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Knowing veg


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I'd have thought our French student last week had been watching Jamie Oliver, but I'm sure they didn't get him over in Alsace. She was doing a work placement in a primary school and was teaching the children the names of vegetables in France, and was shocked how few they recognised even in English.

But let's be honest about this, although we see a great variety of vegetables in France, who does eat them? In the many French households I've visited, I've only ever been served (apart from salads) peas, haricots verts, potatoes. Never have I been served brussels, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, etc (nor of course those delicious swedes and parsnips the French regard as cow food). Have you found any of your French friends serving the green veg I mentioned? Carrots I've only been served as crudites and I've often been served pasta instead of a vegetable. Which, yes, we do in England when serving composite Italian dishes, but we wouldn't put plain pasta with a chicken leg, would we?

Sometimes I think that healthy eating in France is a myth.
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I know what you mean Jill, it is very odd. I notice somtimes on the veg counter a poster that recommends 5 to 10 portions of veg a day (a similar campaign to the 5 portions recommended in the UK I think). When all these veg are eaten I really cannot imagine.

Many years ago, when I came on an exchange visit and lived with a family, only one vegetable course was served, separately from the meat (or whatever) and consisted of a plate full of something, usually green beans or other sorts of beans from a tin or potatoes.

We don't often get to dine at home with french families but, when we eat in retaurants we always look out for ones that serve vegetables instead of endless chips. These are very rare indeed.

It is a mystery to us, since we live surrounded by fields full of cauliflowers, artichokes and shallots, where these all go. OK the shallots, I know, go to Tesco and occasionally turn up here with a Bavette. I think I once had an artichoke heart and I think I may have had cauliflower in a sauce but it was so over cooked it was difficult to know for certain. I know a small place that specialises in stuffed artichokes, but that is for tourists! We even have around here a special vegetable Route Touristique and I daresay you can see the goods growing, but where you get to eat them I have yet to discover.

Liz (29)
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I think they must all go into soup. The standard starter in every home and restaurant I've ever been in is soup des legumes.

My French neighbour bottles all manner of vegetables all through the summer, but I've never seen any evidence of them actually being eaten !

When my children were small my son used to say, "Is that for us or for the freezer?" Maybe there's some great preserving pantry in the sky where all these things go.

Hoddy
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I live not all that far from Liz and know where she is coming from regarding the local produce as this is the most important region of France for growing veg for export. We do eat a lot of veg in our house,are given loads by local farmers and grow it too. If you go to the local depôt de légumes where they are taken to be sorted and cleaned and packed,you can buy huge quantities of everything for very little like 5 large caulies for 2€ or 5kg carrots for 1€,trouble is it is just too much in one go to keep fresh and I hate frozen veg. I do find some strange items sometimes though depending on season in the very larger supermarkets and hypermarkets and its great fun trying them out to see who like what.I've often eaten at a local self service resto (Eris) at lunchtime and always take a selection of the dishes of veg available instead of chips. The other day there were four different potato dishes on that stand along with usual beans,cauliflower,carrots,broccoli,courgettes etc. 

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Val wrote - "If you go to the local depôt de légumes where they are taken to be sorted and cleaned and packed,you can buy huge quantities of everything for very little like 5 large caulies for 2€ or 5kg carrots for 1€"

Sounds very interesting - where is the depot please, and when is it open? 

I'm near Pleyben - all the gardens near me are full of leeks and they must be the best selling vegetable in the supermarkets - almost all the customers come out with some. 

There's a new little "bio" shop in Pleyben (in the square) selling organic veg and fruit and soon will be selling organic meat.

Bernice

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We have covered this subject many times in various forms, we have done the JAMIE OLIVER school diner one, has anyone actually done a survey on the french schoolkids ? are they any more `wise` than the English?

We are in an area (66) that grows mainly salad and fruit, there are fields of lettuce ,greenhouses of tomatoes,and orchards that will have peaches, nectarines ,apricots, cherries and apples and the grown up fruit...grapes!

The local children can spot a wild asparagus at 20 paces,but I wonder if I took one of them to a local supermarket would they know the other fresh veg on show better than my own children?

Mrs O

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I had supper with some French friends not long ago, who proudly declared that they had bought some broccoli in the market and that we would be having it with the meat that evening.

The wife cut it up and then said she would be cooking it for *three quarters of an hour*.  I found that pretty shocking, but my jaw fell even further when she added that she would be cooking it for that time IN A PRESSURE COOKER!!

Needless to say, we ate it as a purée.  It wasn't inedible, but it wasn't my idea of broccoli either...

Angela (85 & UK)

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My 79 years old neighbour grows her own: potatoes, leeks, carrots, pumpkins, salads, cabbages, beans, peas... She has vegetable soup twice a day and eats salad before cheese! She bottles and she freezes. She also gives a lot away!

