WEDNESDAY 07 MARCH 2012 REFLECTING ON THE VERY HUNGRY FRENCHMAN
Reflecting on The Very Hungry Frenchman
This very hungry Frenchman was not so hungry, after all, when he finished filming his recent five-part series for BBC2. In fact, I felt as though my weight had doubled. By the time we reached the end, in Provence, I was thinking, “No more! Please!” The trouble was that it was all so very delicious. Thank goodness there was so much cooking involved in the series – it took some serious physical effort to counterbalance the calories.
The idea of the series was for me to undertake a personal journey to discover the culture, from the architecture to the stones and soil, and of course food and wine, of my native country. The geographical and culinary differences between the regions of France – from the Franche-Comté where I was born, to Burgundy, Lyon, Alsace and Provence are almost as great as the differences between some while countries. It is abundance that makes for these disparities, and it’s these that I wanted to taste, and to share with viewers, and with Kush and Katie-Beth, my two young commis from Le Manoir.
I hope watching the series has inspired some of you to travel to some of the same places.
However, every tale has a moral, and the point of our 5-part narrative is to inspire us with the importance of what the French call terroir, the things that are special and different about a place: its soil, its vegetation, its climate, its geographical features – and its people and history. These have a direct bearing on the food and wine of a place; they are what determines what can be grown in any particular place, and what gives them their special character.
I hope that by looking at some of these really distinctive foods – for example, the wonderful dairy produce of my own Franche-Comté; the beef, chicken and wines of Burgundy; the charcuterie of Lyon; the onions, pork and white wines of Alsace; the beautiful, sun-kissed vegetables and Mediterranean fish of Provence – we might provoke viewers to think about what we can grow for ourselves here in Britain.
After all, we grow only 30% of what we eat here – we need to think about these matters – to discover what we grow best and to rediscover and cherish the old crafts.
It was wonderful and appropriate to end this series with Provence. For this was not the Provence of the Cannes Film Festival, Club 55 and millionaires’s yachts moored in St Tropez. It was the other, I think more genuine Provence: the “arrière pays” of Marcel Pagnol and Alphonse Daudet, the sun-soaked coast around Marseilles, the hills and valleys of the Var. And these were people I really knew – including the chocolatier I’d worked with for six years.
Don’t forget, though, this was the first time I’ve cooked professionally in France – ever. I gave it my best shot – and I’m happy with the way it went, and with what Kush and Katie-Beth got from the experience.
Best of all, I managed to be a tiny bit subversive, and make all these French guys discover just a little bit about British cooking. Did you notice that I sneaked in a crumble at the dinner in Lyon, and used ginger in the tripe?
So thank you all for watching, and for accompanying me on my journey back home. We have had the most fantastic feedback from viewers. Please take the time to download and cook some of the recipes, which are all here on the website; and to discover what makes the food of these regions so special.
PS Please tell me what you think of my blogs and my website: I want to hear from you!
Raymond Blanc's new book, Kitchen Secrets, featuring recipes from Kitchen Secrets Series 1 & 2 and many more, was published by Bloomsbury on 14 February and is available to buy online from Amazon, from Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Brasserie Blanc, Maison Blanc, and from online and retail bookstores.
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