French food notes - June 2019
In our series providing a sideways look at French food, we examine the close ties between food and literature
From Sartre and De Beauvoir nursing beverages at Les Deux Magots to Zola and Proust dining heartily at Café de la Paix before heading to the nearby Opéra Garnier, literary figures and intellectuals have a long-standing affection for certain Parisian eating and drinking establishments.
The love is reciprocated: Les Deux Magots has been awarding a literary prize since 1933 as an alternative to the Prix Goncourt, which the café’s then proprietors deemed to be excessively academic. Café de Flore, meanwhile, started its own prize in 1994.
However, a lesser known award is the Prix Cazes, bestowed each March upon an author (writing in any genre) who has never won any other prize. This and a substantial cash gift are handed out at Brasserie Lipp, located at 151, Boulevard Saint-Germain in the 6th arrondissement.
The brasserie opened in 1880 and Alsatians Léonard and Pétronille Lipp served up homeland specialities like choucroute (still on the menu, inset) and Cervelat sausage with remoulade.
It was later frequented by poets including Verlaine and Apollinaire and by 1920 it also had a new owner, Marcellin Cazes.
He arrived in Paris from knife-making Laguiole in Aveyron (country-to-Paris migrants were called bougnats) and he gave the place a stylish makeover, including moleskin banquettes.
Malraux, Gide and Saint-Exupery became regulars and in 1935 Cazes created an annual prize to reflect his admiration for such a cerebral clientele. It was awarded on March 22, the first day of spring.
The 84th and most recent winner was Louis-Henri de La Rochefoucauld (top, holding book) for his book La prophétie de John Lennon (Éditions Stock).
Oh, crumbs! The table tool that every home needs
No meal served at home in France is complete without a fresh baguette, cut or broken to be shared amongst diners.
The inevitable fallout is a trail of stray crumbs scattered around the table, for the host to clear away between courses.
As used by waiters in all white linen restaurants in France, the ‘ramasse miettes’ is the seemingly miraculous gatherer of crumbs.
This stainless steel model from Tellier measures 14x2.7cm, and is made in France. Price €15.56, www.amazon.fr
Tea time brings healthy summertime refreshment
Kombucha is a refreshing, naturally sparkling tea-based drink created by the fermentation of sweet tea and a symbiosis of yeasts and microorganisms.
Known for its detoxifying properties, it contains a large amount of organic acids, enzymes, probiotics and vitamins.
The fresh French take on it comes from So Kombucha, who have created six flavours including mint and lime, ginger, and cherry and hibiscus.
€2.50 from Biocoop and Naturalia or a box of six online from so-kombucha.com