touched anything but the clean, because that was the tradition. And you say, “Well, why did God make this distinction? Why did God make clean and unclean animals?” Well, No. 1, it is true, I think, that there are some animals who are perhaps more liable to carry epidemic-type diseases; and because of the fact that the preparation of food in those days wasn’t anything to what it became, God was kind of purifying Israel from at least the dominant threat of epidemic. Because, you see, they lived in a…in a community that was always close together. They moved in the wilderness in like a little garrison of people all jammed together. If an epidemic ever broke out, it could wipe ’em all out, and so God preserved their existence this way, although I think that’s only a minor point, because He coulda kept the diseases from them by His sovereign power.

The major point is this. God had them eating certain animals and not certain other animals for this primary reason. To distinguish them from … Gentile peoples. Now, in those days, social intercourse occurred at banquets. They didn’t have any of the entertainment we have today … feasting was how they had common relationships, so God just did this. God gave the Jews such distinct dietary laws that they couldn’t get together socially with Gentiles. Do you see? That was the point, because, as they went into the land of Canaan, it was so…so easy for them to get intermingled. Look what happened to ’em anyway. But God drew lines so that they would not be able, were they obedient to His standards, to be able to have a social kind of relationship with Gentiles, and that’s the point.

It is the same way today in much of the Jewish world. It’s a big deal for a Gentile to be invited to a Jewish home, especially for dinner or a party. It doesn’t happen that often.

The heavenly voice spoke again to Peter, rebuking him for calling God’s creatures common — defiled — or unclean (verse 15).

Henry explains that this vision represented the lifting of dietary law. Nothing is to be refused, especially living creatures. ‘Kill and eat’:

he has now, for reasons suited to the New-Testament dispensation, taken off that restraint, and set the matter at large–has cleansed that which was before polluted to us, and we ought to make use of, and stand fast in, the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and not call that common or unclean which God has now declared clean. Note, We ought to welcome it as a great mercy that by the gospel of Christ we are freed from the distinction of meats, which was made by the law of Moses, and that now every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused; not so much because hereby we gain the use of swine’s flesh, hares, rabbits, and other pleasant and wholesome food for our bodies, but chiefly because conscience is hereby freed from a yoke in things of this nature, that we might serve God without fear.

MacArthur discusses the social importance of this freedom for the growth of the Church:

He is abolishing, I believe, the Old Testament Jewish dietary laws. Why? They were designed to separate the Jew from the Gentile. What is the body of Christ designed to do? Unite them. Therefore, this one social line barrier had to be removed for them to come together. You see, they had to learn to be able to socialize around the tables together, because they were now one. And, you know, in the early years of the church, you know, this was the problem that kept popping up. The Jews and the Gentiles who were both in the church wouldn’t eat together, and this is what Paul dealt with in Romans 14. That’s the whole reason Roman 14 is written, because the…you know what would happen? The Gentiles were abusing their privileges. They’d have Jewish converts over and serve ham. See? And Paul says, “Now, you don’t need to do that. Sure, you’re free, and there’s nothing unclean, but you don’t need to do that, because that’s purposely offending that Jew who doesn’t yet understand his liberties.”

But he also says to the Jew, “Don’t you try to make the Gentile conform to dietary laws that God has set aside.” See, God wanted to remove the barrier that had been built to keep from being impure. He wanted to take it down so they could be one in Christ, and so I believe that statement there is the statement that abolishes the Old Testament dietary laws. Now that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to eat everything. I…that’s obvious. You know, there’s supposed to be a sensibility in terms of what we eat, but, nevertheless, there are no ceremonial dietary laws to keep people apart, because He wants us together; and this was the beauty of what the early church finally found. That what they called the agap[e] or the love feast, they came together to eat. Beautiful.

St Luke, the author of Acts, wrote that this happened three times before the sheet with the living creatures was taken back to heaven (verse 16).

The number three, as used in the Bible, is one of divine completeness and perfection. Bible.org has more, including this:

the biblical writers often employed the number three or wrote in patterns of three to provide a special emphasis that sought to engage their hearers/readers in exploring the full significance of the events or details of the passage at hand.

