17 April 2011

Le Temps Suspendu

"D’où avait pu me venir cette puissante joie? Je sentais qu’elle était liée au goût du thé et du gâteau, mais qu’elle le dépassait infiniment...." -Marcel Proust

C'est bien d'être pragmatique, je pense que je le suis souvent, surtout en comparaison avec mes amis français qui adorent le débat et la théorie au point parfois d'oublier d'agir. Mais la vie sans une bonne dose de poésie de temps en temps ne vaudrait pas vraiment la peine.

I like to consider myself a pragmatic person, culturally an American quality, and especially in comparison with the French, who adore debate and theory so much that they sometimes forget to actually do something. Of course compared to Americans I'm not sure I could be considered pragmatic. I did major in French and Creative Writing after all, and I think, life without a good dose of poetry from time to time would be no life at all!

Un des bons endroits pour se plonger dans la poésie quotidienne (à part dans les pages de Proust, mais vous savez déjà mon avis sur ce sujet) est le magasin de thés Bonthés et Accessoires, 157 rue Marcadet dans le 18e, que nous avons déjà visité ensemble et dont le thé a servi pour plusieurs recettes comme mon chai fait maison. C'était lors d'une de mes visites là-bas, en parcourant la grande liste des thés, que je suis tombée sur "Le Temps Suspendu". J'avoue qu'à ce moment mon côté pragmatique s'est envolé plus vite qu'un oiseau, et j'ai dit, "je ne sais pas ce que c'est, mais j'achète 100g de celui-ci pour le nom."

There are lots of great places to get that dose of poetry in Paris (besides in the pages of Proust - but we all know how I feel about that). One of my favorites is the tea shop Bonthés et Accessoires, 157 rue Marcadet in the 18th arrondissement, which I've visited with you before, and whose tea I've used in quite a few recipes, including my homemade chai. On one of my visits there, as I was browsing the list of teas, I stumbled upon one called "Le Temps Suspendu" (literally "Time Suspended" and a reference to Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu of which the final volume is called Le Temps retrouvé -- what? I did warn you you'd be reading along). I have to admit that my American pragmatism disappeared faster that you could say "Jiminy Cricket" (does anyone actually say that?), and I immediately bought it for the beautiful name.

J'ai eu raison d'écouter la voix de ma poète intérieure. C'est le thé parfait pour un dimanche après-midi, pour accompagné quelques pages de Proust (disons deux ou trois phrases), ou autre chose (non, je ne suis complètement obsédée). Ce thé rooibos (naturellement sans théine) est parfumé de noix de coco et de framboise avec des accents de vanille, des feuilles de mûrier et des pétales de bleuets. Délicieux !

And I was quite right to listen to my inner poet. It's the perfect tea for a Sunday afternoon to accompany a couple pages of Proust (you know, a sentence or two), or some other book or activity (see, I'm not completely obsessed). It's a redbush tea (caffeine free) with coconut, raspberry, vanilla, mulberry leaf and cornflower petals. Delicious!

Donc pour revenir à mon côté pragmatique : si je vous en parle, ce n'est pas juste pour vous rendre jaloux, c'est parce que Bonthés et Accessoires vient d'ouvrir un superbe site de vente en ligne ou on peut voir toute leur séléction de thés avec leurs descriptions, photos, conseils de consommation ainsi que leur confitures maison, théières, chocolats, etc !

So back to my pragmatic side: I'm not telling you all this so you can drool over it theory. Bonthés et Accessoires just recently opened an online store where you can browse their large selection of teas - complete with descriptions, photos and brewing instructions - their beautiful teapots, homemade jams, chocolates, etc. Happy shopping!

(And no, I'm not in any way affiliated, nor do I receive free merchandise from them - although that would be cool!)

10 April 2011

Interlude by Edgar and Marcel

Hopie is once again on tour in the center of France.
What's so great about La Creuse anymeow? Are there any cute cats to pet?

Marcel, shush, I'm writing this blog.
I'm just saying.
Anyway, we've grown up since our first post and we've matured too. We no longer play with coconuts. See:

We lie around and bask in the sun and...
Edgar everyone can tell you're not really asleep in that picture. Does anyone want to pet me? I'm very soft.

Ahem, and we haven't eaten a single one of Hopie's tulips:

I would have, but we're not allowed outside.
Marcel, shush, or I'm going to bite your ear!
If you bit my ear, I'll step on your head, you...
Oops, gotta run, dear readers!
Does anyone have any tuna? Meeeeeeeeeeow!

04 April 2011

Invite A Blogger to Your Table - Poor Man's Soup

I know I've said it before, but community is one of my favorite things about having a cooking blog and events like Val's Invite a Blogger to Your Table are what it's all about. The idea is to invite another blogger, someone you've been following for years, or someone you don't know (yet!) to make a recipe with you (virtually or in person) and both blog about it on the same day. The rules are simple:

1) Choose a dish to prepare and invite one blogger to create that dish with you. You can source your recipe from a cookbook, magazine, blog or any other source. Your dish can be sweet or savory; easy or complicated.
2) Decide upon a date that you can both mutually post your recipe within a 4 week time frame.
3) Link back to More Than Burnt Toast somewhere in your post.
4) Please feel free to use the Avatar/Badge above "Invite a Blogger to Your Table".
5) Once you have made your dish with your blogging friend or friends and posted it, you can choose to STOP or CONTINUE on and invite another blogger to your table to make something DIFFERENT on a mutually agreeable date within the next 4 week time frame.
6) If you would like to, please e-mail Val at bloggerstable(AT)gmail(DOT)com for no other reason than to let her know you have participated. She would love to see what you have accomplished.
7) Cut and paste these instructions into your post and contact a friend. Let magic happen and let's get cooking!!!

When Giz from Equal Opportunity Kitchen invited me to make this old country recipe with her - one that her mom recently gave her (thanks Baba!) - I was delighted. There's something so seductive about simple recipes. There seems to be a higher degree of magic involved. When you look at some recipe lists with their exotic spices and fresh herbs and the like, you think "well of course that's going to be good!" But the bare culinary truth is that sometimes with 5 ingredients or less you can make the magic happen.

I also like the idea of a country recipe that's actually perfect for the season. Back in the days before fruits and vegetables were available year round in supermarkets, I think by the end of the winter, the only vegetables left in places like here were those that had survived in root cellars, like potatoes. It's not like potatoes never go bad, but if you keep them cool dry, it takes a very long time! Hence the ubiquitous potato (and other root vegetables) in my winter CSA. I used up the last few that were starting to sprout in this recipe and now I'm looking forward to spring veggies, like the spinach I got last week!

So if you're looking to use up the last potatoes, or combat the spring sniffles, I highly recommend this recipe!

Burnt Soup or Poor Man's Soup

1 medium onion, diced
2 tbsp oil (I used olive)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
5-6 cups water, boiled
4-5 medium potatoes diced
salt and pepper to taste

1. Fry onion in oil until it's brown but not burned
2. Add flour and make a roux
3. Add water, stir to incorporate the flour and add the potatoes
4. Cook over medium heat until potatoes get soft
5. Add salt and pepper to taste

I executed this recipe exactly as written (you other foodies will recognize the self-control that takes) because I wanted to taste it the way it's written. This simple soup is surprisingly delicious. In the end, I added 2 large garlic cloves, minced and half a bunch of parsley, chopped, for the flavor and the immune system booster. I cooked it another 10 minutes with those ingredients and served with whole grain brain.

Even D. who "doesn't like soup", said "mmmm, your potatoes with sauce are delicious!"
Now head on over and check out Giz's version!