The French Retreat part four. Chanterelles and Goat’s Cheese on Toast and why we should not trust the French.

Chanterelles with goats cheese on toast (8 of 8)I’m as forgiving a man as the next guy. In fact, as I look at him from here, I suspect that I am even more inclined to let bygones be bygones. Still, there are some things that we really can’t put to one side. When any Irishman thinks of our relations with our Gallic cousins, thoughts go to the Theirry Henry incident in the ill-fated World Cup qualifier played in 2009. Many Irishmen of a certain age still go red in the neck and pontificate about this outrage. I don’t. The past is a different country and I don’t live there. What really brings me out in spots is their pretending to join the European Union. Yes, they gave the appearance of joining and all of a sudden, we had Petit Filous to feed our kids and Bon Maman jam appeared on the supermarket shelves. However, they really have kept back on the union thing. We willingly gave away most of our fish to our partners while they supposedly gave us agricultural equality. But, they haven’t. They are keeping all the good stuff for themselves. 

“Ou est l’evidence?” I hear you say. “Sur le marché.” is my reply. Yes, they hold back all the good, French, food produce and sell it to themselves in local markets. They start these early and end them early so tourists will not get to enjoy the fruits of their deception. While the average tourist is struggling out of bed in France, the wily French will be closing up shop and going on a three-hour lunch break. Yet, today, I bring you photographic evidence. Having risen before I went to bed, and wearing a beret, a stripy jumper and pushing a bicycle festooned with onions, I moved freely amongst them, taking clandestine photographs for this exposé (yes, a French word). My investigation focussed on local markets in St. Foy La Grande, Bergerac and Libourne. All substantial towns in the agricultural South West of France.

"Why can I never get a doughnut peach when I want one?" Because they keep them all!

“Why can I never get a doughnut peach when I want one?” Because they keep them all!

The soft fruits are amazingly fresh and tasty. The one big problem with transporting them is they are so very delicate. Or so they say…

Apricots anyone?

Apricots anyone?

As I arrived at the market in Bergerac, I thought that dark forces were conspiring against me.

The market in Bergerac surrounds the Notre Dame church. Ominous weather greeted my arrival.

The market in Bergerac surrounds the Notre Dame church. Ominous weather greeted my arrival.

Had I looked like a tourist, they would have moved the entire affair inside and pretended it was not happening.

Not the sort of grapefruit available anywhere near me...

Not the sort of grapefruit available anywhere near me…

I found damming evidence of their lack of commitment to EU standards. Despite forcing the straight cucumber on the rest of us, they keep all the nice bendy ones for themselves.

When is the last time you saw a curved cucumber. That's how they grow them for themselves in France!

When is the last time you saw a curved cucumber. That’s how they grow them for themselves in France!

Chanterelles were a high point of the Bergerac market, available on many stalls.

Charntelles available to locals. Not for export to other EU members.

Chanterelles available to locals. Not for export to other EU members.

The range and quality of produce was staggering.

Yellow carrots? "Oui monsuir, do you not 'ave them in Irelande?"

Yellow carrots? “Oui monsuir, do you not ‘ave them in Irelande?”

They changed my understanding of vegetable colours.

Aubergine anyone? "Oui. De quelle couleur voulez-vous, monsieur?"

Aubergine anyone? “Oui. De quelle couleur voulez-vous, monsieur?”

Perhaps a little honey to sweeten any market deal?

How many kinds of honey do they need. Release some for the rest of us!

How many kinds of honey do they need. Release some for the rest of us!

 

Tomatoes? But of course. What colour would you like?

Tomatoes? But of course. What colour would you like?

All this food photography got me hungry. We repaired to our gite and organised an early (very early as I had to get up in the middle of the night) lunch of Chanterelles and Goat’s Cheese on Toast using only local French ingredients.

A quick shot of the few ingredients needed.

A quick shot of the few ingredients needed.

The mushrooms were the real deal. I had to dust brush them to remove the bits of the forrest floor still remaining after picking.