All she grows are traditional veggies and she'd never cook carrots as she tends to eat them grated as an entrée... She'e probably never tasted broccoli as it is a relatively new addition to most French kitchens.!

Serving pasta with chicken in France is on par with serving potatoes with a roast in England. Most veggies served with the potatoes are replaced in France by grated carrots, macédoine de légumes, salade verte or soup!

Serving veg apart from the meat is traditional too: when we used to have the lot on the same plate, we used to call it "une assiette anglaise"!

I am rather surprised by the attitude here: "Carrots I've only been served as crudites and I've often been served pasta instead of a vegetable. Which, yes, we do in England when serving composite Italian dishes, but we wouldn't put plain pasta with a chicken leg, would we?"

Some people can cook, some can't. Some are English, some are French. Some people have never cooked endives and have them only with walnuts in salad, and others would not know one if it hit them on the head... It does not make anyone superior or ignorant. It makes us all different and interesting...
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I am rather surprised by the attitude here: "Carrots I've only been served as crudites and I've often been served pasta instead of a vegetable. Which, yes, we do in England when serving composite Italian dishes, but we wouldn't put plain pasta with a chicken leg, would we?"

I'm with Jill on this one, I've been surprised too at the amount of plain pasta that's eaten.  Almost all of my son's friends, for example, if faced with spaghetti bolognese, will eat the pasta by itself first, then have the sauce after.    You can even get away without a sauce at all - a dish of plain boiled pasta with a few grains of Gruyere sprinkled on top (ready-grated straight from the packet) is regarded as a perfectly good meal for a child.

Ever had Spaghetti Carbonara in a restaurant in France?  I have, twice, you get the pasta, and on the side of the plate, a raw egg in its half-shell.   Won't fall for THAT one again!!

Some things surprise, that's all. 

 

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Hi,

This is a question that I've talked about many times with our British friends here in the Correze. I'm sorry if it's been often debated here before - but I'm a relative newbie to this forum, so it's new to me.

Our next door neighbour (now stopped due to ill health) grew kale for the rabbits, potatoes, leeks, peas, strawberries, carrots, tomatoes, french beans, "salade". And that's all. When we moved out here, we couldn't buy fresh mushrooms and when I asked the girl in charge of vegetables at the local supermarket, if they ever had brocolli, she's never heard of them. Yet you go to Brive market and find a stunning assortment of vegetables of all sorts. We've now got a newish shop called "Grand'frais" which has the best selection I've seen anywhere - including the Veg section in Harrods, before it became a Souk for wealthy visitors from abroad.

Yet, as others have said, I go out to restaurants, and get two 2" pats of courgette puree, a blob of ratatouille, and a tiny little cylinder of some kind of potato gratin. Oh yes, there's usually a salad. When I'm invited to our friends, we get a veg soup, meat and half a veg, with loads of bread. So, like others, I wonder what happens to all these vegetables. Maybe it's the foreigners who buy them!

I run a B&B here, and most of our clients are french. When we first started doing the job, we would tend to serve a roast or braised meat of some kind, with spuds and two or three vegetables, as anyone might in the UK. Well, what would happen was that the guests would take the meat, maybe one spud, some gravy/sauce and would eat this, accompanied by liberal quantities of bread. THEN when the meat was finished, and if they were still peckish, they might take the vegetables.

What brits feel for spuds, the french feel for bread. That's clear. However, I write on a couple of french language discussion groups on the 'Net, and there is certainly more interest in eating vegetables than there was a few years ago, but most people want to really dress them up. So they'll have complicated gratins with half a dozen exotic ingredients to add to simple courgettes, or to stuff a tomato with.

I also think that although it would be unfair to say that they are ignorant, they ARE pretty conservative when it comes to trying out new dishes. Although that said, they are very interested generally, in discovering new ways of doing old favourites.

But I do wonder what they do with their veggies...

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We are in 66 and quite close to perpignan, Mr O is an HGV driver , all he has ever transported to my memory is various fruits/veg from one part of france to the other...be it northern or Atlantic, perhaps these veg are just moved around and there is an EU subsidy for this .Mrs O

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Things seem to be different here in the Charente - brocolli is available in all supermakets together with a large selection of mainly seasonal veg, salads etc, so the French must eat it.

We eat with French friends often and one of them cooks her carrots in large pieces and roasts them with baby potatoes. She grows every vegetable that I know of and more in her huge garden and last year asked me for young sprouting brocolli plants to try which this spring they are very proud of (the florets are nearly ready to pick). Everything is bottled and frozen - mind you she does tend to overcook her haricots vert, presume that's a French thing.

My other French friend grows nothing, it's all bought from markets so she hasn't got out of season veg bottled and frozen like other friend. So starters are usually an assiette of bought grated carrots in dressing, beetroot etc on lettuce with smoked sausage or eggs. One veg with the main course meat and that's usually bought tinned haricots vert if she doesn't cook fresh seasonal veg. Never any opotatoes but bread to wipe plate and clean knife ready for cheese course.

