I am a self confessed food snob. I love cooking even just for myself and I love eating out. For me, my affair with all things gastronomical began when I was in my teens and started to spend summer holidays in the French Alps with a French family. The objective was to improve my French. The result was that I developed a passion for food and cooking.
My French friends spent their days in a way that, at the time, was quite alien to most Brits. This was the 1970s, The UK had just discovered the avocado and we all knew that garlic was something deeply suspicious that was used to keep vampires away. A typical day started with a cycle ride down the hill into the local village to pick up cherry brioche. We’d struggle back up the hill and arrive home where the coffee was already brewing, strong and hot, served with creamy alpine milk. To go with our brioche we would have freshly pressed peach juice made from peaches picked from the tree just outside the door.
After breakfast, a quick swim, before we went en-famille on a foodie excursion to find supper. We might visit local farms and taste cheeses, butter, vegetables and cured meats. We might find a vineyard. Or, we’d venture into Chambery, the nearest town. Back home we would usually have a simple lunch. Perhaps some cold beef fillet left over from the night before, perhaps a salad of haricot verts or tomatoes. A little bread, maybe some cheese, wine watered down for the children and served neat for the adults. Lunch was followed by a brief siesta and then a trip to the lake to swim or into Chambery for more shopping and tea, French style. Citron Presse, Earl Grey tea (my family were anglophiles in a big way), a wonderful ice-cream called a ‘Mont Blanc’ that if I remember was meringue topped with marron glace puree, topped with vanilla icecream, topped with Chantilly cream and a few whole marron glace.
At home, Grande Mere would have been at work all day preparing supper. We ate around a huge wooden table. Usually a green salad to start followed by some meat (no vegetables with the meat, just bread to mop up the juices), followed by cheese and then by a simple desert. My French friend was a great fan of apple crumble and she used to make that and serve it with ‘creme anglais’ (fresh custard), or perhaps we’d have a flan from the patisserie.
I don’t think my French improved a jot. But, my love of food was born.