A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about food

Getting Fat in France

semi-overcast 18 °C

We've chased the good weather to the south of France and are nestled into a little gite in the garden of a vineyard.We are surrounded by vineyards, a few smalll wheat fields and a peach orchard yet are only a ten minute walk from the town of Pezenas. Exciting news, Neve has learned to ride a bike! So in reward for doing her schoolwork we've been on long rides throughout the countyside. James has not forgotten his french and has been putting on his best accent to order crepes in town, buy food and spices from the market, and talk to people we meet on our outings.

We are certainly enjoying the food and wine in France. The bad weather in the north encouraged long brasserie lunches, three delicious courses spread over two hours. Before Al Mac and Cindy left we a particularly memorable meal on a patio in the heart of the medieval city of Carcassonne-the starter salad was chicken gizzards on top of lettuce, duck cassoulet, and crepes with creme for dessert. Yum. There are picnic spots everywhere so now that spring has arrived we bring our baguette and stinky cheeses every time we leave the house. I am so happy to be having fresh Pain au Chocolat with my morning coffee. Simon can't leave the grocery store without Creme Caramel desserts in the cart. We've tried fantastic local wines and can't believe the quality for less than 5 euros a bottle. But don't worry too much for our health, the fresh produce is also fantastic and way cheaper than we expected it to be.

We've spent a fair bit of time catching up on schoolwork but each day have headed to a different highlight in the region. Pezenas itself has been really lovely to walk through with its 16th century buildings filled with artists and other quaint shops - no tourist crap here! The Saturday market was nearly as lively and interesting as those in asia. I've discovered a love of ornate doors and have found kindred spirits here who collect and display doors in a museum, free for everyone. Pezenas is noted for its sweet/savoury petite pies and berlingot, which are handmade boiled candies. We biked over to the factory and got to watch them make a batch of lemon candies, samples gratuis...

Its not far to the Mediterranean so we spent an afternoon birdwatching along the coastal salt marshes and were thrilled to spot wild flamingoes. In the other direction we drove the Cirque de Navacelles, a large canyon with (of course) a village built at the very bottom of it. In that range of hills there are hundreds of caves carved out of limestone and we toured a very grand one called the Grottes de Demoiselles. Because it is very low season for tourists we had a privite tour and got to hear music in the central cavern called the cathedral. It was huge and had amazing stalactites and stalagmites. The acoustics are so good that they hold church ceremonies and classical concerts here regularly. This region has some really interesting roman relics in betwen a market and a long lunch (ha ha) we were able to check out an underground warehouse built 2000 years ago to store wine and oils. It was a museum, but could still be used today it was so well crafted. The exposed stones on the ancient roman superhighway that runs through Norbonne were good too.

Its Easter and for Albertans used to mostly snow still on the ground, or brown at best, it is post-card spring outside. Daffodils and irises are in bloom, the trees are budding or are full of blossoms, baby lambs in the fields, and we even got to do an egg hunt outdoors today. Neve paid her allowance for the privilege of walking a lamb on a leash, James learned how to steer a go-cart down a hill. Chocolate eggs are really tasty here...Life is good.

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Posted by Arin MacDyer 12:35 Archived in France Tagged food arin Comments (5)

So Many Spices

overcast 25 °C

Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into when we chose chicken over fish for the meal we were preparing as part of our culinary tour of Samosir Island. Our trip to the market ended up with James carrying two live chickens! We also bought tapioca leaves, potato, durian, banana and a bag of spices. In the bag was cinnamon, cardamon, and coriander, the rest of the ingredients came from the forest and garden surrounding our host's home.
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The house was traditional Batak built in the 1960s but just the same as the ones we toured that were 150 years old. Two rooms, one being a kitchen with fireplace, no furniture but a radio and a bed. It was very dark because the house is coated in soot from cooking smoke and, in addition, there was a power cut that afternoon.

We spent over three hours preparing our meal. First we had to pound all the spices together with fresh lemon grass, shallot, garlic, ginger and turmeric. Candle nuts and red chilis to give it more flavour. Simon butchered the chicken (careful to save the blood!) and started it cooking in the spices. Every part was cooked, from the beak to the feet. The kids were put to work peeling and chopping potatoes as well as pounding the tapioca leaves in a giant mortar and pestal. James got to try his hand at making coconut milk.
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While we waited for the food to cook on the fire, we got to eat the durian fruit. We'd already tried durian icecream and pudding, but fresh it was so much better. It tasted like sweet onion and it sure hit the spot.

When the food was cooked we sat on the floor and stuffed our faces. It was delicious! Fresh and flavourful, spicy but not too hot for the kids. The combination of all the fresh spices and being cooked on the fire will make it a meal we could never replicate at home. Finally, our host brought out her favourite dish - grilled chicken with a sauce made of the blood. Luckily I was already full so I only had to have a taste - it was okay, but unappetizing.
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Bananas were for dessert and we learned that there at least eight varieties.

