I remember encountering this word on tourism sites about Normandy, the land famous for its apples and happy dairy cows. It sounded out of place to me - more a scientific term than something to do with food. The dictionary tells me its both: the art or science of good eating. It catches my eye to see the words 'art' and 'science' together as descriptors as if to imply they are similar or connected in purpose. I enjoy this definition immensely on many levels but mostly because I am in the midst of making 'art' based around 'scientific' principles.
I have had the pleasure now of being invited to three local's homes for repast and visiting. It has been a delight as they have all equally schooled me on their versions of Normandy life and I, in return, share accounts of prairie life. Now you might imagine all my hosts were artists, but it is not so. There has been a curator, my liaison, journalist, tourism official, writer and architect layered in among the individuals. I feel I could write a small book on the things I've taken in. I wish I could so no detail would be forgotten but here is not the place for such a venture.
All my meals have included various local products such as apple cider (this being a 5% alcohol beverage), cheese, cream and mushrooms. There has been pasta, tart, butternut squash and baked apples and pears. All so completely heavenly! Everyone took time to tell me where each cheese was produced --'just up the road' more or less. I am not a very good photo-doumentarian and don't take pictures of my food or my hosts for that matter. I find I am so enthralled with my visit I forget to bring out my phone. But I did take a photo of my lesson in Calvados apple spirits. Calvados is the region Caen is located within Normandy. I am no drinker of spirits but it was quite interesting to taste such with an apple base. And I mean 'taste' not shot!!
The distinct feeling I received from all my hosts was the pride they take in their regional products. I could tell that they did not seek out these local products just for my sake alone but it is a large influence in their decisions in the market aisle. This I would believe is quite a different state of mind to shoppers in Manitoba. It is my first small but revelatory lesson on the benefit of foreign exchange. There is more to learning about a new culture than delighting in all its 'exotic' differences. It is about the inevitable comparisons your mind makes about topics you never think about because they are taken for granted and ingrained into the psyche due to the completely natural submersion in one's native culture.
Here I find another version of the intersect art and science, not gastronomical but the method of compare and contrast. What a wonderful gift...at my age who would have thought that it was possible to rediscover one's own parameters and contemplate their existence and seemingly arbitrary placement. This will be on my mind in the coming weeks as I finish my work...it will live between the knots and amongst the stitches.