One of the best things about living in Normandy

I moved to Normandy in December of 2010, despite friends, family members and colleagues giving me that “you’re moving where?” face, warning me about the length of my commute and just plain asking, “why?”

After five years in Paris, I needed a change. J also was in desperate need of leaving the city. I love Paris. More than any other city I’ve ever been to, or lived in. Which is why leaving it was the best thing I ever did. Rather than stay too long, reaching the point where I got bitter and fully stopped recognizing the beauty of the city, I chose to move exactly one hour away. A new house, a new region, a new department and a new lease on life.

Since the move, not once have I regretted it. I am in love with my house, which is slowly and steadily becoming ours. Rooms are being decorated, wall paper stripped off, new coats of paint brightening up our living space and making this place seem a little more like home. I have a garden, and my new favorite past-time is tending to it. I live amongst rolling green hills and countryside, in a little town of about 6,000 people that has everything I need: several grocery stores, a butcher, a cheese shop, several bakeries, banks, jewelry stores, boutiques, etc. I am 35 minutes from a major city, Rouen, and one hour from Paris, where I travel five days a week to go to work. It’s a perfect balance.

While Normandy does of course have its own very specific food culture (crème fraîche in almost everything, neufchatel and camembert, and lots of apples for dessert), it is not a mecca of high gastronomy. But, I have Paris for that. However, what Normandy has that Paris severely lacks is a great selection of local produce at affordable prices.

I’ll never forget the first time I stumbled upon beautiful, multi-colored carrots at a Paris open-air market. I was intrigued. There were parsnips, beet-tinted carrots, yellow ones, some that were white with just the slightest bit of green at the tips. I had to have these carrots; they were too pretty to pass up. So, I asked the woman behind the counter for one parsnip and two white carrots. She grabbed them up and weighed them, then passed me my receipt and asked me for 12 euros. Twelve. I looked at my friend, then looked at the receipt. Then repeated. “Vous avez dit douze*?”

Yes. She had said twelve. I immediately handed the root vegetables back to her, but kept the receipt. We talked about it all the way back to the office, and I kept thinking about it for days after that. How was it possible? Was a white carrot really so rare that it was worth over ten dollars the kilo?

The answer is, of course not. But Parisians are so starved for a little piece of authentic country living, that most of them probably don’t even think about the price, and just consider it normal to pay more for a white carrot. It is not normal. A few weeks later, in my suburban home town market, I found the same carrots for 4.50€/kilo. I bought them and added them to my spectacular Thanksgiving day feast. Simply roasted with some olive oil and herbs in the oven, they were delicious.

Yesterday I went to our local super market and took a spin through the produce isle, when I realized that it is officially fall. The cantaloups and strawberries were replaced with baskets full of carrots. Yellow, purple, white and orange, there they were. And at 2.45€/kilo, I was thrilled. I grabbed a few of each, and made a tasty little carrot sauté for lunch today, without breaking the bank.

*Vous avez dit douze?: Did you say twelve?

Glazed and sauteed multi-colored carrots

Ingredients:
Carrots! Any color, any size, as many as you want
Brown sugar (1-2 T, depending on how many carrots you have and how sweet you like them)
Balsamic vinegar (a splash)
1T butter

Cut the carrots up into equally sized pieces. If your carrots are small, I recommend just cutting them in half lengthwise, and leaving the skin on (scrub well). If larger, cut into thin rounds (for this recipe, I halved the carrots lengthwise and then cut into 1/3 inch pieces).

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add carrots, and let them cook, browning slightly for about five minutes. Before all the butter is completely absorbed, add your brown sugar, and stir well. Turn the heat down slightly and let simmer another 3-5 minutes, before adding the vinegar. Continue cooking at least 8-10 minutes, until most of the alcohol from the vinegar has evaporated and carrots are cooked to your liking (I like mine a little crunchy). Enjoy!

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