Henry describes what happened during the vision:

The sheet was drawn up a little way, and let down again the second time, and so the third time, with the same call to him, to kill, and eat, and the same reason, that what God hath cleansed we must not call common; but whether Peter’s refusal was repeated the second and third time is not certain; surely it was not, when his objection had the first time received such a satisfactory answer. The trebling of Peter’s vision, like the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream, was to show that the thing was certain, and engage him to take so much the more notice of it. The instructions given us in the things of God, whether by the ear in the preaching of the word, or by the eye in sacraments, need to be often repeated; precept must be upon precept, and line upon line. But at last the vessel was received up into heaven. Those who make this vessel to represent the church, including both Jews and Gentiles, as this did both clean and unclean creatures, make this very aptly to signify the admission of the believing Gentiles into the church, and into heaven too, into the Jerusalem above.

Having seen this vision — although not quite understanding it — Peter was prepared to meet Cornelius. The story continues next week.

Next time — Acts 10:17-23

Roaming the aisles of Monprix in Cannes this summer, I happened to see a good variety of French sausages.

Having room in my suitcase for only one pack, I decided to buy Saucisses de Montbéliard for €5.40. It has the IGP — Indication Géographique Protégée — label.

Saucisses de Montbéliard are a speciality of the Franche-Comté region and originated in the ancient city of that name located in the départment of Doubs.

My better half thought they were hot dogs, but they are proper sausages. They have a light, smoky taste and an unctuous texture, to say the least. And they would have fit neatly into hot dog buns.

It was certainly too hot to make a traditional casserole or stew with them, and as we wanted the sausage to be the star on the plate, we had them with a slice of baguette.

Mine were made in Morteau, another city in Doubs, known for its sausage.

The Franche-Comté region is mountainous (the Jura range) and located near Switzerland. As one would expect, all sorts of wonderful sausage and cheese come from there.

There is also a Saucisse de Morteau. As with the one from Montbéliard, it is smoked in a traditional tuyé farmhouse. Regions of France has a photo of one and explains (emphases in the original):

The Tuyé farmhouse is a rare but extremely traditional house existing in Franche-Comté. It may be the only region in France to have such a regional house type. The Tuyé property was originally the house of mountain farmers or breeders.

The name of the house, Tuyé house, originates from the name of the massive chimney taking place in the main room that was used to heat the house obviously but also to cure meat in smoke. Ham and various sausages were smoked in the furnace for weeks, sometimes for months.

Outside, the traditional Franche-Comté tuyé house is massive. This is explained by the original need to provide a shelter for both human beings and the animals. Winters in this foremost mountainous region are cold and long.

Another Regions of France page explains the difference between the Morteau and the Montbéliard. With regard to the latter:

The Montbeliard sausage is also smoked in a tuyé using different types of wood, bringing additional flavours to this Franche-Comté gastronomic product. In France, the Morteau sausage is the greatest rival of this very tasty product.

These sausages are outstanding when cooked soaking in milk with potatoes (the French way!) or accompanied with vegetables as bacon, cabbage, carrots, leeks + garlic, onion, thyme or bay leaves.

A traditional way to prepare the saucisse de Morteau is to first cook some potatoes in a pan filled with half milk and half water. Add sausages in the pan and cook for one hour and a half… Then drain the water and the milk. It’s gorgeous and tasty and will indulge your taste buds.

Some people make their own saucisses de Montbéliard. This short video shows what is involved:

If you are in a self-catering situation in France, these sausages are definitely worth buying. And, no, you don’t need to casserole them, just reheat them in a pan for several minutes until warmed through. (Monoprix’s come already cooked.)

With all the truth bombs that need to be dropped and red pills dispensed concerning the US president, I am woefully behind with a write-up of my trip to Cannes earlier this summer.

I bought three types of cheese to bring back home. Two came from Monoprix and are the subject of this post.

The Cannes Monoprix has a separate cheese cabinet for products from small producers. Most of the cheese in that cabinet is made with raw (cru) milk. Raw milk is excellent for developing and maintaining good gut bacteria, thereby promoting overall health.

Banon

Banon is made in a town of the same name located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region.

It is a small round cheese which comes wrapped in chestnut leaves which are tied with raffia. The Banon cheeses I buy are semi-soft: not runny, just pliable.

Banon is made from raw goat’s milk and is available most of the year, except between October and December.

The taste from the ones available in the supermarket is particularly mild and creamy — reminiscent of milk — therefore, suitable for the whole family.

However, there are also runny Banons and stronger tasting ones. I’ve been eating Banon since 2002 and have never seen those.

