The French and What They Eat

By Friday, August 28, 2015 Permalink 0

From Southern biscuits to French baguette. You might wonder how a country girl from Kentucky who grew up on fried chicken, creamed corn, biscuits, cornbread, and church supper fruit pies could be qualified to tell others about boeuf à la bourguignonnecassouletchoucroute or coq au vin. Yes, I’m writing a book we’ll call The French and What They Eat, since the title hasn’t yet been finalized. I’ll tell you the story in the book — from a general store/cream station/feedstore in a spot in the road in Kentucky where the loafers discussed whether it was better to put a bag of peanuts into a Coca Cola or an RC to the City of Light called Paris and Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School, eventually cooking, eating and drinking my way around France.

“What to Eat in France,” a series of regional French recipes with a story and a bit of history, is laying the groundwork for this book. If you’d like to follow the series on a regular basis, sign up for the newsletter in the right-hand column.

A Brief History of Confit

By Wednesday, February 10, 2016 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

A Brief History of Confit and Food Preservation in France

Une ingénuité confite de vieille fille. / The preserved naivity of a spinster.–Colette, La Naissance du Jour / Break of Day

I like my man to be a bit confit. Confit is my favorite French word. It can mean many things, but the meaning always implies intensity to the point of being almost sweet, and sometimes sickly sweet.

The word comes from the Latin, conficiere, meaning “to do” or “to make,” and is the root of other familiar words like confiture and confection,” says Kate McDonough. “It can equally describe flavoring and preserving foods in other substances, as fruit in sugar, olives in oil, pickles in vinegar, or capers in salt.”

Confit de canard - duck confit from Gascony, France

















In the food world, there are two main meanings, although the term basically means “preserved;” there are, of course, many ways of preserving food. The first refers to something candied or crystallized, such as the fruits confits so popular in France, especially at Christmas and during other holiday periods. The second refers to a savory food either cooked in its own juices or preserved.

The French confit we know best is canard confit, or duck confit, which is traditionally cooked in a copper pot over a fire for up to 24 hours so that its fat oozes out and envelops it. It is then stored in its own fat and conserved in a jar for up to a year.

Pickles and salted capers also count as confits. Another common one is tomates confites, or confit tomatoes, which are slow-cooked like duck in a low-temperature oven until they become almost sweet like candy. Intense, yes.

Fruits Confits

Fruits Confits or candied fruit in France












The commune of Apt in Provence is the fruits confits capital of France, but the method was first used in the Middle East, where candied roses and citrus fruit were served on all ceremonial tables. When the Arabs ruled southern Europe, they taught these methods of preservation to Europeans. The Romans also used a similar method using honey instead of sugar.

Like all confit processes, candying fruit is time-consuming, making it expensive. The fruit is brought to a boil and cooled in sugar syrup several times over a period of three months, the method varying according to the fruit, and is, therefore, a labor-intensive process.In Provence, candied fruit is part of the traditional

In Provence, candied fruit is part of the traditional thirteen desserts of Christmas. Marrons confits or candied chestnuts have become a luxury and are one of the most cherished gifts you can offer the French at Christmas.

Savory Confits

The second type of confit is savory, and includes duck confit, or pickled vegetables, such as cornichons. Traditionally, these were kept in earthenware jars and the liquid fat, vinegar or oil covered the ingredient entirely, thus preserving it. In Gascony, the heart of confit country, they even preserve garlic, simmering it slowly in duck fat. “Sun-dried” tomatoes are also confites. They are sun-dried or oven-dried (see above) then dipped in boiling vinegar and preserved in olive oil.

Preservation in vinegar is an ancient method and certainly not specific to France. The Indians and Mesopotamians were using it at least 4,500 years ago, and Cleopatra thought pickles enhanced her beauty. Both Roman soldiers and Napoleon’s troops took pickles in their food rations, and cornichons in glass jars were marketed as early as the 1820s in France.

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra
























Good King Henri hailed from Gascony, and when he was king of France, he suffered from homesickness for duck confit, a dish they didn’t make in Paris. To ease his suffering, he ordered whole barrels of it to be sent from home.

There is much discussion in France about whether salade confite is good or not. I like mine like that, when the salad from last night’s dinner has macerated in the oil and vinegar, wilting it and giving it an intense flavor.

All these methods of preservation reduce the water content of the food being preserved, thus giving it a more intense, almost sweet, flavor. Don’t give me candied fruit for Valentine’s. I don’t like my man to be sugary sweet either, but I never tire of the douce intensity of savory confit duck and tomatoes.

And if you want to utter some billet doux in my ears, feel free to tell me that I’m confite de dévotion, or “highly devoted,” but please don’t say I’m un peu confite, or sickly sweet, or have a mine confite, meaning an affected manner lacking in all spontaneity.

Venetian Hours: Venice Carnival in Blue

By Tuesday, February 9, 2016 Permalink 0

Venetian Hours

By Monday, February 1, 2016 Permalink 1

Lost in Venice

by Jonell Galloway

I was looking for a new home. Home used to be Kentucky, with its hot hot sun, heady smell of horse sweat, and burly bouquet of drying tobacco; then it was France where I wolfed down tons of good food and fine wine, and Switzerland, with its snow-capped mountains, always there, hugging me and making me feel secure like a mother’s embrace.

