It’s been few busy months for me since the New Year.
Finally, got my new kitchen ready in April and managed to cook up a few good meal (so many recipes pile up waiting in line for trial) before the May food exploration trip to France Provence.
Some time I wonder why I’m so busy everyday. I’m a stay-at-home wife, so-called, and have no children. But my days flew by so quickly that I didn’t realize April was over! Every day I was thinking about what to cook and what to eat. Getting ingredients, exploring new recipes, testing and improving the taste of the food I have created, writing recipes and re-writing it so that I can keep refining the ingredients proportion and cooking method as detail as possible.
I’m not tired of it; in fact, I’m so excited about food every day. I could say that the kitchen is my office, if that is considered work. But actually, ‘the kitchen is my playground; spices are my toys”. Because I easily spent hours ‘playing’ with my toys everyday in the kitchen.
The international trip this year for me to explore food is going to France Provence.
Now I am declaring my latest love is French cuisine. 🙂
Sixteen days of food exploration in France Provence and Amalfi coast was phenomenal!
We ate and drink all the way through out the countryside like an earthworm. Scoping out the best food in every town, tasting and eating the finest cuisine every meal.
Dining with chefs, visiting their kitchens and learning their unique way of preparing the delicious and healthy French cuisine. And most importantly, getting the best Provincials spices I can find.
We visited fourteen towns in sixteen days.
Our travel buddy, Michael, my husband, Dan, and I had some realization in this whole process; how the French eat and drink the way most people thought it was an unhealthy diet but still stay slim compare to most American do?
After several days of eating at least 3 courses in each meal for lunch and dinner, we all asked each other: Did you realize something about the food presented so far?
Michael said: ‘Each food portion is small but a good size to satisfy me.’
And I said: ‘We didn’t even need to ask for starch substitute like we always do when ordering food.’
We didn’t try to ask for starch substitute in the first place because we can’t speakFrench and is just too much work to try to ask for substitute in every meal. All we did do is sending the bread away when they try to put it on the table.
Almost all main courses were presented with a good portion of fish or meat with a vegetable puree (only one meal came with half mash potato mixed with mashed carrot but all others was mashed turnip or carrot) or fresh vegetable of some sort, with a reduced glaze or cream sauce.
All the restaurants we have dined in cooked their food with fresh ingredients and house made their specialty sauces/gravy from scratch. The food was cooked with olive oil or/and with butter. Some were cooked with bacon. Sauces were mainly broth or fruit reduction or/and with cream.
Looking over to other diners next to our table who had ordered pasta dishes, the pasta portion were small, about one cup amount of pasta filled with good amount of seafood or meat swimming in sauces.
Every diner has wine to accompany the meal. And we hardly see any overweight French men or women.
We certainly cannot conclude any thing from our sixteen days of observation but is hard not to bring some deeper thoughts onto the table.
As a ‘food connoisseur’, that’s what Dan calls me. I looked for the local grocery store in every town and stick my nose into almost everything they have on the shelf. And visited the local market to find out what is the local specialty and what is popular.
I found that in the local small grocery store, all the fresh produce is local farm produce and only small portion of everything. Some vegetables and fruit still have soil stuck on it, which shows that it has very minimal handling in the process. In the cooler section besides having the chilled milk and cheeses, there isn’t any frozen food available waiting to stick into the micro-wave or oven.
There are no KFC, McDonald or Pizza fast food outlet in all the small towns except in the big town of Marseille and Nimes etc. Instead, small local eating restaurant that present their local authentic cooking can be found easily.
Just like one of my Facebook friend, Kevin Dowd, commented after seeing the food pictures I shared on my cooking page that; “Looks like France suits you very well. :)”
Indeed, I feel at home in France Provence. 🙂
Amalfi coast, Italy.
The visit to Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel Resort on Amalfi coast was another eye opener for me. Executive chef Christoph Bob of this five star hotel restaurant was as friendly and warm as you can imagine. After a wonderful dinner he prepared for us on the first evening as we arrived, he was excited that I’m interested to visit his kitchen the next day.
Chef Christoph generously tour Dan and I around the vegetable garden, the kitchen and shared with us all different type of kitchen equipment and gadget that he uses to prepare the food. He also shared with me how he prepared the delicious juicy fish I ate at dinner the night before.
There was a pasta section in the kitchen and normally I would not pay much attention to pasta as a low carb eater. What caught my attention was the pasta was made with hand grind wheat flour. As a result the texture of the pasta is course, has a distinct flavor and less starchy compare to the commercial bulk-produce-smooth-texture refined flour pasta sold in most grocery store.
I can’t help but begin to taste the raw pasta to explore the texture. 🙂
I asked Chef Christoph that besides the taste and texture, what other advantage of this pasta?
He said this: “I don’t cook the pasta all the way through but just right. And when the pasta texture is course, the sauce penetrates into the pasta and it also carries more sauce within each strand of the pasta when is eaten therefore it also has more flavor in the whole eating experience.”
Wow! I thought that was another phenomena realization for me!
That would mean one cup of pasta would need one cup of sauce to maintain the balance of keeping it moist. Which also mean with the amount of oil or cream sauce in a portion of pasta served, it wouldn’t take much to satisfy.
That would also result to less amount of carb and a higher content of fat in each portion of pasta eaten. And might also take the body more effort to digest the pasta due to the way it was not fully cook through.
I can’t help but to compare the typical pasta served in most American restaurant, which is normally cooked till is soft and starchy, have 3 times more amount of pasta and with little sauce.
Now back to the question why French eat the so-call unhealthy diet but have overall less health issues compare to the American? Including some Asia country?
This latest learning did get my head spinning for a few days.
No carb needed?
Another interesting finding I learn in this trip was; Dan and Michael were cycling from town to town for total of 10 days as I drove the car to go places I want to explore and carrying our luggage.
Each day they would cycle for 2-3 hours in the morning, and we meet for lunch in a town we decide to go. After lunch they will hop on their bicycle for another 3 hours to the next town. We than meet for dinner and stay for a night in that town.
You would think they need lots of carb for the energy to cycle averagely 70km each day on their bicycle for total of 10 days with only one day rest.
When asked if they need to eat carb to maintain their strenuous activity everyday. They didn’t seem to feel the need of eating carb for the energy but instead feeling guilty of eating the four wedges of potatoes on their dinner plate.
In fact, Michael had also cycle up to the top of the popular Mount Venture with no problem.
So the questions about do we really need to eat carbs for energy? I guess it all depends in individual athletic level and body condition.
French cuisine is definitely my favorite food because it focus on cooking with fresh ingredients. I would go to France again in a heart beat.
Chef Christoph had extended his invitation to me to re-visit again. He said: “Come back in November when is our low season and we can cook together what ever you want. And than we will eat them together.”
I love that idea! 😀
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