In any case, the manufacture involves allowing the cheese to mature for several days then dipping it in eau de vie before wrapping it in sterilised, vinegar-softened chestnut leaves. It further matures for two weeks.

Always look for the yellow and red AOP — Appellation d’Origine Protégée — label for authenticity.

Mine cost €4.50. It was made by the Fromagerie de Banon and distributed by the company Étoile de Provence. It had the AOP label. Incidentally, the Fromagerie de Banon is open to the public on weekday afternoons.

Chef Morgan, who has been to Banon to study the cheese, writes:

Each step, including maturation, is done at a particular temperature. It is the combination of the sweet curd and the tannins from the chestnut leaves which give Banon its “Banon” flavor.

Le pliage du fromage” means folding the cheese. In Provence, goat cheese was historically the primary source of protein in the winter and the farmers needed a way to preserve “surplus cheese” to be consumed in the winter months (later surplus cheese was sold at markets). 

In the autumn when the chestnut leaves fall, the brown leaves (which have a lower tannin content) are collected and stored in a dry place. They are softened by blanching them in boiling water and/or vinegar and then they are drained.  The leaves preserve the cheese and give it its unique flavor.

Also:

the interior of the cheese is soft and gets softer as it matures.

Fromages.com says:

The alcohol protects the cheeses against bad mould and slowly the chestnut leaf aroma influences the cheese’s taste.

The local Banon is runnier — more mature — than the ones I’ve seen:

The farmers of the region eat the cheese by scooping it up with a teaspoon and washing it down with cooled local red or white wine. 

Chef Morgan tells us a bit more about Banon’s history:

Banon, the cheese, is a cheese with character. It has been around since Gallo-Roman times and it is legendarily told that the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius ate so much Banon that he died …

The cheese gained AOC (now AOP) status in 2003:

which guarantees that the goat’s milk is from local goats (goats of the commune of Provence) which have grazed in particular areas in France (it must be one of  31 cantons, 179 municipalities in four departments in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Provence, or Drôme) and that the goat’s milk was produced, manufactured, and ripened in the traditional way. 

Neufchâtel

NeufchatelNeufchâtel is a soft cheese made from cow’s milk, preferably raw. (Some Neufchâtel is made with pasteurised milk, so be sure to read the label.)

I used to think it came from Switzerland, until I saw a French food documentary. I was surprised to learn that it comes from Normandy.

It’s an interesting cheese because it’s runny around the outside with a soft, crumbly centre. I have seen it described as ‘grainy’, which doesn’t do it any justice at all.

Although mild, it has a stronger, more distinctive taste than Banon. It is reminiscent of nuts and mushrooms and is absolutely delicious.

Mine cost €3.70 and was made by Gaec Brianchon in Nesle-Hodeng. It had the AOP label. Alex and Olivier sell the cheese from their farm every day and provide tours by appointment only.

Neufchâtel is a classic cheese, although not as old as Banon. Some accounts say that Neufchâtel dates from the sixth century, others from 1035.

Cheese.com tells us:

The cheese is made in many forms, shapes and sizes – bonde (cylinders), coeur (heart shape), carré (square shape) and briquette (brick shape). Legend goes that French farm girls fell in love with English soldiers during the Hundred Years War and started making heart shaped cheeses to show their love.

Neufchâtel’s AOC (now AOP) status was granted in 1969.

Conclusion

Although I bought these cheeses in France, it is possible that readers living in the US can find them at speciality grocers, such as Trader Joe’s. I bought some French cheese there several years ago, and it was excellent.

In my 2013 Cannes food shopping entry, I wrote:

Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in any of the shops mentioned below, only that I have found them to be reliable establishments. Also, please note that your nation’s customs laws might prohibit bringing home certain items (e.g. dairy products).

Before you leave home, pack a couple of large sheets of thick bubble wrap. Chances are you’ll want to bring some culinary items home and a few of these are likely to be in glass containers.

Also, if you have one, pack a flat chill bag, which is great for bringing home cheese and other items which require refrigeration. If you do not have one of these, Monoprix’s food hall and Casino supermarket sell them.

The chill bags and bubble wrap are essential for food lovers. In 2017, Monoprix still has the chill bags, conveniently located in the frozen food aisle. (I’m not sure about Casino, only because I didn’t look.)

In June, SpouseMouse and I checked out the smoked fish selection in Cannes. Casino’s was comprised of smoked salmon.

