We lived in France from May – September 2016.
- Normandie: The full fat region
I’m not just referring to my middle when I say this! I don’t know whether it’s a pleasing bi-product of socialism in rural France, but La Manche – the spit region spreading out beneath Cherbourg at its tip – very much feeds itself. Almost all fresh stock found in the supermarkets is produced within 100km of that place, often within 20km. This is excellent and is a model that would surely benefit communities elsewhere, thinking particularly of the UK. It’s frankly bizarre and unnecessary for apples to come from Venezuela or potatoes from North Korea.
The quality of the local food is the stand out feature in northern France. Crême Fraîche is available in abundance for you to basically choose your fat percentage, from légère (~10% up) to épaisse (~30%up). And don’t get me started on Crême Cru – a heavy, thick, slightly soured, nearby farm-produced, max-fat cream similar in some ways to Devon/Cornwall Clotted Cream. This plus strawberries or tarte tain is dangerously good.
Add in all the other Norman delicacies and you have a travel destination that is foodie heaven. Think:
- Calvados in Trou Normande – a palette cleanser course consisting of Apple Sorbet and your chosen measure of Calva, the fiery apple brandy from the region.
- Croque Monsieur – the toasted sandwich that transcends the toasted sandwich. Ham, cheese and the clincher: béchamel sauce, between two slices of bread covered in cheese and then double grilled.
- Cheese – not sure I need to explain here. Countless varieties locally from creamy and mild to blue and smelly.
- Saucisse (Grillade, Merguez) – show up to a market or other stall-based events (greniers, brocantes…) however small the hamlet and you’ll find a BBQ-type grill selling these huge sausages rammed full of 100% pork meat and loads of garlic and a little seasoning. Rough and ready and not for the faint-hearted but really hit the spot at lunchtime. They taste great and can be bought with or without bread and/or frites…
- Frites Maison – as above, chips generally triple-cooked and available at markets and other events. Also, served with almost anything you order in local restaurants. Each seller believes their variety is the best, hence the ‘maison’ – house chips. You can have salad instead or as well but the French sure know their Fries!
- Shellfish – divides opinion I know, but you’d struggle to find larger, tastier oysters anywhere. Prawns, mussels, crab, squid all plentiful too.