cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

L'Aligot : How The French Mash A Potato

Before we begin our enthralling escapade into the spuds, there is a small announcement I wish to make to you my dear public: Hamilton, (named after Alexander himself) the brave ox of an HP notebook who has been my companion since my 18th year on this planet and who has produced each and every Salty Cod post, has finally lost his battle with the cancer known as age, his screen will light up no more. Let us remember our fallen friend with a moment of silence.

...the bastard. He took photoshop with him.

Cooking exposition cooking exposition yay! And a coupon for free entrance for two from the cooking magazines I spend all my money on, chouette! The Salon SAVEURS DES PLAISIRS gourmandes in its 20th year pulled me to l'espace Champerret for "la plus grande sélection de produits de gastronomie de luxe présentée à Paris." Chouette².

1) I have never sampled so muched cured meat and cheese in one sitting in my life. 2) Cheese meat, meat cheese. Am I in Germany? 3) The last time I felt this young in a crowd was at a Sting and Annie Lenox concert at Whiteriver. That was a good time. 4) Note to self: if dragging along a friend, keep better eye on said friend so as to avoid the unfortunate occurance of her sampling whole kernels of rose rock salt (pauvre Inmate #666, rose salt is still salt). And 5) At a French food fair the most sought after poppet is indeed not the exotic chocolates and fois gras, but the ever so simple elastic-stays in the bowl when flipped- French version of the mashed potato--l'aligot.

What is aligot? A visual allegory would not fall far from one of dried-out papier-maché goop. An olfactory allegory would offer something near almost to a macaroni and cheese dish, so let us rejoice and thank le Dieu here for the fact that the sense that matters here gives us a dip into familiarity yet something a little new, a little different, just a petit truc or a little pip that I can't quite put my tongue on.

L'aligot is a specialty from the Auvergne region of France, located literally in the centre of France; therefore no coasts, no beaches, no Paris--just rural, mountainous, kilometers of valleys and clear skies. One would think I've been there for my turn here of a travel advertisement. Aligot is this: mashed potatoes, Tomme cheese, crème fraiche, butter, and garlic slowly cooked (beaten with a long spoon) in a wok-like skillet until it is smooth, think, and takes on a taffy-like elasticity.

What is Tomme cheese you ask now--I splain. Tomme is a "leftover" cheese produced almost exclusively in the French Alps. It is made from the skim after the fat has been extracted from the cream to make butter and other cheeses that actually taste good (personal note: Tomme de chevre is not one of those you would want to spread on an apple) as a result, Tommes are very low in fat and are used primarily for cooking or as an accessory to a recipe.

L'aligot is therefore very rich, even when shared by two (clear out that rose salt still lingering) the little dish is far too much for one to handle. Help! Surrounded by meats, cheese, goose livers, chocolates, pastries, breads--the delicious paste is yet a lump in the stomach--ahhhh! But looked we are saved, and by the first smoothie I have seen in France. A table piled by tropical fruits pulls me like a fly to the light. Papaya, coconut, pineapple, mango, oranges, bananas, passion fruits...mine was mango passion with pinapple and orange juices. Saved by the smoothie!

We escaped the delicious yet badly lit madhouse of a convention with smoothies and aligot in hand to sit a while in the petit park across the street from the centre. Seated on a bench surrounded by a semi-circle of stone busts, I attempt to stir the now almost solid aligot (must be eaten hot it appears) when my friend muses, "three of these busts are named Jose." I look up at the statues to read their titles; they are all poets, writers, soldiers, heroes, yadda yadda from South America. Huh, that's odd.

I look at the 9 men present, all heads except one General Fransisco de Miranda from Venezuela who looms over the rest sword drawn and at the ready--a revolutionary in his time. I noticed however that not all South American countries were present, particularly one very large and important country. Hmmm. I look at the sign on the parc gate: Jardin d'Amerique Latine. Ah, les espanol-o-phones, ça va then. I look up wishing to offer a bite of aligot to General Miranda, but in the end c'était les oiseaux who shared in the mashed potato delight under the shade of the general, passing time with nothing-ness as the sun dipped over the corner of the 17th arrondissement that we found ourselves in on yet another beautiful afternoon in Paris , mango smoothies and all.


Núria said...

Hola Mallory! Seems that you are having a great time in Paris... Oh how I wish I had a romantic trip with my man to Paris!!! Or maybe getting lost in this Auvergne region would also be fantastic!
Never heard of L'aligot before... don't know if I would enjoy it... there's cheese involved. I think I get stuck to my ham ;-)
Salud, dear!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for informing us about L'aligot! This is something I must try. I don't understand how it couldn't be enjoyable! Even just for one bite! Great post.