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Around Foody France with Carolyn Boyd

  • Submitted: 5th June 2024

Amuse Bouche with Carolyn Boyd

Around Foody France with Carolyn Boyd. This is a book you really have to read after you have been food shopping. After you have eaten a big meal to be honest. If not, you will buy and eat SO much food to try and stop yourself salvating!

Map of Locations in Amuse Bouche

Carolyn Boyd and Sebastien (c) Carolyn Boyd

Carolyn Boyd and Chef Sebastien (c) C Boyd

Throughout my career writing about France, I’ve long thought the ‘idea’ of French food as it exists outside France was quite different to the dishes and ingredients you find when you’re exploring the country. In each region, town and village, there will always be a speciality of which the locals are proud, often this food will only exist in one particular place, and you can guarantee there is a story attached to it. It was these flavours, these specialities, and these stories that I wanted to capture in Amuse Bouche: How to Eat Your Way Around France.

My research took me all over the country, returning to places I knew well, and to others I’d never visited before. What I didn’t count on was just how many places and foods I could legitimately include, compared to what I had room for. About two thirds of the way through the main period of research, I had to accept that I couldn’t possibly include everything I wanted to and that maybe, somewhere down the line, there could be a sequel of some kind.

Chocolate (c) Carolyn Boyd

Chocolate (c) Carolyn Boyd

Map of Locations in Amuse Bouche

My favourite part of the research was meeting the food producers, chefs, cooks and bakers throughout the country. Only by tuning into their knowledge, their enthusiasm, their landscape or setting, could I truly understand the dish or the product. Highlights include spending the morning with acclaimed chef Sébastien Bras in Laguiole.

Map of Locations in Amuse Bouche

His family has been synonymous with the Aubrac Plateau in the Aveyron for decades. Visiting his kitchen garden, seeing the spring flowers in the landscape and then finally eating at the restaurant was a very special experience.  The dishes are all very sophisticated and refined, but they also serve the traditional aligot. This mix of pureed potatoes and the local tomme fraîche cheese makes it really stringy. At another restaurant, they even give you a pair of scissors to cut it!

Cozzano (c) Carolyn Boyd

Cozzano (c) Carolyn Boyd

Map of Locations in Amuse Bouche

In Corsica, there is a whole network of producers open to welcoming visitors to their farms and workshops. This led me to the village of Cozzano up in the chestnut and oak forests above Ajaccio, where I visited the charcuterie producer Dumé Cesari.

His 600 pigs graze in the woods near his workshop and his products were the best kinds of charcuterie I’ve ever tried. There’s a little museum in the village too ‘The world of the pig’ (not to be confused by Pepper Pig World). This shows how vital charcuterie has been in the Corsican diet for centuries and how its produced and eaten through the seasons.

Roscoff (c) Carolyn Boyd

Roscoff (c) Carolyn Boyd

Map of Locations in Amuse Bouche

Elsewhere, I attended festivals that celebrate the local product with real gusto. In Roscoff, each August, the Fête de l’Oignon Rose. This celebrates the town’s delicate pink onions and the history of the ‘Onion Johnnies’. These people crossed the channel throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries to sell them door to door. It’s thanks to this tradition that the British have the stereotype of Frenchmen having strings of onions around their necks.

Menton (c) Carolyn Boyd

Menton (c) Carolyn Boyd

Map of Locations in Amuse Bouche

In Menton, at the opposite end of the country in Provence, the Fête du Citron is the best antidote to the winter blues I’ve ever had. Each February the whole town is filled with statues and sculptures made with oranges and lemons to celebrate Menton’s special lemons. There’s a huge carnival, you can visit lemon groves and eat them in myriad forms.

Pieddecochon (c) Carolyn Boyd

Pieddecochon (c) Carolyn Boyd

Map of Locations in Amuse Bouche

Throughout the research, I ate in some incredible restaurants which play testament to France’s culinary history. One of these was Le Pied du Cochon in Paris, a beautiful brasserie near the site of the former market at Les Halles. This and many bistros around this area grew from the history of feeding workers, and this is why cheap cuts of meat (such as the pig’s trotter) and French onion soup (often called Gratinée des Halles) were popular.

I found it fascinating that so many of the dishes in French cuisine that we now think of as sophisticated actually grew from what poorer people ate in days gone by.

Oranges! (c) Carolyn Boyd

Oranges! (c) Carolyn Boyd

Map of Locations in Amuse Bouche

The notion that you don’t need to have a lot of money to eat well in France is true today. Some of the best food I had were as part of a picnic – a simple plate of local cheese, charcuterie, fruit and bread. At some moments, I even had gastronomic epiphanies standing in the shade of the car boot. I ate a spoonful from a pot of Chantilly cream in the town itself. I still remember the super-sweet strawberries from Plougastel in Brittany. Oh and the chunk of Comté cheese while looking at the very landscape in which it is created.

It all just proved that, wherever you are in France and whatever you can afford, there is something new to discover. Something which will certainly delight your tastebuds.

BookTrail Boarding Pass: Map of Locations in Amuse Bouche

Twitter: @arolynboyd

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