French Vegetarian Cooking

by Organikal on July 12, 2006

Sunflowers_smileFrance is not renowned for its vegetarians. Martin’s personal experience includes one occasion when he was asked to leave a restaurant upon his declaration!

We spent nearly 3 weeks in south west France – in the Perigord region – famous for its foie gras and duck – not exactly promising! Mushrooms are also a speciality, although we arrived before the season, so not much luck there.

So, how did we manage? We lived on baguette and cheese and salad!
We stayed in the fantastic Domain de Gavaudun and made hot chocolate in the microwave. Occasionally, we knocked up an omelette on the 2 ring burner. Pasta offered some respite – tho we used shop-bought biodynamique pesto and tomato sauce. Potatoes provided a different slant on the occasion, as did some some shop-bought tortilla wraps, fajita sauce and corn chips!

Quite frankly, we did appallingly badly. The restaurants offered fantastic gastronomic delights, with full lunch courses offering escargot or fillet steak or pate or foie gras or veal … we didn’t come across any vegetarian options (excluding starters with goat cheese etc) and didn’t venture in to ask. That was mostly based on the fact that it was too hot to eat a 2 or 3 course lunch most of the time – we wanted light snacks to tide us over. Our outdoor experience also led us the way of picnics.

We shopped at the supermarket in addition to the local markets. The saving grace of the supermarkets was the quality of the fresh fruit and veg – miles ahead of our own, and mostly from local sources. There was a huge dominance of French produce, and a lot of space offered up to produce from the local region – probably for the tourists, but very nicely done all the same (despite the premium price).

So, we drank coffee and we shopped at supermarkets – but that wasn’t the least of it. I ate meat! Yes, meat. Of the dead animal variety. It happened twice – towards the end of our stay. The first time was when we attended the local village fayre.  The type of event you see on television, where the local square is given up to a variety of stall-holders selling local specialised produce. The loudspeakers blare some terrifyingly jolly accordion music and the locals mix with the few tourists at the long rows of trestle tables in the centre.

There was a bread stall; a cake stall; a wine stall; an escargot stall; an oyster stall; a cheese and ham/deli stall; a steak stall; a crepe stall, a drinks stall and a stall where the owners used huge paella sized pans to cook up some local equivalent of Scottish stovies, that included lardons. I couldn’t resist. it looked so homely and satisfying, and the frites we’d consumed earlier just didn’t seem satisfying enough – and if I ever have to look at another baguette and cheese for a long time, I may just scream very loudly!!

The second slip was on the very last evening, when we stayed overnight in the hotel at the Domaine. We booked a table at the restaurant, and the only thing on the menu that I wanted was the chef’s speciality dish made up of white meat, stuffed with salmon and goats cheese. It was sublime. I’m not proud.

We attended the BBQ at the Domaine – not an ideal vegetarian setting,
but our hosts made sure there was a variety of French salads on hand, and that selection was enough to see me resist the best quality BBQ fayre.

The salads inspired me to dig out the tiniest French Vegetarian Cooking book ever (purchased at the CAT bookshop)
and create some French inspired delights on our return. I spent some
time searching Amazon for French Vegetarian Cookbooks. It appears there
isn’t much requirement! There are a few available form the alternative
suppliers listed on the site. I’ve listed the code for the tiny wee book I have – but I will warn you – it doesn’t provide much of anything other than some salads and some other side dishes…

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