A bell is born and a crowd is fed

Posted in La France, Nice at 16:54

Flags of France and Nice

Today’s festivities began with the removal of the bell cast yesterday night. While we waited for Estrosi, mayor of Nice (and also minister of industry), the clamps were removed from the mold, and we watched flags being thrown over a background of drum and fife music. Once Estrosi arrived, the mold removal could begin. The manager of Paccard explained that to help the bell dislodge from its mold, the casing needed to be hammered. He presented the hammer to Estrosi for “a first few strikes,” but once Estrosi had started, he kept going, despite polite requests from Paccard workers to let them take over. After a few minutes of hammering, the bell was finially dislodged and it came out of its mold. It was covered in residue, which Paccard workers began to remove. Estrosi posed for another photo, then workers sandblasted and polished the bell.The finished bell will resemble its two sisters, also cast for the 150th anniversary of Nice joining France.

While the bell was being sandblasted and polished, a large group of chefs were cooking for all who dared approach. It was less chaotic than I had expected, but there was still plenty of jostling as people tried their best to get at the free food on offer. I managed to get three dishes: a socca salad, then “Niçois sushi”, and finally a mango sorbet with chopped strawberries and basil, with a strawberry coulis. One of the many other dishes prepared was stockfish, which, of course, originates from Norway. How did it become a specialty in Nice? Norwegian sailors would bring stockfish to Nice and exchange it for olive oil, quite simply! After most of the food had been given out, techno was put on the speakers and our chefs danced onstage.

Tomorrow, the bell that was finished today will be formally presented to the City of Nice and blessed by a church representative, since it’s for Notre Dame. (“Notre Dame” simply means “our lady”, so there are several churches and cathedrals named Notre Dame throughout France.)

Aller au marché

Posted in La France, Nice at 14:12

From the market today

As mentioned yesterday, most everything is closed on Sundays in France. Open-air markets, however, are open! Nice’s best-known market is Cours Saleya, while the other major market is le marché de la Libération, on Malausséna and with an indoors part in the Docks de la Riviera. Libération is my favorite for fruit, vegetables, beef, poultry and fish.

A new opportunity for fruit and vegetables in Sophia Antipolis is called fruits et légumes du producteur, where a local producer will offer what’s in season (naturally) to various offices. Here in France many companies have un comité d’entreprise, CE, workers’ council, that in addition to helping employees, offers such things as activities and discounts, and can organize for the fruits and vegetables. At the office where I work currently, for instance, each Thursday orders are delivered and a new list is made available from which to order. The CE centralizes the orders, which are given to the producer each Tuesday afternoon for the Thursday delivery. It’s a great way to encourage local business, the fruit and vegetables taste wonderful, and due to the organization, it’s cheap!

Pictured above, the potatoes and tomatoes are from the local producer. Everything else is from Libération. With them I made a vegetable mix that I put in the freezer and use all week, sautéeing them in olive oil to go along with freshly-cooked jasmine rice every evening for dinner. Simple and tasty! The utterly delicious tomatoes (not all are shown in the photo) became a pasta sauce that I put on a five-day batch of pasta (gluten-free, since I’m gluten intolerant): voilà, lunches for the week. Granted, there’s not a lot of variation in what I eat on weekdays, but this is how you compromise with long working hours and a difficult food intolerance.

My pasta sauce is super-basic; what makes it wonderful are excellent tomatoes, good olive oil and tasty garlic. I use a purple garlic that has such a smooth taste that I’ve been known to eat cloves plain… shhh, don’t tell anyone.
– 1kg (2lbs) tomatoes, diced (raw and with their peels!)
– 1 yellow or white onion, chopped
– 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
– 4-6 tbsp olive oil
– Grey sea salt (natural and unrefined — I was blown away by how much better it tastes than refined white sea salt)
– Your choice of herbs to taste (I use herbes de Provence and fresh basil leaves from my garden)

In a pot big enough to hold the tomatoes, caramelize the onions in the olive oil by cooking and stirring occasionally on medium heat for 5-10 minutes (they should not burn, but soften and give off a sweet scent). Add garlic and stir, cooking for another few minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a slow boil, stirring gently. Salt to taste (I use 1tsp grey sea salt), add herbs to taste, except if using basil — do not add basil while boiling. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (I cook the pasta during this time.) Remove from heat — if using fresh basil, add now.