Monoprix’s was more adventurous with the addition of smoked eel and smoked trout.

Smoked eel — Filets d’Anguille fumée (Delicemer)

At €6.21 for 100g — enough for two people — Delicemer’s smoked eel fillets are a must.

Not only do they look beautiful, with two foot-long long strips of filleted eel (like this), they were a dream to eat.

This product is from Spain. They treat eel with love.

Smoked eel is not widely available but every foodie should definitely try it.

In England, we bought Forman’s many years ago, but it seemed very salty, even for me. Since then, I have had it regularly when I dine as a guest at a private club in Pall Mall, where it tastes rich, unctuous and buttery. Presumably, Forman’s is the supplier, but it tastes just right. Maybe they have adjusted the salt content.

I thought nothing could top that until I tried Delicemer‘s from Monoprix. It was even more unctuous and buttery. Even better, it was a fraction of the price of Forman’s. Glad I bought two, now consumed.

Although a light horseradish cream is often served as an accompaniment, Delicemer’s are best eaten plain at room temperature with a few slices of decent baguette.

This was one food memory that I’ll always treasure.

I will buy more on our next trip.

Smoked trout — Truite Fumée Pyrénées (Ovive)

I bought a 120g pack — 4 slices — of Ovive’s smoked trout for approximately €6.

Although I would buy it again, only because it is difficult for some reason to find smoked trout in England now, I did not think it was unctuous enough. I enjoy a fatty tasting smoked fish.

Sure enough, on the back of the packet it says (translation mine):

For your health, Ovive trout is 2 to 3 times less fatty than any farmed salmon.

Ovive trout has a fat content of 7.6g per 100g. Contrast this with Delicemer’s smoked eel, which has 34g of fat per 100g. Now I know why I preferred the smoked eel.

On the other hand, SpouseMouse enjoyed the trout and was not missing the fat.

Ovive’s packaging is a marketer’s dream. The text on the back is the length of a magazine article, I kid you not.

truite fuméeThe front of the packet tells you that Ovive’s production is good for nature, jobs and you.

(Image credit: Ovive)

Like the one pictured, ours also came from Lau Balagnas, one of Ovive’s three trout farms. It is run by François Pomarez, who also runs another of the company’s trout farms in the Hautes-Pyrénées.

Each site, listed on the back, has the name of the town, regional location, river and farmer’s name. You can find out more on their Facebook page.

Ovive is part of Groupe Aqualande:

Our company is located in the Southwest of France with a strong attachment to this region. Aqualande has become a European leader in aquaculture. Build on the expertise of its people, grateful for the rich values provided by nature and aware of customer expectations, Aqualande has been able to develop harmoniously in all activities of the aquaculture industry.

It is comprised of 15 co-operative members who employ 700 people based in the region:

Smoked Trout is the flagship of Aqualande. With a production of about 3,300 tons per year, Aqualande is leader on the French market. OVIVE brand is valued by its packaging assets of the company: the attachment to the region, the quality of the product and social responsibility.

Thus, our Aqualande Cooperative Group has developed an integrated aquaculture industry and is the largest in the sector in France, with a staff of 700 people in its three activities.

Historically, our company carries the same requirements :

  • strong commitments from the beginning to the end, environmental and social responsibility and product quality,
  • certification by independent third parties to validate our approach,
  • transparency and information towards our partners and our consumers.

Our commitments are our values!

I wish them well. Even though it’s left-wing, I like the idea of co-operatives, where everyone has an interest and receives a proper share of the profits.

Conclusion

I highly recommend bringing these two products home with you when you are ready to leave France. And if you are spending your holiday there and in charge of your own meals, stock up and enjoy them in your accommodation. You won’t be sorry.

While relaxing in one of the lounges at Nice Airport in June 2017, SpouseMouse and I enjoyed a drink and took with us some packaged snacks to try once we got home.

One of these was Bret’s Classique potato crisps (two 30g bags) from the heart of Brittany (Bretagne, hence the brand name):

Potato crisps with Guérande salt – Ingredients: Potatoes, sunflower oil, Guérande salt (1.0%). Produced in a factory handling: gluten, milk, celery, mustard. Suitable for vegetarians.

Thinking this was going to be a taste sensation, we could hardly wait to sample them with a gin and tonic.

Hmm.

