01 August 2010

La Première Année de Cuisine, Part 22



The homecoming. — Madeleine’s good sense.

The clock had struck for our departure. We packed our trunks and we left Valfleury.

I am certainly quite happy to see Papa, Maman, my little sister and my brother again; but I can’t help but regret leaving this pretty countryside, where for a month I have passed such happy days.

“Happy!” you will say. “But Madeleine’s Journal speaks to us only of her housework, her cleaning, her preserves, her jams. If busying oneself this way is the way to have fun in the country, Madeleine truly is unde­mand­ing.”

“Well, yes,” I shall reply to you, “yes, I worked, yes I learned many new things, and that’s precisely why I shall retain such a good memory of Valfleury.” If I had spent my days without doing anything, simply strolling about the garden, sleeping on the grass in a meadow, yawning and stretching like a lazy-bones, by the end of eight days, the countryside would have bored me: I’d have worn out Tante Victoire, who should have asked nothing better than to take me back to my house.

Instead of that, I used my time wisely, and I return to our home with all sorts of good recipes learned, good habits acquired, and my health, ah! My health is magnifique.

And on that point, since I am in a great hurry and since before leaving I wish to say goodbye to every little corner of the property, I shall stop my journal here, and I shall pick it up again, if it should please God, upon my return home.

(Two days later).

Here we are again in X……* Maman found me in singularly good form, taller and with a very reasonable appearance.

“Truly,” she said to my father a short time ago, “I don’t know if it’s the air in Valfleury or the company of Tante Victoire that has changed Madeleine to such a point, but here she is, reasonable and hardwork­ing, as I did not believe I would see her for a long time yet.”

Hearing this, I ran, I leapt into my mother’s arms and I kissed her, while saying to her, “Dear Maman, perhaps both Tante Victoire and the countryside have something to do with this transformation; but that which completed it, it is above all the desire I have to please you, to know enough to be able to help you in the housework, to relieve you and to diminish your troubles. And above all of that, it’s also the great tenderness that I feel for you and that I shall keep all my life.”

Maman clutched me to her breast without saying anything.… And when I looked at her, I saw a few tears in her eyes, but the gay smile on her lips made me understand that these were sweet tears: those of happi­ness upon seeing me again.


Coffee, café au lait, chocolate, tea.

167. Black coffee. — Prepare black coffee in a special coffee pot called a filter.
To make black coffee, put the ground coffee in the upper receptacle of the coffee pot. Over it, pour boiling water, which will pass over this powder and which, through a plaque pierced with fine holes, will flow into the lower receptacle, taking with it the aroma of the coffee.
When the flow has finished, serve the coffee immediately and very hot.
Coffee which is reheated should be reheated in a bain-marie and never boiled.

168. Café au lait.Café au lait is a mixture of black coffee and milk.
To prepare the coffee destined to be united with the milk, make a mixture of one part coffee and one part ground chicory, then proceed as you would for making black coffee.
The grounds of the coffee (or ground coffee having already been used) can also be used. Boil it with some water and then use this water to prepare the coffee destined for the café au lait. In this way, one uses less fresh coffee and less chicory than when one does not use the grounds.**

169. Chocolate. — Chocolate is prepared either in water or in milk. In both cases, begin by cutting into small pieces one square for each cup.***
Then place it in a saucepan with very little water or milk, and let it melt over a fairly high flame.
Take care to stir it without ceasing so that it will not stick.
When the chocolate is melted and it has the consistency of a light paste, that is to say after about a quarter-hour of cooking, add the nec­es­sary milk and some sugar, if you fear that the chocolate will not be sweet enough. Leave the mixture on the fire just until it boils, then serve.

170. Tea.Tea is not properly made unless, in preparing it, one uses boiling water and a very hot teapot.
To prepare the tea, first pour boiling water into the teapot in order to heat it. Throw out this water. Place in the teapot the tea leaves to be used, in the proportion of one-half teaspoon of tea per cup. Then pour one-half cup of boiling water into the teapot. Close the teapot tightly and allow the tea to steep for a few minutes. Then one finishes adding the necessary quantity of water.
A well-brewed tea should be golden yellow and have a nice perfume. Badly prepared tea is brown and has a bitter taste.

* TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: Right up to the end, Madeleine refuses to spec­i­fy the name of the town where she lives, a subject on which I speculated earlier.

**That’s right — there are no instructions on what to do with the milk, when to mix it into the coffee, etc.

***The traditional method is to use a bar of what Americans typically call “baker’s chocolate.” In France even today, milk chocolate is con­sid­ered a candy fit only for children.


Anonymous said...

"Right up to the end?" Have we seen the last of Madeleine?


William V. Madison said...

Check back next Sunday to find out!