Here in Paris you can have any sauce you like. As long as you like butter and cream. Whilst a Frenchman will defend the health value of his national cuisine until the proverbial cows come home, foreigners living in this fine city will almost unanimously agree that there are three words that sum up French food… rich, rich and rich.
At some point before moving to France, I had actually trained my palette to reject creamy foods, and was cutting a svelte form. This is no longer the case. It sometimes feels that there is absolutely no limit to the quantities of dairy and meat fats I can consume in any given day. And my size is increasing at quite an alarming rate!
So imagine my surprise when I stumbled across a meal that left even I, a seasoned campaigner, feeling that my DDL (Daily Dairy Limit) had been seriously tested. Congratulations for this honour(?) goes to Chez Papa, a chain of restaurants here in Paris based on cuisine from the south-west of France.
The occasion was my weekly lunch date with my boyfriend. Warning bells should probably have sounded when he announced “the food here is good”. This is usually French code for “the food here is extremely fattening”! As I perused the menu, I heard some urgent whispering from the region of my backside and thighs, urging restraint. But the shouts of joy from my taste buds were all-conquering… and my wallet joined in the chorus… at 11€ for 2 courses, who could say no?
My entree, “oeufs pochés au blue de brebis” transported me to a place somewhere in the sky. I knew I was still alive so couldn’t have actually been IN heaven, but I imagine I was right next door. Butter and cream were obviously the base ingredients of the sauce, the only additional ingredient being blue cheese. And lots of it. Floating in the middle, two perfectly poached eggs. Add some heavy, crusty bread and there are no words left, just a sound. Mmmm.
My choice of main was the “assiette <>”, or Canatalaise plate. I had no idea what this would be, but with the ingredients listed as potatoes, pork shoulder, mushroom sauce and cantal (cheese) gratin, I figured I couldn’t go wrong.
What arrived was a steaming heap of potatoes fried in copious quantities of oil smothered with generous quantities of ham, cantal cheese and, you guessed it, butter and cream transformed miraculously into a sauce by the magical addition of mushrooms and heat. Sheer genius.
The meal was divine, but as I returned to my desk, I got to thinking that it was far more suited to the lifestyle of days gone by. In the days when these magical dishes were first conjured up, people were working the land and undertaking plenty of physical activity in day. But it seems to me the modern lifestyle, so heavily based on sitting for those of us with office jobs, is just not cut out for this type of meal. As my taste buds calmed down, my whole body started to groan under the weight of processing such a heavy meal.
As an experience, this meal was definitely worth it… incredibly indulgent and an absolute taste sensation. But for the sake of my scales, not something I will be eating every day. No, I’ll return to my daily helpings of bread and cheese not transformed into sauce… oh wait… that’s not much better! Maybe I’ll just go out for a run…