I Grew up in this France — J’ai grandi dans cette France-là

France Lorraine Moselle Albestroff

Red Currants Cakes

albestroff red currant cakes

Red Currants in my Mum’s Garden

It sounds easy for me to talk about of my parents’ rituals, as if I was foreign to them. Because truth being said, you will guess that I am not better than anyone else. I also have my own, well-anchored as it turns out whenever I come back to my home village in Lorraine. Chez moi. My friends laugh when I tell them about my village. Ah, le village de Béa ! Not that they think it is either funny ahaha or funny weird. Simply funny because of its odds and predictability. They also have quickly understood that I am proud of mon village, all the more nowadays when I am able to visit only once in a while. No matter how long ago I left, I am remembered as if I had hardly left, referred to as la fille de Jean et de Véronique Peltre when meeting someone I do not know. The France where I grew up is a place of quiet rural villages surrounded by open fields, wild thick forests with many ponds nearby, winding hilly roads and small communities where people stay, from generation to generation, and where everyone knows almost everyone in the surrounding villages. Some people love this openness and some hate it. Me? I have to admit, I miss it, somehow. While living far away, I have witnessed my sense of belonging grow.

When I thought to come back this May, the decision had been made rather spontaneously. I am lucky to be able to travel this way — and could easily get addicted to it and who wouldn’t? I was also convinced that one of the first things that I would do after a good night sleep was going to take a long walk by the village, so as to feel the space of the place once again. My ritual. And you know, it did not fail. I am predictable too.

Kéa

Je vais faire le petit tour,” I told my mum after changing in more comfortable clothes. I did not need to say more. She knew that I meant the walk along the short five kilometer path running up the hill outside the village that leads to an even smaller village, Torcheville. Le grand tour would have taken me for five more kilometers, and we have naturally nicknamed both walks this way. “Mais tu as vu qu’il pleut ?” (Did you see it was raining?) she replied, quite surprised. I did not really care. I was eager to see whether anything had changed since my last visit, in October. I must have run on this road hundreds of times. Would Monsieur M.’s pigs still be there? What about the cows I am used to seeing in Monsieur Y.’s paddock, with which I always have a chat — and feel thankful that no one is around to overhear. I wanted to check how big canola, barley and wheat crops were, and whether I would find poppies. While walking along the path, I could notice that everything was there the way I had expected.

A visit to my brother and his wife G.’s funky-looking house in the village, their orchard and garden reminded me of the strong attachment they have for our terroir (soil). Even if I tried hard, I would be unable to identify the hundreds of flower varieties B. grows with a care that I am envious of. He constantly has new projects and I wonder sometimes why he has never become a professional gardener. Mind you, he is just as skilled as a carpenter, and this is also not his profession. With my camera in hand, I felt like spending hours there, walking between the numerous vegetable gardens he maintains in different places according to sun exposure, and observing the fragrant herbs and young vegetables already planted for the coming year. “Ce sont des tomates anciennes,” he told me when I pointed at a small wooden sign my sister-in-law had secured in the soil, with Heirloom tomato names hand written by her on them, to remember the different varieties. “Quoi ? Ananas ?” (what? Pineapple?) I asked, puzzled. “These are tomatoes that have the shape of a pineapple,” B. replied. Of course.

Tu as du lait ?” (do you have milk?) I asked my mum after dinner, on the first night home.

Oui.

Et de la vanille ?” (And vanilla?), I continued.

My mum shook her head and looked at me funny. “Tu es folle,” she replied. (You are crazy) “Tu vas faire cela à cette heure-là ?

No matter how late, I was suddenly feeling an uncontrollable craving for oeufs à la neige (snow eggs). I could not get the thought of dipping my large spoon in a homemade vanilla-flavored crème anglaise out of my head. My luck! My mum had everything for me to make one, or two if I wanted more. It would be so fast and easy to make. And so satisfyingly good too, transporting me to past times when we used to eat them rather greedily. You do this too right, when you visit home?

Snow Eggs

Another day, I drove to the next town to have a glimpse of the weekly Thursday vegetable market, keen to find local seasonal produces. The cherries were a bit pricey but I could not resist the first local ones. My parents’ cherry trees are so full this year that I know I will be jealous of all the fruit they will preserve and, I am convinced, not know what to do with. The asperges blanches d’Alsace (white asparagus from Alsace region) were also inviting and my mum promised to buy some for the upcoming Sunday lunch. Rhubarb was present on every single display.

