Saving money by eating weird meat

Is horse the new beef?

  Is horse the new beef?                 

A few days before the horse meat scandal broke out, my husband and I stopped by the Huit-à-Huit (French minimart) to pick up something to eat. It was late and they were fresh out of the blood sausages that I was craving, so we decided to buy a bargain basement brand steak in an opaque plastic sachet with a delicious looking broiled steak printed on the outside. When we got home and I opened it up, it looked much redder than normal. I supposed that they must have used red food dye to make it look fresher, not surprising given the price. After a few minutes in the pan, it was still nearly fuchsia in color. Then we tasted it.

“Hey, this steak is really strong for beef.”

“That’s strange it tastes just like horse meat.”

“I think it is horse meat!”
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Great place to visit: Corsica

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One of the most beloved vacation spots of the French, Corsica is an island paradise situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea to the Southeast of mainland France. It has been part of France since it was ceded by the Republic of Genoa in the 18th century, just before the birth of Napoleon in the Corsican city of Ajaccio. The island is split into two French administrative departments: Corse-du-Sud (2A) and Haute-Corse (2B). While French is the official language, a few rare residents still speak Corsican, which greatly resembles Italian (to me). Corsicans are very proud of their culture and language, which is distinct from other regions of France.

Like most of our vacations, we went to Corsica because my husband and I have friends there. We rarely go anywhere that’s not motivated by visiting friends or family since we have loved ones scattered all over two continents and wouldn’t get to see them otherwise.

Getting there:

Ferries are available from Toulon or Nice and take about 8 hours or more depending on what port you are going into (Bastia or Ajaccio). Easy-jet and Air France flights are also possible. However, be wary of low cost carriers, as we recently had an airport controller strike in France and a lot of flights were cancelled without the possibility for rebooking.

Things to do:

For those who love hiking, the valley of the Restonica, located near the town of Corté is really worth the visit. We hiked up to the first lake in the park and had lunch up there, though it was a bit cold and windy. The views were breathtaking. Did I mention there were waterfalls?

Melu Lake, Valley of the Restonica

Melu Lake, Valley of the Restonica

The limestone cliffs of Bonifacio are another must see of Corsica. When you get to the city, you park near the port and then walk up to the citadel, perched atop a limestone cliff. From there you can visit various historical points of interest such as the staircase of the king of Aragon. My favorite part was taking the path up the cliffs away from the citadel so we could see the ancient part of the city as a whole. If you’re planning on visiting, it’s best to go during the off-season and early in the day. Even on weekdays, the crowds are horrendous well into the month of September.

Citadel, Bonifacio

Citadel, Bonifacio

Finally, go to a beach, any beach, and go snorkeling. The Mediterranean is like an aquarium at bathtub temperature. We went to Ostriconi beach in the North and really appreciated the calm and the sea life. Small alert for nudists and yellow jackets (eat in the car, not on the beach).

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The food:

Corsica is famous for really stinky sheep milk cheese, pork products, hard cookies called Cannistrelli and sparkling muscat wine. Our neighbors had Corsican cheese that smelled so bad they closed the package with duct tape before putting it into refrigerator. There’s also a Corsican cheese that has worms in it (on purpose). The most famous Corsican pig product are lonzu, coppa and figatellu. Lonzu and Coppa are dried pork products similar to ham, while figatellu is a dried sausage containing pig liver. Finally, to wash down all that pig liver and wormy cheese, try a good sparkling muscat. Corsican sparkling wine is tasty and not too expensive, so why not indulge.

The people:

There’s a whole whole lot of tourist traffic that comes through Corsica, so don’t be surprised if people are a little gruff. If you are respectful and easy going, you won’t have too much trouble. Just remember that the customer service culture is not the same as in North America, so you might be a little taken aback at first.

I hope this little post about Corsica got you inspired for your next vacation to France or elsewhere. If you have already been to Corsica, I’d love to hear about your own experiences in the comments.

Until next time, au revoir.

Feeling like snails tonight

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My husband, M., and I have the luck to have a couple of really great neighbors. Every summer we watch a reality show about French famers finding love (L’amour est dans le pré) and have a great time laughing about all the particularities of French agricultural life. Tonight, we’re going over to the other side of the landing (palier) to have escargot.

Ready-to-eat escargot can be found in the frozen foods section of just about any supermarket. For the more adventurous, cans of escargot and their shells can be bought and prepared separately. For the Marthas among us, starving and salting your own snails is possible, but very oozy. Yum…

With enough butter and garlic, I find that these little mollusks are pretty tasty. They’re one of those foods that taste descent frozen and then baked, so I wouldn’t bother going to much more trouble than that if you’re curious about having these little invertebrates as a snack.  Cassoulet is another French food that’s good from a can for those looking to have lunch on the cheap, but I’ll get to that in another post.

Here’s my recipe for having an escargot night chez vous:

1. Go to Casino/Carrefour/Auchan/other supermarket (these are all French stores) and buy some frozen escargots garnished with butter, garlic and parsley. Buy some beer or hard cider plus Tyrell’s chips (the British make the best chips) while you’re at it. Maybe pick up a salad if you’re worried about being healthy. I’m lazy, so I buy the discount jug of grated carrots in salad dressing at Casino.

2. Put escargots in the oven. Open beer. Pour chips into serving dish (optional).

3. Call neighbors and put on Danse avec les stars. You’re ready to have a great night.

Having a good time in France doesn’t have to mean going to an art exposition or visiting a Michelin rated restaurant every night. You can have a good time at home with a bucket full of snails and some beers. Gastronomic restaurants and cultural events are a part of life here, but a lot of French people are much more down to earth than the stereotypes let on.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll go see the movie that won a palme d’or at Cannes this year (La Vie d’Adèle or Blue is the Warmest Color in English). Le bleu est une couleur chaude is the BD that inspired the film and the English title. A few of my co-workers said that the film was pretty good, but thought the sex scenes were a little over the top. Apparently, there were also some questions about the director pushing the actresses way too far.

I’ll let you know if I go to see it. Right now my motivation to go out tomorrow is moyenne (meaning not so much) as they say here.

Bonne soirée et à bientôt.