If you’re in France and can try these for free, go ahead. However, I would not buy them.

They weren’t salty enough for me.

SpouseMouse said, ‘They’re only crisps, nothing special.’

We had the second bag the following evening and felt the same.

The packaging tells us that Bret’s uses potatoes from Brittany. The product is made in Brittany with regional sea salt. From this we expected great crisps, but they lacked the wow factor.

Bret’s website is a marketing masterpiece. The home page tells us that all ingredients are natural, with no additives. (Those interested in the environment will be interested to know that the company has a very small carbon footprint.)

However, even the most industrial crisp is made with three ingredients: potatoes, oil and salt. In Europe, at least, there are no additives.

Anyway, Bret’s has a varied line of artisanal crisps. I cannot vouch for these.

Their parent company, the Breton family-owned Altho, was started in 1995, after owner Alain Glon spent four years advising local potato growers on techniques and varieties. Over the past 22 years, Altho and its crisps (some sold under the company brand name) have gone from strength to strength.

Altho hopes that Bret’s will become a ‘serious challenger’ in the crisp market:

with creative packaging focussing on the visual.

Well, at least they got it right with the packaging and their marketing. Could do better with the product.

When we’re in Cannes, we shop regularly at Monoprix, which is in the centre of town across the road from the railway station.

In 2013, I wrote about the terrific bread they had in their food hall:

Monoprix’s breadmaking is overseen nationally by a MOF (meilleur ouvrier de France) who has an expert knowledge of all types of flour and yeast. You can pick up a small booklet at the bakery counter in which Frédéric Lalos — the MOF — describes each type of bread.

I did not eat any supermarket bread in 2015, but somewhere along this timeline, Monoprix must have terminated their contract with the MOF, because what they have now looks and tastes mass-produced.

Monoprix’s artisanal breads used to be in the bakery section with the fresh pastries. No longer. This year in Cannes, they are in the middle of the food hall in a separate display.

The day we left, I bought a Monoprix baguette to bring home (€0.95 for 400g). We thought it would taste like an artisanal product.

It was awful.

Slicing it was the first disappointment. It had a tight, white, soft mass-produced industrial crumb, no different to what one could buy in a North American or northern European supermarket. Ugh.

Even worse, it tasted of nothing, despite the fact that the label said it had rye sourdough in it.

I should have gone up nearby Rue Meynadier to a proper bakery. Next time I will.

Here is Monoprix’s current sad selection of own-brand bread and baguettes. Even the Monoprix Gourmet line looks ordinary. It’s terrible, just terrible.

Now that there is plenty of tennis to enjoy on television, it’s the time to tuck into strawberries and cream.

Last week, I bought a punnet of strawberries at our local Tesco (£2 for 400g). I recommend these wholeheartedly. I haven’t tasted such a sweet, flavoursome strawberry in many years.

My English readers should look for the punnet with a label that reads ‘Kentish Supersweet Strawberries’ containing the variety Malling™ Centenary. (Malling is a rural district of Kent.) I put the variety in bold, because I tried another ‘Kentish Supersweet’ variety a few days later, and it was not very good.

Paul Mansfield is the grower. Well done, Mr Mansfield. You made our Pimm’s even more delightful.

Those who favour another option for their berries might want to add a dash of balsamic vinegar and finely sliced basil leaves, both of which are a perfect complement to strawberries. We had a fruit salad with those ingredients 18 years ago in Cannes at La Potinière. The restaurateur mixed the berries and basil with a tablespoon of light olive oil, a few finely sliced black olives, a scant teaspoon of sugar and cracked black pepper on top. He served it in a parfait glass with a long spoon. It sounds like an improbable combination, but it was excellent.

Here is Tesco’s recommendation, along similar lines:

Incidentally, based on customer feedback, The Grocer has named Tesco Britain’s Favourite Supermarket for 2017:

No doubt that is partly because Tesco are committed to reducing food waste and giving food to charity.

They also think of urban dwellers who would like to grow their own produce:

The accompanying article says, in part:

Now a new unique and super-productive indoor tomato plant is being launched by Tesco aimed at helping people living in urban areas without gardens.

The mini tomato plant has been naturally developed over the last five years by produce experts who have bred together varieties to come up with one that is small, compact and most importantly very productive.

By following the care instructions the small, but powerful plants can each produce up to 150 delicious tomatoes with minimal fuss.