My sister-in-law and I also went out for a full day shopping in Metz, the city where I used to study for almost ten years. We walked everywhere, along streets that I knew by heart. On a first visit to the city, you would notice its German-looking architecture with neo-roman, neo-renaissance or neo-baroque influences, signs of the former tie to the Reich, young powerful German empire. I noticed that things had changed a bit, with new stores and some old ones gone, yet the feeling of this city felt the same. We had a tasty lunch au Saint-Martin, a kitsch-looking pizzeria where you would never feel like walking in if you did not know about their amazingly good risottos and beef carpaccio. Later in the afternoon, even if feeling knackered from too much shopping — oh this felt so good! — I insisted that we make a stop at Fresson Pâtisserie (Franck Fresson, Meilleur Ouvrier de France Pâtissier 2004 — Award Winner 2004 Best French Pastry Maker) for chocolate éclairs and chocolate specialities. When we left, there was so much chocolate in our bellies that we felt high as if completely drunk. I had not tasted such good chocolate for a while! Remember this place if you ever visit. A must.

fresson pâtisserie metz

Fresson Pâtisserie, Metz

Le Saint Martin
40, rue Coëtlosquet
Metz

Fresson (Pâtisserie Chocolaterie Traiteur)
17, Rue Grand Cerf
Metz
03 87 36 28 17

On the only Sunday I spent with my family, my mum decided to host lunch for us all. A typical Sunday lunch, I soon realized. While she was busy preparing a full menu — she even asked that I stayed away from the kitchen — I was yet still in charge of making dessert, like in the old days. She presented various mises-en-bouches — pesto, tapenade, ricotta and tomato verrines followed by goat cheese stuffed cherry tomatoes — curried shrimps with artichoke hearts sautéed in sherry vinegar as an appetizer, a traditional rôti de boeuf (beef roast) served with steamed white asparagus and her usual tomates provençales, and we finished with a large plateau de fromage with our usual green salad. I was clearly no longer used to so much food for lunch. And this was all before my strawberry tart and its strawberry coulis.

verrine mise en bouche

Mises-en-Bouche

Strawberry Tart

Tu as encore tout cela ?” (you still have all this?) I told my mum when I fumbled into her freezer, out of curiosity. There were boxes full of berries of all sorts, especially cherries, raspberries and red currants. De belles groseilles rouges ! Did she even realize how lucky she was? Red currants are always so hard for me to find, and when I manage to, they are so seasonally ephemeral. I had to do something with them.

Tu as des petits gâteaux ?” I went on. (Do you have tea cakes?)

Non.

Deal!

We had Red Currant Mini Cakes for tea. I had not planned to come and cook en vacances, but I did not resist. With fruit like this, how could I? A real ritual, another one!

——————————————————-

Next stop after the countryside?

Paris, la citadine, or another world.

——————————————————-

redcurrant cake

Red Currant Cakes

(For 6 cakes)

You need:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 9 oz pastry flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 5.5 oz fine blond cane sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 3.5 oz butter (7 Tbsp), melted
  • 3.5 oz red currants fresh or frozen

Steps:

  • Break the eggs in a large bowl. Add the sugar and with a hand mixer, beat until whiter in color (you can do this in a Kitchen Aid if you have one).
  • Melt the butter and once slightly cooled, add it, mixing until absorbed. Your batter should be smooth.
  • Remove the seeds from a vanilla pod and add them to the previous batter.
  • Sift the flour with the baking powder. Add them to your batter and mix until incorporated.
  • Pour the milk slowly while mixing.
  • Grease six small 1 cup ramekins (or use large muffin molds) and then add some flour to coat. Remove the excess of flour. Fill them 2/3 full with the batter. Add as many red currants as you like.
  • Cook in a preheated oven at 350 F for about 30 to 35 min. Check whether they are cooked by inserting the blade of a knife. If dry, then remove and let cool for 5 min before unmolding.
Le coin francais
Petits gâteaux aux groseilles rouges

(Pour 6 gâteaux)

Ingrédients :

  • 2 gros oeufs
  • 250 g de farine bise, tamisée
  • 1 càc de levure chimique
  • 160 g de sucre de cane blond
  • 1 gousse de vanille, fendue et grattée
  • 150 ml de lait
  • 80 g de beurre, fondu
  • 60 g de groseilles rouges

Étapes :

  • Cassez les oeufs dans un saladier. Ajoutez le sucre et mélangez au fouet électrique jusqu’à blanchiment.
  • Faites fondre le beurre et ajoutez-le à cette préparation. Melangez pour obtenir une pâte lisse.
  • Grattez une gousse de vanille fendue et ajoutez les graines.
  • Tamisez la farine et la levure. Ajoutez-les à la préparation et mélangez bien.
  • Ajoutez ensuite le lait en filet. La pâte doit être lisse.
  • Beurrez des petits ramequins et farinez-les. Enlevez l’excèdent. Remplissez les moules aux 2/3. Ajoutez quelques groseilles sur chacun.
  • Enfournez au four préchauffé à 180 C pendant 30 à 35 min environ. Sortez et laissez refroidir avant de démouler.
Posted in Uncategorized | 77 Comments

77 comments

  1. A marvelous post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and impressions with us. As usual, your pictures are breathtaking…

