|Burgundy, photo Nina Caplan|
Welcome to another Lazy Sunday in France, where this week Nina Caplan is taking us to Burgundy for a perfect lazy day. Nina is a travel journalist specialising in food, drink and the arts and is the author of The Wandering Vine: Wine, the Romans and me, you can read my review here.
|The Wandering Vine by Nina Caplan|
Lazy Sunday in France by Nina Caplan
I spend around half my weekends in Burgundy, where my young stepchildren live, and during term-time there’s no question that Sunday wins all prizes. There are two reasons: the lie-in, and the brunch. Saturday involves running around to two sets of piano lessons in another village; Sunday is pure hedonism, at least until homework rears its head. Our town has an excellent boulangerie– the baker couple are so hardworking that Madame apologised to me, one Christmas Day morning, for the fact that they were only staying open until lunchtime – so any leftover bread can be reserved for pain perdu: French toast. All four kids, even the nine-year-old, can turn out perfect golden slices; actually, especially the nine-year-old, as she’s the one who wants to be a chef. Our toast, egg-soaked and fried, isn’t really French, though. My partner is Canadian, so our pain perdu is preceded by a dish no Frenchman would serve: fèves au lard, a delicious form of baked beans flavoured with bacon and maple syrup that was created (or adapted from the Bostonian version) as fuel for Quebecois trappers, hauling through the snow at 30 degrees below freezing.
That level of cold has never happened, to my knowledge, where we are, and I don’t think a trapper would make much of a living here unless he found a market for cowhide. But the beans are a family tradition, followed by French toast drowned, naturally, in more maple syrup. (We bring it back from Montreal; you can buy it in France, but obviously the best stuff comes from the source.) This delightful but calorific brunch works best, obviously, in winter. We might not get bone-freezing Quebec weather in Burgundy but we certainly suffer through some dodgy weather: it usually snows, and can hail well into spring or even summer. I love to pop to the boulangerie on crisp, cold mornings, when the whole town smells of woodsmoke: most people here still heat with wood, and some of them have to get up in the middle of each night to tend an open fire, or they risk a very chilly morning. We’re lucky, as our house is centrally heated, but these old Burgundian buildings, with their foot-thick walls, take a fair bit of time to warm up, and sometimes that Quebecois brunch feels as justified as it must have done to its creators across the Atlantic.
Since I write about wine, everyone assumes that I live among the vines, but actually our part of Burgundy hasn’t really produced wine since the phylloxera louse destroyed all France’s vineyards, in the late 19thcentury. When the time came to replant, the Côte d’Or, 45 minutes drive south of us, scraped together the wherewithal to do so – thank goodness, because those are some of the greatest wines in the world, even if many of them are too expensive, these days, for any ordinary budget. But the vin ordinaire from these parts wasn’t worth reviving, when plonk from the sunny Languedoc was so cheap and reliable, and so although the odd villager still has rows of vines in their garden, and the beautiful hillsides look as though they had only temporarily mislaid their rows of trellises, the only real producers here are a couple near Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, a fantastically scenic village that smells not of woodsmoke but of aniseed, thanks to the little anise sweets that have been made here since the Benedictine monks founded their abbey in the 8thcentury. Oh, and Simonnet-Febvre, who make several excellent whites, from Chardonnay and a local grape called Auxerrois. But here I have digressed into wine, not for the first time, which surely means that brunch is over and it’s time to think about Sunday dinner…