The Little French English Improvement Project

little french person trying to improve her english, little french english person trying to improve herself, french english person trying to improve a little bit… and blogging along the way. (Now in Deutschland)

Posts Tagged ‘competition’

“Tous en cuisine”: converting the french to britishness…

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on June 3, 2011

Well, I was going to go swimming this morning, but it turns out the pool is closed for a major underwater hockey tournament. I am not one for text speech, but my initial (and still current) reaction was simple: WTF. I apologize to all practitioners of this noblest of sports (is it?) but I just wanted a swim, sob. SO I wrote yet another blog about food instead. I do believe in yesterday’s post I mentioned a cooking competition, and promised to say more about it, so here goes:

Have you heard of “Tous en Cuisine avec Alain Ducasse”? If you are an English-speaker, probably not because it’s French, and his year will be the first series. However, I believe it to be pretty much the same as the ITV programme“The Best British Dish”, where amateur cooks compete in front of TV cameras to create a typical “national” dish. In order to apply, you had to send in a recipe inspired by local cuisine, but adapted to your taste and personality, either by using unusual ingredients, or putting them together in an unexpected way.

Like I mentioned in yesterday’s article, I have never been able to keep to recipe instructions. The very first thing my mam taught me to cook was bolognese sauce, and very soon after that, I started adding herbs and chilli to it, much to the despair of my little sister’s over-sensitive tastebuds. I suppose this habit could be a problem if I one day decided to go into gastronomy, where you have to have standards, and recipes have to be the same from one day to the next, but for a competition like this, where you need creativity and inventiveness, it’s just what I need! So anyway, I had to come up with a savoury recipe for four people. Personally I’m more of a dessert-person, but this is what I turned up with, my take on “Potée au choux”: the crumble anglo’vergnat———>

Potée is in my opinion one of the most typical specialities in the Auvergne. Basically, it’s a big old soup: you take salted pork, cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes and turnips and boil them in water for EVER with salt, pepper, garlic, cloves and a bouquet garni. Then as it often happens for this sort of dish, on the first meal you eat the meat and veg, and on the following day, or in the evening, you have the soup with croutons, or more traditionally, poured over bread and cheese.

Like many of these traditional hearty country soups, it can be a bit blobby, and there’s plenty of room for improvement if you want to make it look more fancy and posh. In a bold move I decided to turn it into a crumble and by thus adding a lovely crumbly crunchy topping of rye bread and cheese, both personalize my dish and solve the blobbiness in one fell swoop.

I thought it was bold and inventive, but when I told my french friends about it, I only had to say the words crumble and english for them to start laughing and sneering and saying “what a waste of perfectly good ingredients”. Whoever you are and wherever you come from, you will be aware that british cuisine does not have the best reputation, and nowhere does this prejudice go deeper than in France. As a matter of fact the French are very intolerant to any sort of foreign food or flavours, but the relationship between France and English being what it is, the indigenous on both sides have difficulties seeing past the frogs legs and snails, or the jelly and SPAM. I could go on forever about culinary racism, but this blog is already way too long. My point is, if I do get through to the next round, I’ll carry on putting britishness into my recipes to prove my point to these miscreants!


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Karate tournament (hence the delays in blogging)

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 27, 2011

Dear reader,

It’s been a week since last I published anything, and yet again: many apologies. I’ve been having a more difficult time than expected keeping to my fresh un-new-year’s resolutions. Not that I have erred from the straight and narrow path, I’ve stuck to my decisions, only to end up with a lot less time to devote to daydreaming (and consequently blogging). Every time I wa going to write, I ended up doing some reading/studying/grammar exercices. So now I have shuffled out of my usual lethargy, I simply need to find a way for my new found drive to cohabit peacefully with my good old lazyness and propensity to lie/sit/stand around and let my mind wander off. Not as easy as it sounds. Plus, I can’t even write in the evenings, these days as soon as my head hits the pillow I am dead to the world and in no shape to write anything whatsoever.

And yet, I find whenever I do something unusual (go to a local karate tournament, sing at an Irish session, make smoothies), I want to tell the world about it. So no more shilly-shallying, let’s not waste any more precious time and start with the karate tournament.

It was last Sunday (23rd of January), and I’d been really looking forward to it, so on saturday night I made macarons au caramel de beurre salé (salted butter caramel filled macaroons) and charged my camera battery. It was the first “proper” tournament I have ever seen, and I was ridiculously excited, for someone who was just going to sit in the audience and admire her friends do what they do very well, or punch each other to a pulp. What’s a bit sad though is that there were very few competitors: karate is apparently not as popular as other martial arts, and those who choose to practice it often do so with no further objective than learning. Fair enough, says I; that’s precisely why I started, but it is a shame for those who are interested in tournaments and competitions, because they often find themselves without an opponent.

I mean, that’s good for them if all they’re interested in is getting a medal at the end of the day: they can do so without the effort of having earned it, but surely that’s missing the point isn’t it? I thought competition is about finding and pushing back your limits when facing an opponent, about hard work and, well, competition. A girl from my dojo, Roxane, was suggesting I started competing, just so she should have an opponent (in kata, not combat, thank god). She came all the way to the tournament to find out she was championne du Puy-de-Dôme, without even having to pull on her kimono. I know it would be nice for her to have an opponent, but with my less than satisfactory technical skills, I would be little more than a useless presence on the tatami. Then again, what an easy way to become the local vice-champion… (once I got over the ridicule of tripping over my own feet in the middle of my kata – which let’s face it, must be my unescapable fate whenever I try to perform anything in public).

But anyways, it was nice to see them all at it (from a safe distance), and I took innumerable photos with my amazing second-hand lens, and I fed people macaroons, which made me very popular. I look forward to the regional tournament, maybe this time there’ll be a couple more participants.

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