A great idea. It looks as if the plants are small enough to be able to take home on public transport with minimal fuss, too. Perfect for summer.

This is not a plug for Tesco, but I will admit to shopping there regularly for nearly 30 years.

Cannes is as lovely as ever.

Some of my readers cannot see the attraction, but it all depends on when one sees this jewel of the Mediterranean.

There is a brief window between the end of the annual film festival in May and the beginning of the Cannes Lions advertising festival in June when one can experience the city in near normality. Of course, smaller conferences and another international festival — namely the music industry’s MIDEM — take place at that time, but these do not normally impinge as much on city life as the others do.

I’ll have more to write in the coming days, so this is a summary of impressions that my better half SpouseMouse and I noted this year.

Weather

The weather was perfect from start to finish. It was too hot for SpouseMouse during the second week, but we had wall-to-wall sunshine and warm temps.

By contrast, in 2015, we had some rollicking thunderstorms, including one around 6:30 a.m., which brought everyone in our hotel down to breakfast by 7:00 a.m.

Italians

We were surprised at the number of Italian visitors, given that most French people go to Italy for an inexpensive weekend break or holiday.

Femininity and masculinity maintained

Speaking of Italians, they and the French are firmly maintaining male and female roles. Women are feminine and men are masculine.

This was noticeably less common with visitors from northern Europe and North America.

New restaurants

There were a number of new restaurants that opened near the Marché Gambetta near the railway station. I will write about these in future posts.

These are convenient for people staying (and living) in that area. It also means that diners can readily avoid the street hawkers and musicians who panhandle at night near the bigger seafood restaurants along Rue Félix Faure in the centre of town.

Food prices

Restaurant menu prices haven’t gone up much, if at all, since our last visit in 2015, which is good news.

However, the prices of French food and vegetables at Marché Forville in Le Suquet have increased markedly. I can appreciate French talk radio listeners who ring up RMC to say that they do without home-grown produce, buy less of it or plump for Spanish fruit and vegetables which are much less expensive.

French produce is definitely cheaper at the supermarket than at the market stall.

Meat, whether at a butcher’s or the supermarket, is incredibly expensive, probably 50% higher than in the UK.

Shopping

Clothing prices are about the same as in 2015.

One can still find terrific bargains in natural fabrics for men and women at Monoprix and in Rue Meynadier, both of which attract Cannes residents as well as tourists.

Fun Mod’ in Rue Meynadier still has durable, traditional espadrilles in all adult sizes and colours for €6 a pair. You can’t get a better bargain.

Service

Service continues to improve in restaurants, both in terms of getting plates to the table and communication. We can speak French reasonably well, but many wait staff spoke in English initially to be helpful.

Cleanliness

Cannes is a smooth running ship in terms of hygiene.

We did not see any litter. (There are fines of €180 if the authorities see someone littering.)

I saw only one small bit of graffiti — in the upmarket Rue d’Antibes.

The dustmen went around at least daily — twice a day on Tuesdays and Fridays — to collect trash and recycling. There was a man who rode a machine that swept and cleansed the sidewalks of Rue d’Antibes every afternoon.

The majority of dog owners — of which there were plenty — were very serious about cleaning up after their pets, so there was very little canine detritus.

Conclusion

We had a lovely time. For once, we were able to stay for two weeks. The hotel was perfect. We had a room with a sea view and a spacious terrace. The hotel beach was great and the sea water soothing.

I am four to five shades darker than when I left Blighty, for which I am grateful.

More to come now and then over the next week or two. I have much to say.

The head of the US Department of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is the man making school lunches great again.

He is also making farming great again. For too long, American farmers have been looked down upon. That’s all changing. Perdue — not related to the chicken processing Perdues — worked on his family’s farm, has a Ph.D in veterinary science, owns three small agriculture-related businesses and was the governor of the state of Georgia.

His Twitter feed — @SecretarySonny — is not only educational but will brighten the darkest of days.

This is one of my favourites:

He enjoys touring USDA facilities around the country just to pop in for a chat:

He recently went to see the flood damage in Arkansas. The USDA will do what it can to help:

He enjoys visiting farms:

He’s visited grain barges:

He’s delighted that China is once again importing US beef, for the first time since the Bush II administration:

And here he is with his lovely wife Mary:

How many people know what’s going on in the USDA? Follow Sonny Perdue and find out what Big Media aren’t reporting.

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