A search for French food

almond-croissant
The croissant aux amandes from Le Moulin.

by Rachel Pommeyrol
When you come from another country, you search for links with home. A French person in Wellington compares the pretend cheeses in supermarkets with the ones in France – first, the local products are expensive, and second, they look fake. Here there’s no difference between what are pretentiously called “brie” and “camembert”.

The main cliché about French people is “la baguette”. When they are far from home, they realize how much bakeries are a part of their lives. When they were young they went to the bakery after school with their parents, eating the warm bread in the car. But “la baguette” is more of sentimental value. It’s only when they are on the other side of the world that they understand the place that “la baguette” has in their heart.

The importance given to “la baguette” can also lead to constant research of bakeries. French people are very glad to see that in Wellington there seem to be many such bakeries. The only way to judge the local “baguettes”, “croissants” and “pain au chocolats” is to try them.

Some of the city’s bakeries sell pretend French food. But other places make you feel like home. If there’s just one place where French people should go – and also New Zealanders who have good taste – it is Le Moulin on Willis Street. Their baguettes are full of promise and their almond croissants are really good – a lot of “frangipane”, some real almonds on top of a quite good puff pastry – “pate feuilletee”. This croissant can compete with most bakeries in France. As can the very friendly people who are working there.

crepe

Crepes a Gogo in Manners Street may be the most recognisable French touristic place in the city. Despite a very high price for a very cheap recipe, their crepes taste like French Bretons – mainly if you choose the one with sugar and butter.

Then you can’t help talking about Moore Wilson’s for the choice of products that they offer. There, you can find “la baguette”, crusty and floured as you like, and real French cheese, so tasty and creamy that you have the impression of being in the French countryside. In France, parents teach their children to smell the cheese to find out which animal the milk comes from. “Can you smell mountains and cows?” is a question often heard during French meals. If New Zealanders now need to be reassured, the kind of milk used to make the cheese is written on the packet; no need to smell cheeses in the supermarket.

After a long investigation and some weight gained, some things must be admitted. Yes, cheese is best in France, undoubtedly. And no one could ever bake the same pastries as France. Nonetheless, Wellington’s “pain au chocolat” has something French people can’t compete with – the wonderful Kiwi chocolate. And milk here is a hundred times better than the French.

In France, people usually say that the secret ingredient of every recipe is love. This investigation has proved that Wellingtonians have perfectly mastered this secret.

Rachel Pommeyrol has been an intern at Scoop, but will soon be returning home to France.

 

8 comments:

  1. luke, 7. October 2017, 11:32

    Probably not very French and definitely not very healthy but I do enjoy a good cronut from Bordeaux Bakery washed down with a good coffee.

     
  2. Le Doug, 7. October 2017, 15:49

    If you are hankering for a taste of France, then l’onion soupe chez La Cloche is formidable with a glass of Cote de Rhone followed by a chocolate eclair.

    There again ‘when in Rome do what the Romans do’ so what about baked kumara with sour cream from one of the Mayor’s food outlets – or the kiwi staple fush and chups?

     
  3. Cackle McFee, 7. October 2017, 17:01

    Lots of snails here?

     
  4. Barbara Smyth, 7. October 2017, 18:35

    Rachel. I agree with you about food in New Zealand and especially bread. New Zealand is way behind Europe with baking and also fresh food bought from local markets. We have ‘farmers’ markets in and around Wellington but I don’t find the food that appealing. Nelson and the Hawkes Bay have much better markets.

    I did see a remarkable French documentary a few years ago where children needed to be told what a fish was before it became a fish finger and what a pig looked like before it became a sausage. The French children, of a lecturer, just didn’t have a clue.

    The food in Wellington has moved away from Europe and headed to Asia unfortunately for me. Too many ‘E’ additives, sodium and the like. But it is undeniably much cheaper.

    I just want to get back to whole food. Many more vegetarian options on restaurant menus would be nice too; that’s so long as the veggies haven’t been sprayed to blazes with pesticides, fungicides and all the other chemical cocktails that market gardeners use these days.

    We do have some nice ice cream but it’s been so wet and miserable whilst you’ve been here that you’ve probably not tried any!

     
  5. syrahnose, 7. October 2017, 20:45

    Incongruous as it may seem, there is an excellent bakery up in Otaki that does stunningly good croissants. These can also be picked up frozen and cooked at home with great results.

    Cheese is a crime in NZ. It has the capacity to make great appellation cheese along the lines of what comes out of Italy, Portugal, Spain and France that could be exported at high prices to the world. Instead Fonterra determines that it wallows in commodity milk powder.

    It wasn’t until I lived in Canada that I realized how second rate NZ butter and cheddars are in comparison. Four-year-old cheddar there costs what common colby does at New World.

     
  6. Pat, 8. October 2017, 7:44

    Rachel: it’s been nice having you and your perspective on Scoop; hope you bring back the smile and “how are you” friendliness to Europe.
    You never know – you may start changing the culture, for if no one starts smiling or says hello to strangers or is friendly to the people it will never change.

     
  7. Neil Douglas, 9. October 2017, 14:13

    New Zealand would probably need a revolution like France to elevate bread to its revered importance in the French national psyche.

    In 1798 during the French Revolution, baker Denis François was lynched by an hungry mob for not opening his bakery shop. Queen Marie Antoinette, with a profound lack of sympathy, commented “let them eat cake”. To stop the shortage happening again, a law was passed that forced French boulangeries to remain open to ensure bread was always available.

     
  8. Jennie Gutry, 11. October 2017, 11:33

    Go to L’amour en cage in Margaret Road, Raumati Beach where Frenchman Rudy imports the dough to make his beautiful bread, makes incredible patisserie, and imports cheeses and other French goodies. Open every day apart from Mondays. Magnifique!

     

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