Saturday, February 21, 2009

La belle France OR 100 Kms. - Part 3

I also learned to enjoy the regional dishes of Alsace. Colmar sits a half-hour away from the German border and the Black Forest. Much of Alsace’s cuisine is influenced by its proximity to, and history with, Germany. That combined with the cold, wet weather of northern Europe lends a certain heartiness to its dishes. Alsace is known for such dishes as choucroute garni, an Alsatian version of the German sauerkraut, baeckeoffe, a baked dish of pork, beef, mutton, potatoes and white wine, tarte aux oignons, onion tart – a dish I liked to eat often, spätzele, the German influenced small dumplings served with meat dishes, and for dessert kougelhopf, a coffee cake, and tarte aux quetsches, or plum tart.

Aside from the everyday shopping, I also helped Madame Zundel in the kitchen to prepare the lunch meal. For the evening meal I was solely responsible and I usually made a simple soup like leek and potato, a salad, cheese and bread. As it turned out Madame Zundel was American; she came from Northern California so when I first arrived to the household we spoke a lot of English until she insisted we speak French only. She also had cookbooks in English – one of those being Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. That book quickly became my bible. I used it often throughout the year, and from it I learned the basics of French cooking. By the time I returned to the states I was well grounded in French cooking techniques. Madame Zundel and I made many wonderful dishes together. If she had guests over she always let me help with the menu and meal preparation as well as sit at table with the other guests. For Christmas she and her husband gave me Raymond Oliver’s La Cuisine – sa techniques – ses secrets. In French, recipes in grams and liters, and a cookbook I still use today.

My experiences in France that year started me on a lifelong journey involving food and eating. The simplicity of the way of life; the daily revolution around meals and sustenance; the quality of the ingredients that were the rule not the exception all showed me the value of living in a forthright yet uncomplicated way. A way that feeds not only the body but the soul.

Here is a very easy but fun recipe for yogurt cake that Madame Zundel and I made often. The measurements are based on 1 small yogurt container. We usually served it without frosting but with melted chocolate and ice cream. The children loved it.


1 container of plain yogurt
3 containers of flour
1 container of vegetable oil or melted butter
2 containers of sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. of baking soda

*container(s) refer to the yogurt container. Once the yogurt is poured out, rinse the container out, and use it as a measure for the other wet and dry ingredients

Mix all the ingredients together well then pour into a floured cake pan and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

Bon appėtit!

Photo Credit: Alec Sharpe

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