With the Internet, email and social media – does anyone get real mail these days?
Needless to say, Nutmeg was thrilled to find a copy of Judith Finlayson’s The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook, buried under the innumerable junk-mail fliers for duct cleaning, roof repair and debt consolidation.
Judith took some time one spring afternoon to talk about this book, and how her career path (from keyboard to slow cooker) got her to where she is today – working on her 15th cookbook!
Literally as old as the hills, the fruit of the apricot tree are confirmed to have been domesticated since the Bronze Age. Although, the exact origin of the tree is debated;
Flawless green lawns, vivid crayon-coloured annuals, miniature potted palms and manicured golf courses all exist on land that was once desert scrub. Nutmeg disgusted with her golf game and not a dedicated shopper decided that it would be time well spent to understand more about their natural surroundings.
Good news – she found Desert Adventures. Not knowing much about the company she asked Kimberly Nilsson one of the co-owners for a bit of background.
I almost slept with a strange lady in Las Vegas.
Well not exactly, but she offered!
The iconic vision of a French man or woman walking home with their baguette in hand is neither a myth nor a creation of the department in charge of French tourism. The classic baguette, long, thin, and crusty, remains an excellent carrier for fresh jam in the morning, or for soaking up tasty sauces at dinner.
Although, French daily bread consumption per person has declined significantly from the early 1900s to about 120 grams, from as high as 900 grams, the mighty loaf still remains a vital part of the national diet. Despite the decline, that still is a lot of bread, over 23 million baguettes a day (8 billion a year) for 65 million people.
Music to Nutmeg’s ears, by law bakeries in France, are not allowed to use preservatives in any bread. This means that boulangeries must bake several times a day, so their customers can always find a fresh loaf.
The name baguette first appeared around 1890, although it seems that a long, thin loaf was made well before that time. A law established in March 1919 forbade the employment of bread and pastry workers between the hours of 10pm and 4am.
The ordinary baguette is a simple mixture of all-purpose flour, water, salt and yeast. The dough once it has risen, is formed in a long length by hand, scored on the diagonal and baked in a hot (400F) deck oven. Steam injection, during baking, is the key to the crusty exterior. The size of baguette is not regulated, but mostly it falls between 65-70cm (25-27 inches) long and 6cm (2.5 inches) wide. The price of bread has not been government controlled since 1978. However, the combination of strong market competition and active consumer associations, ensures that what one pays for a regular baguette is fairly consistent.
So here is the problem, the huge growth in large-scale grocery stores and multiple store bakery chains has created a highly competitive market place. The small, local boulangerie gets squeezed from all sides; “Goliath” grocery stores, rising wheat prices and fickle consumers. Today, consumers expect a wide variety of choices: sourdough, fibre, multi-grain, organic (bio), bran, rye etc.
The classic baguette remains on the bakers’ shelves as it would be suicidal for a boulangerie not to offer it among their inventory. So nothing has happened to the baguette, it still remains remarkably part of the culture in France, the quality might just not be what it used to be; however, there are lots of choices.
Gathered together under the green, leaf umbrella of a colossal Provençal plane tree participants were enjoying the “fruits” of their efforts; the food they had all created in Nito Carpita’s professional kitchen at Mas de Cornud. Ginger and Nutmeg were still dressed in their white chefs aprons as the table conversation scrolled through a host of topics.
In the group, were two girlfriends from far-flung cities who had decided to meet in Provence. They had booked accommodation via Untours.
Well, that certainly peaked Nutmeg’s curiosity, as she had never heard of Untours and they are in thirteen countries! She got in touch with General Manager, Brian Taussig-Lux at the company to ask a few questions.
Nutmeg has been fortunate enough to visit France several times. One year Ginger and Nutmeg joined some friends on a cycling trip through Provence. That was the beginning of their “love-affair” with the region. However, on all the previous trips the fields of lavender had already been harvested, it was too late in the season. This time Nutmeg was determined to see the flowering fields.
The lavender plant is actually part of the mint family, and there are some 39 varieties. The plants love the dry, sandy, rocky soil that is typical of the Vaucluse region of Provence. Lavender flowers come in many colours, they can be blue (almost indigo), purple, violet, even pink or white varieties exist. It is a relatively easy plant to grow, as it requires minimal care.
“Did you know that nutmeg is used in cookies in Croatia”?
That was near the end of a two-hour discussion with the man who turned the wine world on its head. Miljenko “Mike” Grgich turns ninety on this day April 1, 2013. He describes his life as happy, blessed and filled with opportunity. It was that attitude that carried him through his early days in a remote Croatian village, through a period of communist threats, to West Germany and then eventually to California.
In May 2003, the label Jardin Remarquable (Remarkable Garden) was created, to celebrate and document the magnificent gardens of France. A Jardin Remarquable, is one that meets the established criteria; integration in the site, interesting blend of vegetation, quality of the location, engaging use of plants and where applicable provides historical interest.
Have you dreamed about being an actor?
Meeting a president?
Marrying a pilot?
Living in Italy?
Maybe you still have those daydreams…