vendredi 10 septembre 2010

B is for Bottles and bread

B is for bottles and bread

Ca s’arrose — That calls for a drink

It’s said there are some 362 types of French wine, known as ‘appellations’ (that’s the posh stuff that comes in glass bottles with proper corks, to you and me), more than 50  types of ‘Vins de Pays’ (not quite as good, but still very drinkable) and an unknown (ie a lot) of Vins de Table. You may by chance stumble on some quite palatable Vins de Table, but others will probably come in plastic bottles (supplied by you) and cost around one Euros for 5 litres.

And don’t forget champagne and sparkling wine, both produced by hundreds of vineyards.

Red, white, rosé, sparkling or champagne. The choice is yours — and with seven to eight billion bottles of the stuff produced in France every year, there is certainly plenty to choose from. The research involved in finding your favourite tipple is likely to be fun.

There are perhaps not as many types of French bread, but they’re working on it. The baguette is familiar to everyone, but even here there is controversy. Some people say you can only find a proper baguette in Paris, where it is said to have originated; others disagree.

If you aren’t that hungry, try a ‘ficelle’, a very think version of the baguette — the name literally means ‘string’ in French.

For bigger appetites, a pain de campagne is a big, rustic loaf with a thick crust, while a pain de mie is sweet, sliced, packaged white bread, generally used to make toast or sandwiches or both. It can be surprisingly tasty compared to the white bread you find in the UK.

Bread comes with olives, spices, nuts, raisins. It comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. And don’t forget croissants, pain au chocolat, and pain aux raisins to dunk in your morning bowl of coffee.

Because it contains no fat, French bread generally last about a day, which is why Madame pays daily visits to the Boulangerie. Even the smallest village will have at least one Boulangerie (or travelling equivalent). You will have to queue to get your baguette, which is handed to you wrapped in a tiny piece of paper that invariably gets lost on your journey home.

But here’s a tip my friend Judith gave me. And it really works. If you want your baguette to last longer than a day, wrap it in a damp tea towel and put it in the fridge. Take it out and reheat it in the oven just before you want to eat it. Absolutely brilliant!

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