Dusted Chanterelles waiting to go into the pan.

Dusted Chanterelles waiting to go into the pan.

Despite the bread being still warm from the boulanger, we decided to toast it.

The freshest of fresh bread. I suppose they can defend not exporting it this fresh.

The freshest of fresh bread. I suppose they can defend not exporting it this fresh.

We fried the mushrooms in some French olive oil.

Fried in bio-dynamic French olive oil (available in every supermarket over there).

Fried in bio-dynamic French olive oil (available in every supermarket over there).

We added some very fresh goat’s cheese to the proceedings.

Delicious, fresh and very inexpensive goat's cheese was available in every market we visited.

Delicious, fresh and very inexpensive goat’s cheese was available in every market we visited.

‘L’ensemble’ was pretty straightforward (unlike their naturally curled cucumbers).

I hate to waste any of that beautiful olive oil.

I hate to waste any of that beautiful olive oil.

This was the best lunch of the holiday. Simple, natural ingredients, slyly wrestled from the grasp of the selfish French. “Mon Dieu!” I hear you exclaim. But, what can we do? They are up too early for us and have gone home for a long tasty lunch before we can say “Ce n’est pas juste.”

 

 

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  • I try to buy local and seasonal, so I only buy French fruit and veg if I’m in France. I also believe that Britain produces twice as many types of cheese as France including some quite spectacular goat varieties 😉

    • We are getting better at it over here too MD. We now have a great range of Irish artisan producers delivering great quality. All the same, it is a fantastic treat to get loose in those French markets.

      • It looks like a good market, but I can buy all that stuff in the farmers’ market here. I don’t want to see British shops flooded with French vegetables when we can grow just as good or better at home. I resent seeing French golden delicious in English supermarkets when we produce far better apples here. My Kent farmer sells his surplus apples to Stella for their “French” cider.

        • You are well looked after MD. I wish we were as well served. Love the Stella thing.

          • I know, the Stella thing is almost unbelievable. I don’t know how they get away with it.

          • I was with a friend in the fish business today. He was telling me of the smoked ‘Scottish’ salmon that is produced in Poland. It’s all in the wording…

        • I think it’s all down to the country where it’s processed, rather than grown or raised. The whole thing is disgraceful, they can sell Danish pigs as British!

  • You surpass yourself, Conor. Très amusant.

  • Yet another great post, Conor. The same conspiracy applies to Italy, by the way. Here in the Netherlands it’s the opposite: our best veal is exported to Italy and our best seafood to France. Beautiful girolles / charntelles / chanterelles.

    • Thanks Stefan. we do likewise with our seafood. But, why would we not, when there are better prices abroad. Certainly, for a lot of the shellfish, we really don’t appreciate it. It’s a shame really.

    • I eventually got the spelling reference. “There are none so blind as those who don’t want to see”.
      Best,
      C

      • I tried to be subtle about it 🙂

        • Another friend of mine was less so and texted me!

          • I am assuming that you’d like to know so you can fix it, otherwise I’ll keep my smartypants mouth shut. Texting is a good idea, less need for subtlety than in public 😉

            What puzzled me is that you spelled it right once in a caption.

          • Yes, I got it wrong a then took the lazy way out by cutting and pasting my mistake.

  • I’ve enjoyed catching up with all your holiday posts…they have been delightful. This post however gave me a real chuckle, you have the best sense of humor. 😀

    • Thanks Karen,
      Glad to bring a little sunshine into your day!
      Best,
      C

  • Oh boy. I have this Saturday off. I should get up at the crack of dawn and hit Madison’s farmer’s market. I bet this time they have more than lettuce and baby onions! Luckily, we are safely insulated from the tricksy French by an ocean and most of a continent, but retain a similar staggering variety of goods!

    • Another reason for me to cross the big pond more often Amber. Though, it looks like getting up early is pre-requisite.

      • When one deals with farmers, one must ape some of their habits. Ours runs from 5am-2pm. But it’s fairly picked over by about 11. In this case, the early bird does get the worm. That poor second mouse will be quite out of luck.

