Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Bon Appetit

Bon Appétit!

It started in England. Local specialities and the chance to try new foods. Delicious and many flavoured ice creams in Devon during the summer, Mackerel bap and chips in Weymouth, sat on a sunny wall by the harbour, a Chinese buffet with friends in Portsmouth where the children discovered crispy fried seaweed.

Of course experiencing the local dishes is part of the fun of travelling. We tried Croque Monsieur/Madam and big pots of mussels and seafood pizza in St Malo. In Cherbourg and Portbail we had hot merguez (a North African sausage) in bread. We’ve tried all sorts of cheeses (including goat) and sausages from the markets and we’ve brought baguettes from various boulangeries. We have bought and emptied a crab but couldn’t quite bring ourselves to buy a live one yet. We’ve had croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast a few times and discovered sweet rolls are ideal for travelling days. Brittany seems to specialise in adding as much butter and sugar as possible to everything it serves. We’ve had lots of delicious cakes and biscuits and the other day Mark and the boys made some kouign amman cakes from a French recipe literally dripping in butter. Other delights we’ve found include boudin noir (blood sausage), golden apples, crevettes, peanut flavoured crisps and of course a few bottles of wine!

We’ve also had to experiment as far as the cooking went. We have a four ring gas hob, gas oven, and two kettles – one to go on the gas hob and an electric one so we can have  cup of tea whether we have external (shore) power or not. With a smaller and slower oven, no fridge/freezer and shopping being carried, planning had to be put into meals to change them to adjust to our new life but without being too different for the children at first, we had to break them in gently! Now they enjoy coming to the super MarchĂ© or the local market and looking to see what we can find. It’s very much a case of trial and error and we are pleased that the children, especially the older two, have really embraced the ‘try it at least once’ attitude. Their appetites have also increased hugely since we have been on the boat.

We have had no problems finding fresh fruit and veg yet, pomelos really do seem to last for a few weeks and still not go off, we have heard them described as ‘natures tinned fruit’. I have got a stock of vitamin tablets just in case but hopefully they won’t be needed at all. In England we used dried milk and very quickly became used to it, forgetting on occasion to warn visitors that their cup of tea would be very hot, in France UHT milk is used much more widely than fresh milk, it is very easy to get hold of so we have changed to that for now.

Without a fridge fresh meat/cheese could only be eaten on a shopping day in the summer although we could get away with buying meat/cheese for a couple of days over the winter, especially when the inside of the boat reached temperatures normally associated with a fridge! Tinned meats are great store cupboard staples and we stock up whenever we go shopping on whatever is available locally. Burgers in a tin were so disgusting that we vowed never to buy another but chicken in white sauce is a good base for many dishes and we’ve recently discovered Tartiflette in France which is sliced potato, lardons and a nice sauce, lovely when oven baked. The green and white Asda tins are slowly being replaced with Carrefour arrows.

Medium sized buckets
Big buckets
We have got plenty of space for storage and have large buckets filled with pasta, rice, various beans and other dried goods, we also try to keep a stock of things like chopped tomato, sweet corn and other useful tins as well as some slightly more obscure things we have collected like uncooked poppadums and prawn crackers. We have a store of bread flour so we can be self sufficient in food for quite a while. We have enough British tea bags (yes, I know tea is not British) to last for a long time – we do like a good mug of tea but needed to request delivery of a new bottle of Lea and Perrins and some Shreddies from our parents when they visited recently! The dog doesn’t seem to mind her French food, the bag we got looks similar to the Tesco stuff she is used to and disappears quickly enough when put in her bowl.

So that’s our adventures with food so far. I hope that as we travel around we will get to sample many other delights. Cheers for now!

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