What would France taste like?

I discovered too late that knowing poulet is chicken in French doesn't mean you're going to be able to read a French menu. My basic French skills simply didn't go the distance and I was always befuddled come mealtime while traveling in France.

My French, two years worth of college-level studying, really wasn't all that horrible, especially when I was in a jam. On my first trip to France, I was able to summon help when my rental car got a flat tire just outside of Paris. On another trip, I was able to help get my friends and I out of the country despite a never-ending train strike.

But when it came to food in restaurants, I would often point to what I wanted on the menu, fearful of even trying to pronounce the strange-looking words. Thankfully, my experiences with French food did nothing to diminish my enthusiasm and love for France.

One day, I hope to show my kids around France. Until then, we have bouchons de thon. These tuna concoctions, or rather tuna corks as they would be called in English, are courtesy of Molly Wizenberg, the food writer/blogger who shares her recipe in her book "A Homemade Life." I've been slowly enjoying her book over the past few weeks. She writes about food the way I feel about books, with unrestrained joy and a scientist's zeal for experimentation. Mix in some good-humored and candid story-telling and you have the ingredients for a pleasant read seasoned with enticing recipes.

I bought the book because I was interested in reading about Molly's time living in Paris and about how she met her husband through her blog. Most of the recipes, supposedly geared at ordinary cooks, didn't look like meals I could whip up in between diaper changes and playtime. Then came the chapter titled, "What France Would Taste Like" and I was hooked. I knew I was going to have to cook whatever was at the end of that chapter. Never mind that the main ingredient is tuna. I mean, how can one resist these "tuna corks" when Molly writes: "They tasted like what I imagined France itself would taste like, if it were small enough to fit in my mouth."

Briefly, very briefly, I thought about my son's notoriously picky eating habits. Would he eat the tuna? I dared not think about this. Of course, I have my rotating roster of meals I make, most that my kids enjoy. At least twice a month, though, I like to mix it up and introduce some new tastes. Thinking the bouchons de thon may be a new dish I could adopt as part of our regular fare, I quickly surveyed my pantry for the necessary ingredients as my daughter napped and my son played with his trains.

Two minutes later, there was my son, offering his help. I agreed, knowing he would be more likely to eat the meal if he helped me prepare it.

We assembled the ingredients, which we tripled since my husband is a hearty eater. I didn't have the time to shop for or make crème fraîche so I substituted Mexican cream, which is milkier than sour creme, yet thicker than whipping cream. Also, the cheese was not finely shredded, as the recipe called for, since I didn't have much time before my daughter awakened.

My son helped break up the chunky tuna into tiny pieces. Bless his heart, he pounded hard on that mixing bowl.

"Wow, that's a lot of eggs," my son said, just before I mixed everything well together and poured it into three different muffin pans.

All done! I have to say they looked scrumptious. (A side note: I had an easier time removing the bouchons from the flexible silicone muffin pan, even after they had cooled.)

Cue the CD player to Putumayo's French Playground and Paris, take everything outside for some al fresco dining and we had the ingredients for a French-inspired evening. Each muffin, as I preferred to call them, was really like tuna custard, a light yet hearty meld of egg, tomato and tuna.

"They're better than crabcakes," my husband said, in between second helpings.

Never mind that my kids, for once, preferred the salad to the main entree. But my husband enjoyed the leftovers in a sandwich the following day at lunch. And I now have a meal to remember France by, even if it's tuna I enjoyed in my own backyard.

So two thumbs up. Two tiny thumbs down.


Elle said...

I love Paris!! I lived there for a year when I was six. Can you believe I don't speak a word of French? It's really a shame. I can't wait for my kids to help me in the kitchen.

Martha said...

I love the picture of Aidan helping you in the kitchen!! He looks so cute!!!

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