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La Marmite - Crime Fraiche
October 20, 2011

Bienvenue to La Marmite!

crime fraiche book cover
This past month I had the pleasure of reading Crime Fraiche by Alexander Campion. This is the second in a series (we hope) of mystery novels featuring the beautiful French police detective, Capucine Le Tellier. Monsieur Campion is a talented American born writer, who is very well versed in French culture, and in particular French police work. His novels are witty and engrossing and I kept wanting to go back and read more.

But of greater interest to us here is Campion's treatment of French food. He spent 35 years in France, part of it as a restaurant critic, and definitely knows his stuff. Crime Fraiche takes place mostly in the Normandy region of France and along the way we are introduced to some of the specialities of this grassy green slice of France. Campion's mystery will definitely get your mouth watering.

Here are a few of the specialities he introduces.

Crime Fraiche (Fresh Crime)

cows in normandy
Hanging Out in Normandy
Oops! That would be creme fraiche. Yes, the name of the book is quite a clever play on words: creme fraiche happens to be one of the specialities of Normandy.

This is a thick, velvety, slightly tangy, slightly nutty cream that can be used in a myriad of different ways. It is truly a cornerstone of French cooking, or at least the cooking in the northern half of the country.

And no place knows their creme fraiche better than Normandy. The creme fraiche d'Isigny is one of the very few non-cheese, dairy products to be awarded an AOC (Appelation d'origine controlee) in France. Of course these days you are likely to find creme fraiche further and further away from France, and you may even find it in your grocery store.

Learn more about creme fraiche including how to make your own: creme fraiche recipe.

Livarot Cheese

Livarot and Calvados
There is a very funny scene in this book where Capucine and her husband find themselves "gifted" with many kilos of Livarot cheese and no way to get it home but in a hot car. Now that might not sound like much of an ordeal, unless you have caught a whiff of this pungent cheese. Even in the refrigerator, it does not stop.

Despite its smell, Livarot is fabulous and definitely worth trying. If you have had Munster cheese, then you will know sort of what to expect from Livarot. They are both soft, washed-rind cheeses that have excellent flavor and the added bonus of being good melters - great for recipes.

Livarot is made in Normandy, just like its more famous cousin Camembert. Learn more here: Livarot cheese.

Calvados Brandy

apple tree in normandy
More Hanging Out in Normandy
Other than a whole lot of dairy cattle, Normandy's fair lands are graced also with many an apple tree. Some of these apples find their way into a bottle of hard cider, while others are distilled to produce the region's famous apple brandy: Calvados.

Most of the social events in Crime Fraiche, including several hunts for various game, involve quite a bit of Calvados. However, like any brandy, Calvados is made for slow sipping preferably by the fire, so I am not recommending you take it on your next hunting expedition.

Calvados has a definite apple aroma and the higher quality brandies are smooth and inviting. It is also a great brandy to cook with and will give a kiss of apple to whatever you are making. You can learn a little more about Calvados on this page: types of brandy.

Mushroom Gathering

basket of mushrooms
When she isn't busy hunting game, the police detective spends some time in the woods with her husband who surprises her with his knowledge of mushrooms. You might be surprised to learn how many people in France have a passion for mushroom gathering. It is not uncommon for families to devote weekends to the pursuit when the season is right.

I am sorry to say that I know nothing on the subject myself, having never taken to the woods with basket in hand. However, I did think that you might find it interesting that in France part of a pharmacist's training is to be able to identify mushrooms. If you are in doubt about the identify of a fungus, you can always receive guidance at the pharmacy.

What's New on EFF?

If you are in the mood for a little mystery along with your French food, don't forget to have a look at Campion's book Crime Fraiche. I also liked his other "Capucine" mystery: The Grave Gourmet.

I am sorry that I have been very irregular with the newsletter lately. I really loved hearing from everyone that noticed I hadn't written. Hopefully by thinking of you I will get back on track.

A bientot!

Your friend in France,


P.S. For all of you sharp eyed readers: I apologize for the lack of accents in the newsletter. I find they do not always display correctly in emails.

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