  2. oups bea mince j’avais rate les autres episodes tu es en France.
    ..moi aussi je suis de lorraine…
    et puis toutes ces belles photos de la campagne, des coquelicots….
    a bientot bises

  3. Bea~ u shoud be proud of your hometown~

    so beautiful so lovely so fresh~

    the feeling really do not need to say more~~

  4. C’est etonnant comme tu sais mettre en avant les details les plus simples, tres beau et emouvant reportage.

  5. Bea, tu me fais rêver à mes futures vacances… J’aurai l’occasion de passer quatre jours en campagne lors de mon voyage en Europe, et j’espère pouvoir capter en images d’aussi belles et grandes émotions comme tu réussis à le faire chaque fois. C’est merveilleux… Et je comprends toute la fierté que tu ressens pour ton village et tes racines.
    Quel changement de la ville aussi, n’est-ce pas? Ça nous ramène vraiment à l’essentiel…

  6. Breath taking orgy of images and impressions. I loved the tour and commentary. I felt transported, thank you for the journey with you.

  7. Tes photos sont superbes, vraiment. Je n’ai pas grandi dans cette France là mais la mienne n’est pas mal non plus!

  8. Oh my, what a wonderful post, Bea! Thank you for sharing your France with us! I can easily imagine I’m there with you!

    And I love the sounds of your current cakes – cute and delicious!

  9. Apart from some of the flowers and asparagus, your childhood France looks a lot like my childhood Estonia:) Beautiful post!!
    Will definitely check out the patisserie if I’m ever in Metz, too..

  10. All I can say is that that dog looks like a character straight out of a children’s book. Beautiful photo essay, Béa.

  11. Beautiful pix Bea! Makes me wish I was going again to France this Spring…I miss the butterflies

  12. Tu me donne le vague à l’âme ! je m’ennuie, moi aussi de tous ces produits frais européens (je vis désormais au Québec), mais grâce à tes photos magnifiques, j’ai pu rêver quelques heures…Merci !!!

  13. Bea, your childhood seems almost magical. Thank you for sharing such beautiful images with us! i love the pig!

  14. thank you for sharing your france with us. it’s beautiful and nostalgic and i enjoy visiting it through your eyes. i hope to visit it one day myself.

  15. I know what you mean about feeling more attached once you’ve left a place.
    “There’s no place like home.”
    “Et moi loin de toi…”

  16. Tes photos sont sublimes. Tes mini-cake le sont encore plus et je vois que tu tiens ton don de la cuisine de ta mere. Tu la feliciteras de ma part. Tu me donnes vraiment envie.
    Passe un agreable sejour Beatrice.

  17. Oh my! This is so beautiful!!
    Can I go with you next time??? LOL
    This place looks to me like a dream!

  18. C’est vrai qu’on est pas Taureau pour rien et ca se voit. La premiere chose que je fais quand je rentre dans mon village c’est de me balader avec le chien jusqu’au couvent. Je traverse un autre village et j’en profite pour mettre un cierge a l’eglise. Je ne me suis jamais sentie aussi attachee a mes origines que depuis mon epanouissement au US. Une fois qu’on est bien dans ses baskets, on est bien partout. Magnifiques photos. La famille de mon grand-pere (et lui aussi) vient de Tours, le reste de la Provence.
    Tes gateaux sont superbes!

  19. Tu habitais dans un petit village à côté de Metz? J’ai grandi en Meuse, à Bar-le-Duc, près des vaches! ^^ A présent je suis sur Nancy, mais la nature me manque!
    Tes petits gâteaux me font envie, dès que les groseilles du jardin de mon père pointeront leur nez, je les ferais!

  20. what lovely pictures and what a beautiful town you are from! my heart skipped many a beat looking over your amazing pictures!! what are snow eggs? my boyfriend and i just bought some wild strawberry bushes and will plant on our roof deck this week – i can’t wait to have some this summer!

  21. Bel univers… ta campagne n’est pas très éloignée de la mienne, chez moi les vaches ont des taches brunes ! toujours de superbes photos…

  22. Je ne t’étonnerais pas si je te dis vive la campagne ! Tu fais rêver les américains avec ces si belles photos ;) Tu parviens à rendre les détails si beaux, bravo !

  23. Thanks for showing me your hometown and France through your eyes :) Beautiful photos!

  24. Bea- a lovely and engaging vignette. It was nice to spend sometime in your hometown!

  25. Bea that sounds so wonderful. I think I’d like your little village. Beautiful photos. I’m envious of your travels.

  26. bonjour! j’adore la france et ses paysages.. tes photos en sont une confirmation. une curiosité: je vois de la rhubarbe, combien est-ce qu’elle coute chez toi? :-) à milan elle est terriblement chère! bisous

  27. every scene is just heart-warming! Bea, please bring up more incredibly gorgeous photos and recipes!

