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Portugese Patterns

portuguese tiles

ceramic tile

Portugal has been one of those few European countries to which for some reason both my husband and myself never had been to. We had often been very close by, in Spain, we had seen pictures, heard recounts and read articles though. According to them, every pore and place of this history laden little country sounded fantastic, and a few weeks back we finally decided to go see for ourselves and travel to Portugal.

What a great decision this was! Even though our expectations were high, we did not get disappointed in any way. The cities are charmful and pictuesque, full of art and beauty stories, the villages and landscapes ever changing, rural and genuine. There’s colors and gardens and architectural styles, orchards and green spaces and traditions. The people act calm, friendly and helpful towards strangers, and seem like a happy and serene bunch between themselves.

pulpo

vineyards in the duoro

And the food, oh the glorious food, is an entire story on its own. Portugese food is down to earth and does, what food first and foremost used to be and (at least there, how refreshing to witness) still is intended to do: It nourishes. Both the body and the soul, and abundantly so. There is little Froufrou in Portugese food, and much honesty. Animals and plants are used in their entiety. So one will get served pig ears instead of just the loin, turnip greens instead of just turnip, or tiny, whole fishes, eyes, fins and all. Continue reading “Portugese Patterns” »

Pictures at a Fridge #5 – Birthday Card

birthday card with lady gulping beer

This is the most funny and meaningful birthday card I ever received. First, it reminds me of that short but great stay with my one friend in California, during which she gave me the card. Also, it speaks the (my) truth. As opposed to Wynona, I do not care for sweet baked goods, so people who know me will not even try to tempt me with this kind of goodies. They won’t do it with beer either (like the photo suggests). – But they will do it with wine. And they won’t have to try hard. I love my wine, just like Wynona loves her beer. And that is it. Cheers!

Text birthday card

Past Supper #16 – Courses

moist scrambled egg on toast

We started with little toasts of light, moist scrambled eggs, cooked in the same skillet the bacon had become crunchy, with parsley. Followed by a deconstructed, burrito free and reassembled Taco: Firm and chunky tomato soup, corn, rich guacamole, red kidney beans, dollop of sour cream, cilantro and black corn chip. Then crisp and soft, tangy and sweet at once langoustines with a foamy paprika & sriracha mayonnaise, japanese rice and seaweed salad. A minerally, fresh Sauvignon Blanc to start, a velvety and just perfect Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru 2003 thereafter. For dessert swiss chocolate, plain and delicious. – There’s days, when – although I love to cook – I like to officially be banned out of the kitchen. The meals that happen behind that closed door always are amazing, succulent and surprising. Yesterday was such a day.

deconstructed taco

Pictures at a Fridge #4 – Sartre, De Beauvoir

Philosophers and authors Sartre and De BeauvoirI have adored Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir since my teens. Back then, they were my proof that intelligence and independence could very well be combined with respect and love. That it was ok to criticize, as long as it happened in a constructive way. The couple reflected the unusual, the revolutionary and the individuality we all so longed for at the time.

After the way too early dead of my beloved grand father, just after I had turned twenty, the picture became important in a different way. Gra, as I used to call him, always had reminded me of Sartre. (Or vice versa.) With their short frames, the button like eyes behind thick glasses, something puffy and soft looking in both faces, and barely a moment without a cigarette or pipe in their mouths or hands, the visual similarity was quite obvious. In addition, my grand father also was French.

But it is Gra’s fearless way of living life to the fullest, of making no compromises for ideas, situations or people he could not stand 100% behind, that I started to see and feel in this photograph. His limitless abundance, in any aspect of life, and especially when it came to his family, his wife and his biggest passion: Food.

My grandfather was a simple but smart man who owned a little grocery store. That meant long days of hard, physical work, but – in his way of looking at life – also friendships (and way too much wine, shared with customers in the little back room). He was not a rich man, financially spoken, by any means. He bought a car when most families already were used to having one. When he surprised his seven kids with a TV, they already knew the shows from watching them in other peoples houses. His four daughters slept in one room, sharing two beds. And the three boys had the other room and two beds.

Yet, they always ate well. There were fresh Chnöpfli (hand cut, thick pasta) with long cooked stew and rich gravy on the weekends. Fondue for supper on cold Saturday nights. Sometimes roasted chestnuts as an appetizer. My grand mothers polenta was famous in the neighborhood and always made for three entire meals. From the little garden, they picked all kinds of vegetables and herbs which they, often as a husband and wife team, transformed into wonderful Ratatouille, soups and tarts. They had peach and Mirabelle and plum trees, from which they made more tarts, and rows of preserves.

I remember the barrel of wine and blood in the basement, in which during the fall, deer would marinate and smell up the damp room. Or our Sunday pick nicks along the Doubs river, where Gra and all the Dads and grandchildren catched (or tried to catch) trouts that we then cooked in foil and ate with pride and joy. Every year, on Sunday before Easter, he packed all his 15 grandchildren into his VW Bus and drove us to Gruyère. There, we picked flowers for several hours and tied them into bouquets, until all the buckets he had brought were filled. After that, he took us for the Meringues, strawberries and sweet cream this little town is so famous for. It was in his back yard or kitchen, depending on the weather, where all my cousins and myself – under the strict exclusion of our mothers – was allowed to taste their first sips of wine.

When Gra was seriously ill and weak, and knew that the end was close, he invited his wife to go eat Bouillabaisse. In Marseilles! He had bought two train tickets, and off they went, to enjoy his favorite meal, one last time, in one of his favorite places, with the absolute favorite person in his life.

I adore Sartre for his intelligence, brilliance and visions. And for his respect towards his partner, Simone de Beauvoir, and women in general. (An attitude Gra totally shared with him.) – And I adore my grand father for his guts, for not just living, but celebrating life every single day. My deep, deep love both for Gra and for food are directly related. And make my life richer. Every single day…

The World According to Caroline

cheese and chocolate

  • I  eat cheese and chocolate every day. Good cheese and good chocolate.
  • Each time I imagine my last meal, it is different.
  • If there was a perfume created just for me, it would have the scent of tomato plants.
  • If you don’t like duck, I don’t like you!
  • I can’t stand people when they chew gum. Even people I usually like and respect.
  • Food – choosing, preparing and eating it – is an extremely sensual process. Presented in a certain way, each food can become an aphrodisiac.
  • Cooked, I prefer crustaceans over fish. Raw, they come in tied (and on top of my list).
  • My favorite food cities are Tokyo and San Sebastián. In no order.
  • I am not a milk drinker.
  • Texture to me is as important as the flavor of foods.
  • All foods that can be consumed without chewing them, seem like no food to me. I am fine with yogurt but it does not nourish me (or my soul?). Same with soup. I need a hunk of cheese and a loaf of bread with it to make me feel full and happy.

red and white wine bottles

  • There is one exception in regard of liquid foods: I look at wine as food. The only liquid food that does satisfy me. And one very dear food to me, without a doubt.
  • I am not a sweet person. My cravings are salty.
  • I like dramatic changes when it comes to food. A simple stew is not better or worse than a froufrou seven course meal with elaborate emulsions and fancy foams. It’s all about mixing it up, involving all senses, going extreme, staying clean and being open to anything. Over and over again.
  • I love every thing and every one in and from Spain. (And for once, this is not only food related.)
  • I can not decide if I like Fondue or Raclette better. Fondue to me tastes and smells better. Yet Raclette can be enjoyed over an extended period of time. I like that.
  • The best days are the ones when my husband tells me during breakfast what he will be cooking that night.

eggs, some cooked, some raw