I Ate Cornbread in France

16 Jun

Dinner last night was great.  My host at the vegetarian Les Battees cooked up a hearty helping of lentil soup with a healthy serving of….cornbread, on the side. No, cornbread isn’t the latest trend in French cuisine.  It is however the latest curiosity of my host and native Englishman here at Les Battees.  With his professional history in food and science, he has an appetite for cultural exchange in the form of food.  A few weeks ago I made pancakes for him and his mum.  The week before it was blueberry muffins. This week it is cornbread.  I have to say he is taking the endeavor quite seriously.  He found a basic recipe online and used polenta as a substitute for cornmeal as it isn’t standard in France or in his cupboard.  Today he took a brief departure to the local bio store (bio is European for organic or whole foods) to purchase some cornmeal… for future cornbread making!

I find with my French immersion in the mostly English speaking Les Battees I am getting more and more English by the day.  Suddenly things seem a bit dodgy to me and I find myself saying I’m gong to the loo.  I don’t wince when I am asked if I’m standing in a queue and I don’t hesitate to say something is rubbish.  It is not a one way street, however, as yesterday my host’s mum asked him if he had taken out the trash can… a clearly American term.  I guess both ways, culture and language, it’s contagious…

We enjoyed a brief excursion today to a nearby village called Autun.  About 30 kilometers away, it was a quick car ride through the hills of Southern Burgundy in my host’s English car… ( that is, the driver on the right side of the vehicle while we drive, hopefully, also on the right hand side of the road… ).  It turns out that Autun dates back to Roman times with impressive architectural reminders throughout the town.  We visited the local Catholic cathedral, Cathédrale Saint-Lazare.  It is always inspiring to me to walk into a place of worship that is so old and that beautiful.  There was a class of children being given a tour while I was there, misbehaving and being given the evil eye by their teacher… a look that apparently is universal.

We spent a little time browsing local shops until noon when all French stores close down for a two hour lunch break.  Then we stopped for a coffee, enjoyed a little bit more of the fresh air and sunny day and made our way back towards Les Battees.  On the way we stopped at a local grocery store and made a few purchases from the International section.  It was interesting to see what food was available in the section… selections from Morocco, the Netherlands, English and Asian foods.  How was the good ol’ US of A represented?  There was a Tex-Mex section featuring a wide array of products by Old El Paso!

It’s great to be reminded that countries have different names in different languages.  Yes, it might be Germany to me, but in Germany they call it Deutschland and in France it is called Allemagne.  In the international section today, the Netherlands was listed in French of course, which is les Pays-Bas, which literally translates to low country.

Now I am safely and contentedly back at Les Battees.  It is late afternoon and the remainder of the day will likely consist of a little sheet ironing for the Chombre d’Hotes… one of my new favorite pastimes… really, it’s not that bad and kind of … relaxing. Later, there will be some vegetarian chilli eating for dinner.  Served, of course, with a piece or two of  “French” cornbread, prepared by an Englishman.  Delight!

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