  28. Oh Bea!

    I would feel really blessed if I were to grow up in a countryside like you did. I also like the kind of village that everybody knew almost everybody in the other village! Sounds a lot like my hometown in Malaysia.

    By the way, for the photo with the yellow flowers and blue sky, did you use a filter? Or was it just macro lens?

    The photos are beautiful as usual!

  29. par ma visite quotidienne sur le blob de Mercotte je viens de faire une visite émouvante. Les groseilles et les coquelicots, me manquent aussi dans la région de Montréal

  30. Bonjour,
    Juste pour te dire que je viens de tomber sur ton site et même si je suis une grenouille en anglais, je trouve tes photos admirables! elles ne sont pas faîtes avec un numérique n’est ce pas?
    Alors, comme on a du te le dire des milliers de fois, merci de nous faire voir d’aussi belles et bonnes choses!

  31. Everybody’s said it. But oh how you pull the heart, my ritual and routines maybe different but the feelings and the meanings are the same. Now the France part does make me long for another trip. Glorious photos!

  32. Tu as magnifiquement représenté la France au travers des tes photos, toutes plus belles, plus vivantes les unes que les autres, on s’y croirait vraiment ! C’est un très bel article et la recette, je dirais juste “hhmmmm” ! ;O)

    Amicalement blog,
    Ingrid

  33. Quel merveilleux endroit pour se ressourcer! Ces photos et le reportage font rêver… Merci pour cette agréable pause dans nos journées de citadines pressées!

  34. I agree with all the other commenters – the photos are absolutely lovely! I especially love the photo of the pig – it is soooo adorable!!! It must have felt good to have spent some time back at home; you must have missed it very much.

  35. Grat “campagne” photos.I actually adorede the photo of the pig,so funny.Thanks for show us your hoemtown,certanlly a lovely place.

  36. Great “campagne” photos.I actually adored the photo of the pig,so funny.Thanks for show us your hoemtown,certanlly a lovely place.

  37. Oh bea, this is just excellent. Please keep taking us to faraway worlds and beautiful scenic lands. This is such a far cry from where I live and I love hearing about it.

  38. Bea this is mind bending photography ! really breath taking stuff…it gives me a feeling of almost being there my self !

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  40. Merci, merci, la France est magnifique, tu fais bien de nous le rappeller. On ne prend plus le temps de regarder les choses simples autour de nous, dans notre quotidien. Merci Bea

  41. Je suis ravi d’âtre tombé sur ton site, il fait désormais parti de mes favoris. Quel talent!

  42. Bea-

    You just made possible the most breath-taking, re-invigorating lunch break that I’ve ever had. Thank you so much!

  43. Thank you so much all for your comments and nice notes. I am glad you enjoyed taking this walk with me! Merci beaucoup a tous pour vos commentaires. Ravie de savoir que cela vous a plu!

  44. Thanks for the pictures from home… huum mes asperges fraiches d’ alsace me manquent! profites un peu pour moi aussi, puisque je ne rentre pas avant noel, et la saisons des fruits rouges et des asperges sera finie depuis bien longtemps. Even if Melbourne and Boston are marvellous places, home’ll stay home. Enjoy
    Audrey

  45. I don’t love rice pudding –
    childhood memories of forced fois gras-style feedings –
    But these are divine!
    When was/is your birthday Bea?
    From another Taurean :)

  46. I found this post trully wonderful. Because of my dad’s job we moved around Brazil a bit so i never really stayed anywhere for a very long time. I do not have a place like your village. How wonderful.Thank you for taking us on this beautiful trip wit h you. And this lovely cake..how gorgeous Béa!!

  47. I love this post. It is so beautiful! I felt wondering around with you. I could visualize the palces, people..heart warming. We moved about a lot because of my dad’s job so I never left anywhere long enough to ge back as you did.Plus this gorgeous cake is great!

  48. Quelle gaité dans toutes ces images – il y a vraiment qq chose qui se dégage de ces reportages ! merci –
    j’aimerais bien savoir quel appareil de photo vous utilisez car j’adore faire des photos de fleurs

  49. 7 ans à Metz et de bien beaux souvenirs. Encore une fois tu m’as fait plonger dans le passé… Belles, très belles photos.

  50. Bonjour

    Seriez-vous la Béatrice rencontrée à UIUC (university of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) en 1994-95? Quoi qu’il en soit, vous avez une très beau site.

    Cordialement,
    Marc Lafontaine

  51. moi j’habite à l’Argentine, à Buenos Aires, j’adore tes pictures et ça que tu racontes de ta ville, bien!!!!! excelent!!!
    et merci for share avec tout le monde, moi je suis un peu tortue pour les blogs!!!

  52. Must say that if I were born in France (my dream country) I would never leave this place..never…even for a great love of mine.

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