Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fish Heads

The skeleton had the greatest success. Have I really not served any whole fish to my children in all the years since we've moved back to the States? What a shock. Let's see, we've had salmon, filleted, of course, tuna, canned, halibut, orange roughy and cod, mostly frozen. They all loved the fresh fish, it was delicious, even the self-declared "fish-hater" ate it up. But their favorite part was the skeleton. Pierre had to hold it up for all to see, way cool, and the eyes bulged out all white and squishy, the teeth were clearly visible, as was the tongue. It was like the Discovery Channel, or at least the way I imagine it it would be.

I tried independent grocery shopping today. The kind where I walk out, on a beautiful day, full of enthusiasm for life, France and getting along without an automobile for a few months. I felt like I was eighteen again, it was all fresh, a new place to live, new discoveries to make, I was an American in France again. It was a blow to think that I was no longer eighteen and an accent no longer meant I was instantly desirable, just interesting, lol! I trekked up the hill to the little shopping conglomeration, it would be unfair to call that little spot a strip mall, it is more like a little plaza for pedestrians; a cafe, a bakery, a pharmacy, a hair salon and a little grocer's. I bought bread at the baker's first, then strolled across the square to Pierre's grandmother's place to say hello and offer her a baguette. Then I entered what I thought might be one of many squalid little shops with a few dingy vegetables that looked like they fell off the back of a truck somewhere and two kinds of cereal. (I have lived next to a few of those.)

I was very wrong, and I am sorry to have even thought such things, my apologies, little shop. The produce was very nice, I kept having to put things back, reminding myself that I was on foot and that there was always tomorrow. It took me forever to find everything; the ham and sausages were next to the fruits and vegetables, the meat was in the back, the milk, cheese and cream section was on the opposite wall by the cashier and the rest was in the three middle aisles. One thing I found that I celebrated joyously were the lardons. The closest thing I have found to lardons in the US is diced prosciutto. They look and taste as though smoked bacon was cut about half and inch thick and then chopped into quarter-inch pieces, not quite cubes. I stocked up on this very unhealthy staple, I did not realize how much I had missed it. Below are a few recipes, should you be so lucky to have a butcher who will dice some bacon this way for you, or have it at your disposal.

The kind lady at the check-out even had the patience to help me figure out how to say "rice cake" in French and find some for me in that day's shipment, victory! I walked out of the store enchanted, they even had a free delivery service that I thought I might use in the future, but for today, I could make it home with three bags.

By the time I got home, I was singing a different tune. The tune of "oomph, help, pick me up, I'm a hitchhiker, I can't walk one more step or carry this any further." All the romance left in the notion of living carless has fled, cars are most practical. I will be keeping coins in my entryway for the nice delivery man, beginning tomorrow.

Rice and Lardons
Cook basmati rice in water; 20 min.
Fry lardons in a frying pan, add no grease.
Pour lardons on top of rice, grease and all.
Serve and enjoy.

Pasta Carbonara
Boil spaghetti according to directions, with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Drain.
Fry lardons.
Add heavy whipping cream to coat.
Add lardons, sprinkle with parmesean. Serve hot.

Potatoes, twice baked with lardons
Bake potatoes, whole, in oven at 325, 1 hour.
Fry lardons.
Slice in two, lengthwise. Scoop out insides.
Mix potato with sour cream and lardons. Optional; top with cheese.
Return to oven to warm.

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