Arin

James' version of the day:

We are now staying at the Tabo Cottages in Lake Toba. Yesterday we went on a traditional cooking trip first we went to the market to buy durian bananas live chickens and tones of spices. Then we drove down the rocky roads to the place where we were going to do the coocking. When we got there we first we had to carry every thing up the hill i got to carry one of the chickens i had to hold him by the feet so that he could not peck me. We got to the top of the hill and there was our istructer for cooking she was an elderly women and she realy knew how to cook. First we had to kill the chickens we did that by cutting their throats then we had to mash all the spices together then we peeld potatos and finaly it was time to pluck the chickens. We were getting very hungry so we opend the durian it smelled like an onion and it was squishy and boy was it good.then it ws time to eat our lunch it was rice, chicken body part curry, tapioka leaves and chicken breast in black sauce (chickens blood). (I only ate the rice) nothing went to waste.

Posted by Arin MacDyer 00:30 Archived in Indonesia Tagged food james arin Comments (4)

The Sleeper Train

sunny 31 °C

By James: we got on the train at 10 at night we had second class beds at the back of the train. We were on the train for 8 and a half hours so we didint have much stuff and it was quite late so we slept and only woke to the jerk when the train stopped at a staition we got off at 5 in the morning but we still had to catch a ferry to Georgetown and i didint now what to do i was so bored intil i noticed these white dots in the water and then noticed that they wre not white dots they were jelly fish and not only jellyfish they were box jellyfish the most venenymos kind of jelly fish in the world one sting is enouf to kill 10 adults and i spent the rest of my time counting them for this blog and i counted 40 that is a lot of jellyfish for such a small area.

When we finaly got to the other side it was 7 in the morning and we still had to find our hotel or gest house by the time we found it and trust me it wasint easy it ws 8 in the morning. We went to our room and slept for an hour then got up for brecfast and it was dilicius! they had lokal sweets and i dont now why but they also had noodles and seafood. After that we went to the escape park. A big park just like galaxy land exept replace the rides with ziplines and trapezes and then put it outside. There was a discovery dig, a toob ride, underground mazes, a trampoline and best of all lots of ziplines.

By Arin: our second stop in Malaysia is the UNESCO city of Georgetown. It is yet another site of British colonisation and hopefully our last for awhile, i feel as though our trip has been a been a tour of the history of colonialism in the South Pacific! Anyhow, the people are lovely, they fawn over the kids, and its so easy because most speak English. Penang (the larger city encompassi g Georgetown) has been super hot and spicy...We have enjoyed the variety of delicious and affordable meals, we've had indian, chinese and malay foods so far and the only time it came to more than $10 for all of us was when we had pizza. In general we are happy with Malaysian prices - compared to New Zealand and Ausralia it seems cheap! We could not have afforded a place like Escape there, but here it was about $25 each for the whole day on all of the challenges!The old city is a bit crazy with traffic and erratic sidewalks but exciting to try and navigate. Temples are on every corner along with hawker food stands. Weve now visited a hindu and a buddist temple and are looking forward to a mosque. They are so very grand and interesting and have sparked great conversations with the kids about world religions. All in all a good introduction to asia.
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Posted by Arin MacDyer 16:48 Archived in Malaysia Tagged food asia james arin Comments (2)

Camping in New Caledonia

Five days on the Isle des Pins

rain 23 °C

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So we've done our first stretch of camping on the Isle of Pines. Named by Captain Cook for the tall Auraucaulis (Auraucalia columnaris) pines that grow along the shorelines. We felt at home in more than one way - a slow pace, everything within walking distance, and a luxury campsite at the Gite Nataiwatch that was tucked in a forested setting but five minutes from the beach.

As usual we didn't spend much time sitting around. We took an outrigger canoe ride to a nature reserve called the Piscine Naturelle. It was a bit chilly for snorkelling but the kids were thrilled to find brittle stars everywhere - I wasnt so thrilled with the poisonous cone shells everywhere. The next day we hiked to the top of the only mountain on the island. The rain came and we decided to rent a car and tour the rest of island - we toured caves, cultural sites (like the statue of Jesus surrounded by tribal totems - very fitting to sum up the native Kunie people that run this island), and poked around the tide pools and flats. We managed one afternoon of culural activities put on in honor of a giant cruise ship of tourists before taking thr ferry backmto Noumea.

After several dissappointing attempts to sample french cuisine in Noumea, we finally had some memorable meals. We were served the local delicacies of Bulime snails and unicorn fish. Still, we couldnt sample anymore because the effort involved in starving our children til 7:30 and then putting them to bed after 9:00 wasn't worth it. Here they are very rigid about the timing of meals and most daytime restaurants close at 5 pm and the dinner restaurants don't open until 7:30pm. On the island you had to order your food at least one hour before.

A great side trip and now we are off on three more weeks of camping around the Grande Terre. Life is good - our biggest worry is how to handle the stench of our sandals (if anyone has any tips let me know!)

Arin

This is what Neve wanted me to write:
I went to crab beach and found a ghost crab. It was very small, as small as my thumb nail. It was white.

I read five books today and I have made friends with three dogs. The big one is named Scratchy, the medium is called Smarty (because he is smart not for the candy), and the littlest one is called Dobby. They beg for food and play with us. Dobby is the best dog out of the three for listening.

We are playing with coolvines that look like wire but It was not wire.

I like camping!

Some pictures from the time we spent there:
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Posted by Arin MacDyer 03:11 Archived in New Caledonia Tagged beaches food camping neve arin Comments (3)

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