        • The second mouse may want to know who moved his cheese, or is that another story altogether?

  • Oh how I wish we had a decent farmer’s market where I live. We only have one that runs on Wednesdays from 3 to 7 pm in the summer only. What’s up with that? The poor veggies are all wilted by that time. But a very entertaining post, you made me laugh out loud a couple times! 🙂

    • At least they start at a reasonable hour. However, by the wilted description, I suspect they may well have had an outing somewhere else in the AM.

      • This is not France, that’s for sure! Well also most of us work at our “real” jobs until 4 or 5 pm during midweek so maybe they start it later because of that. We have the largest percentage of microbreweries per capita in our small town for Oregon, so I doubt most are early risers for something like that, LOL. 😀

  • Great “undercover” work! I thought the same thing when I was in Italy. Fantastic lunch by the way.

    • Thanks Virginia, they are worth the trouble to get up early.

  • We are awash with farmers markets here in the west. I’m finding that just going without a menu in mind really brings out the local, seasonal cook in you – provided you have a well stocked pantry. Buy what looks good and then figure out what you want to do with it. As for the French pulling a fast one, I wouldn’t put it past’em 🙂 Getting up early for the Rialto market in Venice is one of my favorite things to do – if just to take pictures.

    • We have more and more farmers markets here too but half the time, they are just retailers without stores, rather than direct from the farm.

      • No different here, I’m pretty picky about the ones I go to. Nothing like seeing pinkish tomatoes at a farmers market, eh?

  • Lovely looking fruits of the market! We have a farmers market here in our town – open from 6 – 12. Problem is with the drought prices are sky high! They actually have a fish monger who brings fresh salmon from the coast up but at $25/lb., I can get it cheaper if I fish for it myself. Again, lovely post Conor! Be well! ^..^

    • Catching your own is the only way forward, if you are lucky enough to be able to do so Barb. The price seems a little on the high side to me!
      Thanks for the kind words,
      C

      • Is there another installment coming on France? I have been enjoying this series! Be well! ^..^

        • Three more to follow. Then it’s back to the regular nonsense!

          • Looking forward to the three and the regular nonsense too! 🙂

  • Great post, Conor! What a fine lunch. Nothing like a good French market. (Though, god knows I’ve been to some bad ones.)

    • They are not all great. Some of the smaller ones are not worth the trouble. But, there are some like these few that are great.

  • Very nice, Conor. I love Chanterelles. They are one of my favorite mushrooms. The addition of the goat cheese and olive oil is wonderful. Lovely post.

    • Thanks Richard. They are delicious. With the crunchy toast they are divine.

  • When I visited Paris, I stayed with French friends and yes, we did get up awfully early to go to the market. I never understood why — until now. This post was as informative and it was entertaining, Conor. I’m resisting the urge to phone my friends and to reply to their “Hallo” with a haughty “J’accuse!”

    • Thank you John. We must avoid being haughty with them. They don’t respond well to it. They only become haughtier, if there is such a word.

  • I love posh mushrooms on toast… And cheese… Well this could hardly be improved upon at all could it? God I wish I wish in France now 🙁

  • Great post, and a beautiful meal. What do you mean by sur le marche?

    • Hi Mimi.”in the market”.
      Best,
      C

      • I think it translates to on top of the market. But I could be wrong, since there are so many colloquialisms now…

        • I translated it twice in Google translate, once in each direction. Sur is on but it seems it is in too! In this case anyway.

  • On de Shannon, Dromad, – the b’s are everywhere !

    Sent from my iPhone Peter

    >

    • Enjoy that part of the world. It’s beautiful.

  • Man, I know what you mean about French markets. Chanterelles? Trumpets of death? I’ll take a kilo each. And only ONE goat cheese? Really, Conor, you’re throwing in the towel way too early. Oh, and don’t forget the miniature yellow plums. Great post. Ken

  • The photos are just fabulous!

    • Thanks Lidia.
      Great light over there make it all the easier.

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