Sunday, April 29, 2018

A Gourmet in Training

For hors d’oeuvre there were tiny shrimp, dipped in sauce.

The starter was a charcuterie plate that included museau vinaigrette —-pickled pig's snout

The main course was veal piccata accompanied by green beans, diced beets and potato. 

All this followed by a cheese course.

Then there was dessert and last,
but not least a bit of chocolate.

No, this is not some Michelin starred restaurant. We are in the kitchen of Grandma Frederique (“Fred” to one and all.) We are watching her feed her 18 month old grandson, Baby Louis.

It’s at home that the French learn to be so discerning and passionate about food. 
Here in Grandma Fred’s kitchen there are four or five pots bubbling on the stove, a casserole in the oven and various crisply wrapped cheeses sitting on the counter. All of the ingredients were carefully selected yesterday from the best Farmer’s Market in the area. The fruit comes from the vendor up towards Marueil, vegetables from the vendor heading out towards Brantome, meat from Monsieur Bouffier, and fresh goats cheese from the farm over the hill.

When he is in town Baby Louis joins Grandma Fred on her Friday morning shopping. He watches her closely as she banters with the vendors, her eyes subtly looking over the produce to check that only the best is being put in her basket. Baby Louis has no idea that he is in training for one of the most French of French enthusiasms - good food.

Now that Baby Louis has moved on from the bottle he is going to eat comme il faut (“as one should”), and this means whatever the adults will be eating that mealtime. The only nod to his babyhood is that each delicacy will be pureed or diced to baby format.
It was already a surprise to see Baby Louis gobbling up shrimp, but when the museau vinaigrette was served up I was bowled over. Truth be told if you don’t know the word pig snout and if you concentrate on the flavor rather than what it is, you would love it too.  Starting off young the French skip a lot of hangups. We are, indeed, a long ways away from chicken McNuggets.

He loved his main course of pureed veal picatta and demanded “more more” pureed beets and green beans. He’s learning to use the fork himself and selects his next taste sensation carefully. The cubed potatoes were easier picked up with little hands than stabbed with a fork. Finally he starts saying “no” to what is being offered. Time for the next course. The next wave of taste sensations.

Baby Louis starts humming yum before the cheese course hits the table. Today’s selection is a creamy soft goat cheese. One could buy grocery store goat cheese, but in this household everything that can be is bought directly from the producer. Fresh, tasty ingredients is what eating is all about. It’s no wonder why the French feel that they can be food snobs with this sort of focus on each detail of a meal.

After a few mouthfuls of cheese it’s time for dessert. Today's selection is a simple goat milk yogurt, but Baby Louis has visited the goats and watched them being milked. He’s petted their heads and can even say baaa baaa.

Baby Louis sits quietly while Grandma Fred wipes his hands and mouth. He starts to make little cooing noises and his eyes sparkle. Out of his highchair he follows quietly along behind Grandma to the cupboard. She carefully places a square of lovely chocolate into his grasp.

He’s had the stamina and patience to make it through all 5 courses and knows how to savor his last simple pleasure. 

Now much to the jealousy of several of the adults that will attempt this same gastronomic feat - baby Louis is off for his afternoon nap.