Saturday, 6 November 2010

Local specialities

Whoever has lived abroad for a while will recognise the following. Because no matter how adventurous one is, there are always highlights, or simply treats in international cuisine, that require an acquired taste.
Well known examples of for foreigners “inedible” Dutch goodies are liquorice and raw herring. Throughout the years I have built up quite some experience with international cooking. However, before I lived and worked in Singapore, a fried rice from the local take-away Chinese around the corner was the height of my adventurism. In Singapore I learned to know and appreciate the various multi-cultural kitchens, each with their own etiquette. Malay food, eaten with the right hand, Indian cuisine, eaten with the right hand from a banana leaf, EurAsian cookery, eaten with spoon and fork, the various Chinese cuisines, such as Hainanese, Cantonese, Peking and Cheochew with chopsticks from a rice bowl and from plates in the middle of the table...A few of the things I really hated were seacucumbers and little cubes of dried blood, leaving one with an after-dentist taste in one’s mouth.
Through my British partner I got to know some of the highlights of English cuisine. English tend to get all lyrical about things like Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and marmite; things an average Dutchman would not even look at. But I also cannot get excited about the rest of the yearly extravaganza, the Christmas lunch. As a child I never liked Brussels sprouts, and I still think it is a sneaky way of capital punishment to feed sprouts to children.
So let us analyse an average English Christmas lunch. Which wonderful things can one (I say one, but there is a whole nation eating the same thing on the same day at the same time - frightening or what? -) indulge in? There is dry turkey (give me a juicy steak any time), to be moistened wit gravy (beyond description), stuffing ( only one or two varieties deserve the word nice), Brussels sprouts (the bigger the more horrible), roast potatoes (nice, but not exactly exciting on a festive day), mashed potatoes (same), carrots (same), roast parsnips (same). No wonder the British lost their empire....
But even the culinary champion of the world, France, has things that do not arouse any form of enthusiasm with me. In this part of France, whenever there is something going on, wine is accompanied with something called brioche. Brioche is a bone-dry sort of cake, slightly sweet, and in my view as nice as turkey. Having said that, the French eat it like it is manna from heaven.
Even worse is andouilette, a sort of sausage filled with various sorts of offal. My partner had once told me she had tried it in Arles, but had to throw it away because of taste and consistency. We both like haggis, hence I knew it was not caused by the knowledge of what was contained inside the skin. Anyway, I wanted to try this local speciality (from Lyon) as well. We bought a can of andouilettes, not the cheapest, in order not to end up with low quality stuff. We were going to barbecue them on one of our long Burgundian summer evenings. Of the four andouilettes I ate two, and the other two disappeared in the bin. The taste was certainly not very nice, although not inedible. It was the smell coming from the sausages whilst eating them, getting stronger with every bite, that finally killed my appetite. A very strange experience indeed, knowing that most Frenchmen would commit murder to get hold of a good andouilette. Fortunately we have a cat nowadays. Whenever we make a similar mistake in the future, maybe Fifi will know what to do with the left-overs....

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

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