Don't know the restaurants Liz eats in but have never had chips around here (only in McDos!). Last night we ate out and I opted for the dorade which was served with pasta (tagliatelli********d in butter and herbs) and a chervil sauce, roasted carrots and a spinach puree. It was delicous. Partner had thick slice of ham with a wild mushroom sauce, carrots, haricots vert and wild rice. This was the 16euros menu at the cheapy resto nearby. (Aperitif, goats cheese in filo parcels with mixed salad, followed by a light salmon mouse with gherkins, main course as above, then fromage with grapes and walnuts followed by tiny delicious profiteroles with cream, then coffee included).

 

edit - the word deleted is "cooked"!!

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We haven't eaten with French people very often but it something that my husband and I have remarked upon, so I'm glad to see we are not the only ones!

We were once served meat with tinned salsify. A strange meal but I'd never had salsify before so was pleased to discover it's really very nice!

Another time, at a Franco-American Thanksgiving meal, we were served meat plus two kinds of mashed squash. Also wierd for us British!!

Our local restaurant is one of the few that I'd bother eating in again. with the meat/fish we were served all sorts of REAL vegetables that they'd gone to the trouble of doing things with, a la nouvelle cuisine. I think it was the first time I've ever seen what I would call "real" vegetables in a French restaurant, other than salad.

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This was all very interesting. In relation to restaurant food, I've found that many restaurants do serve chips. But I have been to a few which have served more interesting veg. For example there was one were we had a stuffed mushroom, sauted endive (or chicory - forget which) and something pink and pureed which I think we were told was celeri (as in the big round thing) and carrot. We had something like that again recently and we have had a little more veg in some restaurants lately but these were more Nouvelle Cuisine type restaurants (at half the price you'd pay for Nouvelle Cuisine in the UK.

It does seem to be the case that most French people prefer raw veg to cooked veg. Personally, I find too much raw veg gives me stomach ache - but each to their own.

My son also complained about overcooked haricots verts when he stayed with his penfriend recently. We tend to steam all our green veg plus carrots in our wok.

As for the leeks - well, I had never seen them until I saw my penfriends dad nip into the field next door, put a cow pat in a bucket, add water, swooshed his leeks around in it and replanted them! It was years later that I first ate them, when I cooked them in an italian pasta sauce (ham, leeks, creme fraiche and cheese). But lately, I've sauted them and added creme fraiche to serve with meat. Mmmm!

A few french friends have said they love spinach in creme fraiche (I do too) but they have never served it to me.

Re the cauliflowers in Brittany - we had some lovely Breton caulflowers when we were in Manche a few weeks ago.

Re vegetable soup - I've only been served it when I've visited French friends in winter. They also bottle a lot of vegetables though.

Anyway, I'm pleased it isn't just me who wondered about the veg.
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Like Ian I run a B & B and I have quickly adapted to cooking less vegetables if the guests are French - as too many leftover veg make my two dalmatians not nice to be near

My French friends mostly seem to put veg in soup, and eat tinned or frozen haricot verts.  However, last night we had French friends to dinner and one (in his early 50s) was saying that as a child they only ever had meat on Sundays and the rest of the week was veg only.  My neighbour also said that you don't get much veg in restaurants as if you are PAYING for food you want it to be luxurious i.e. meat.

Recently, an organic farmer locally was selling parsnips on the market and I quickly found myself surrounded by Frenchwomen wanting to know what I was going to do with them - they didn't seem convinced though!!

Interestingly, there seems to be a convention about which vegetables you can eat with which meat and friend looked amazed when I mentioned having ratatouille with lamb - assured me I really should be having beans.

 

Maggi

 

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Hi Cérise,

We don't HAVE dogs, so when we have leftovers, it would be US that aren't nice to be near. So what I've learnt to do is to sweat up a leek/onion and a spud or two in some duck fat (well we ARE in the SW and so we always have it) and then add all the leftover veggies. Stew em up a minute or two, then tip in a load of duck stock (well we ARE in the sw, and our ducky bits supplier in Brive market gives us carcases free) and cook about 3/4 hour, before blending the lot together. It's called "potage du circonstance"  and always goes down a treat.

You said:-

Interestingly, there seems to be a convention about which vegetables you can eat with which meat and friend looked amazed when I mentioned having ratatouille with lamb - assured me I really should be having beans.

Well to be fair, we tend to do the same, glazed carrots roast parsnips with the rosbif, and sprouts with the turkey... However I'm surprised about your friend's amazement over ratoil with lamb, it's a classic. Even here.

As for haricots, yes the French over cook them often, and the combination of green and white beans with lamb is a (very boring after the first 20 times) classic combination. I roast my legs over a bed of aubergines and red peppers,********d in olive oil.

 

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