Wednesday, October 7, 2009


A mirabelle is a delicious little plum that is about the size of a quarter in diameter. Sometimes, although these don't, they have a red blush.

Lorraine is the region of France best known for its mirabelles, especially the cities of Metz and Nancy, which both have their own varietals ... and festivals celebrating the mirabelle (Metz even has a Miss Mirabelle!). In fact, the "Mirabelle of Lorraine" has something called an Indication Géographique Protégée which says that only mirabelles grown in a specified list of cities, towns and villages can be called Mirabelles of Lorraine (kind of like the AOC label on wine, but with seemingly fewer restrictions). The list of towns in the "appelation" is determined by, among other factors, historical references dating from the 16th century about the place of the mirabelle in literature and in texts on local gastronomy.

They ripen in August and are still quite tasty in early September, although I haven't seen any in the markets for a couple of weeks now. They are extremely flavorful. Put that colander of mirabelles on the table next to you and you will smell apple-vanilla-plummy goodness without even sticking your nose down next to the fruit. They're unbelievable.

The one area where they don't excel, at least not the ones we have tried, is in texture: they're often a little mealy (for me). But you don't notice that at all when they're made into the jam. I guess technically what James made is a compote because it's just cooked down mirabelles, lemon juice and a little sugar, but we eat it like jam. And by "like jam" I mean out of the reused Bonne Maman jar, by the heaping spoonful.

Or you can do things the more traditional way and eat it on bread.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Serving suggestions

There has always been a special place in my heart for the "serving suggestion" caption on food packaging. I mean, how else would I have known that I could eat my cereal with milk?

In France, the serving suggestion is taken to a whole 'nother level.

Here's one idée repas équilibré, or "an idea for a balanced meal", taken from a carton of gazpacho (yes, we buy it ... we don't have a blender):

Don't even think about having that meal with plain gouda instead of gouda with cumin, or with a baguette instead of bran bread!

Here's the way you might consider eating your blueberry yogurt:

Thanks, blueberry yogurt! I never would have thought of that!

And for the 6-10-year-old children who eat my Nutella, here's an idea for un goûter équilibré, or "a balanced afternoon snack", after a full day: a slice of bread with Nutella, a plain yogurt and a glass of orange juice.

But how much Nutella? How much orange juice? Not to worry, the fine print perpendicular to the rest of the label tells you that it's 30g of bread, 15g of Nutella, 125g of yogurt and 100ml of orange juice. Voilà!

I make fun, but this is a country whose ads for just about everything consumable (especially snacky things) include the phrases "for your health, avoid snacking/eating between meals" or "for your health, get some physical activity" or "for your health, eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day".

And besides, gazpacho really is a fresh and tasty way to eat my vegetables!