After my mother died last year, I no longer knew where to call home. Home became an abstraction, because without Mama’s heart beating in Kentucky, it no longer fit the description. Even with the horse sweat and Burley tobacco.

Kentucky tobacco drying barn, near Hardinsburg, Kentucky









I used to say I’d call my imaginary memoir From Biscuits to Baguettes, so much did I feel like France was my second home, even though the first time I set foot in Venice over 30 years ago, I felt I’d come home. How that could be I still don’t know, since I don’t have an ounce of Italian or Venetian blood in my veins. I’ve visited it many times for both short and long periods, and every time, I’ve felt the same, so after my mother’s death, it was a natural enough decision to spend six months here and try it out.

How to Become a Chef in France

By Saturday, January 9, 2016 Permalink 1

How to Become a Chef in France

by Jonell Galloway

Schooling Required

Becoming a chef in France requires a long commitment, both in terms of schooling and on-the-job training. The program is similar to that of a vocational school, but requires many years of on-the-job experience before one can be called “chef.”

A typical French kitchen brigade looks like the diagram below. To become a chef, you basically have to work your way up from the bottom. Each level in the hierarchy may take a few years to master. It all looks rather daunting, but the French start young, around the age of 14, with chefs following what is referred to as a vocational track rather than a general high school.

Typical kitchen brigade in France

After Troisième or 8th/9th Grade

The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.

— Julia Child

What is Bourgeois Cuisine?

By Saturday, January 2, 2016 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: What is Bourgeois Cuisine?

by Jonell Galloway

French cuisine is much more than the haute cuisine inherited from the nobility. It is also the tasty, inexpensive cuisine that French families eat every day, called cuisine bourgeoise, or “bourgeois cuisine.”

We all learned in school that “bourgeois” was a social class. Originally, it was what we now call the “middle class,” as opposed to the nobility and the poor and working classes. The bourgeoisie, or middle class, grew rapidly in France after the French Revolution.

In terms of cooking, the bourgeois weren’t rich enough to use expensive ingredients and their cooking skills were not as highly developed as those of the aristocrats’ chefs, but they had sufficient means to entertain friends and family. This cuisine came to be known as cuisine bourgeoise, which today simply means family cooking, tasty but not pretentious, as opposed to the haute cuisine of the elite.

Biscuit Therapy and Modern Salt

By Saturday, January 2, 2016 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

In Loss There is Nourishment: A Southern Biscuit Story

One has to be able to work the dough intimately; it is like making love and following every move of your lover. Timing is of the utmost importance. The symphony of movements is different with every batch, and one has to be in step with every beat. A bit more flour, a bit more lard, just enough air pockets, stop, stop. It’s about perfect harmony, ending on a perfect note, at the perfect moment; it’s fast-moving and playful like a scherzo, and, like a live piano concert, once you’ve hit a wrong note, there’s no going back.

Every Southerner has a biscuit story. Biscuits are what bind us and make us Southern, whether they are slathered with sticky blackstrap molasses or sausage gravy. When we say we miss the South, we are missing a wooden swing on a front porch, beads of sweat running down our foreheads, and a welcome breeze bringing a waft of biscuits cooking; we are missing the sound of the oven door opening and of hearing the biscuits coming hot out of our mothers’ ovens, calling us to supper, calling us home.

This is the introduction to my first article for the British publication Modern Salt, published by Penny Averill.

Click here to read the rest: Biscuit Therapy.

New Year’s Eve Dinner in France

By Saturday, December 26, 2015 Permalink 0

New Year’s Eve Dinner n France: Le Réveillon de St-Sylvestre

by Jonell Galloway

The New Year’s Eve celebration, referred to as Saint Sylvestre in France, is of pagan origin. The celebration existed long before St. Sylvester himself and long before there was even a pope. Ancient beliefs and celebrations, both religious and pagan, are mixed with those of winter solstice.

In Ancient Rome, the New Year was celebrated after Saturnalia, which was around December 25th, and was a time for “feasting, goodwill, generosity to the poor, the exchange of gifts and the decoration of trees.” People exchanged coins and medallions in celebration of the New Year. This tradition has slipped into oblivion, although adults sometimes still give children coins on this day, but other parts of Saturnalia continue today.

Saturnalia, an ancient Roman feast, St. Sylvester's, New Year's Eve








Up until the time of Julius Caesar, this end-of-year celebration didn’t have to fall on a fixed date; it was simply about ten days after Saturnalia. It was Caesar who set the date of December 31, and later, in France, Charles IX set the first day of the year as January 1.

St. Sylvester was Pope from 314 to 335, at the time the Church was emerging from the catacombs. Although Emperor Constantine controlled most of what went on in the Empire, Sylvester persuaded him to convert to Christianity and close the pagan temples. The great basilicas were also built under his influence.

What to Eat in France: Bûche de Noël

By Sunday, December 20, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Bûche de Noël, or Yule Log, Traditional French Christmas Dessert

The Yule Log, or the bûche de Noël, “an elaborate creation consisting of a rolled, filled sponge cake, frosted with chocolate buttercream to look like tree bark and festooned with meringue mushrooms, marzipan holly sprigs, spun sugar cobwebs and any other sort of edible decoration,” is the traditional choice of Christmas dessert in France. It comes in many flavors and pastry chefs and home cooks alike let their creativity go wild.


distopiandreamgirl via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND


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