Mamie Jeannine’s Tasty Marseille
This is Mamie Jeannine.
The word Mamie is French for England’s grannie, Italian’s nona or Germany’s Omi. This time, Judilicious & Nutritious travelled all the way to the sunny South of France which is very well known as food heaven. Marseille is the second largest city in France and has a lovely Mediterranean climate with as many as 300 days worth of sunshine every year. I was invited to Marseille by Léa, my friend from Lyon whom you all witnessed baking impressive quiche, baguette and cooking ratatouille in this previous People Who Cook episode. Her grandmother is living in Marseille and because Léa is aware of how much I love to talk about food (and eat it of course), she asked me to join her annual trip to her beautiful second home. My response? Yalla, let’s go!
We boarded the plane in Berlin, flew to our destination in only 2 hours (you gotta love Europe) and were welcomed by happy Mamie Jeannine’s big smile, a warm hug and the following dinner menu: vegetable soup with garlic-croutons, homemade pizza with olives, tomatoes, goats cheese and grilled peppers as well as a gorgeous cheese platter followed by fresh fruits. I thought to myself; oh my oh me, this is the first of five more nights, so metabolsim, better get ready for a good dose of fromage! With happy bellies and full hearts we went to bed, rested and guess what awaited us the following morning: freshly brewed coffee, tea, orange juice, a fresh fruit basket, homemade apricot, raspberry and strawberry jam, lavander honey, more cheese (I mean, come on, this is France), toasted bread and a massive brioche – which is a heavenly fluffy pastry made of eggs, flour and butter with a hint of orange. Bonjour, it’s a new day and a new meal!
As we’re eating our brioche and helping ourselves to goats cheese and roquefort, Léa and Mamie assure me that the breakfast – le petit-dejeuner – is the most important meal of the day. The French love to take their time for the first meal of the day and do so in fashion. With time. With leisure. With lots and lots of cheese. As soon as we finished our last bites, Mamie got up, disappeared into the kitchen and returned with sheets of Feuille de Brick (filo pastry) to roll cigarres aux amandes. Léa tells me that these with almonds, raisins and lemon zest filled pastries are a true reminder of her childhood because whenever she visited her grandmother, they rolled these small sweets together.
For lunch – which wasn’t very far away from breakfast – Mamie made brick a l’oeuf which is filo pastry filled with eggs and parmesan, served along with a salad, spicy olives and of course followed by the famous cheese platter with grapes for dessert. If one prejudice is true, then that the French eat cheese all the time, all day every day, during every meal and tous les jours! Am I complaining? Not in the slightest!
During our walks through Marseille and countless cups of tea, Léa tells me about her French family in Lyon. Lyon is another major city in France and not at all far away from Marseille but with a different climate, mentality and cuisine. Léa grew up in the countryside just outside of Lyon, where her parents sparked her passion for food. She tells me about her vivid memories of her dad making doughs for quiches, harvesting fruits and vegetables from the garden, making jams, chutneys, compotes and syrup to store during the winter months. Likewise, her mother would bake apple pies, fig tarts and plum cakes. During the colder months, her family used to make hearty dishes for which they cooked produce from the garden in one big pot: kale, potatoes, celery, carrots, sage and meat that simmer for hours and hours and hours. When listening to such fairytales I start to comprehend that this family’s passion for food comes from deep roots!
What I learned during my stay is that the French love food. In fact, the cultural value of French cuisine is so strong that this is what they talk about all day long. Whether they discuss recipes, exchange advice for how to prepare a dish, talk about where to best buy fresh produce or take each other to their favourite patisserie: it’s all about pain, croissants et chouquettes! Speaking of which, the next day we went on a walk with a special destination in mind: the bakery. This is where the people gather, chit chat, buy their beloved baguette (not a cliché either) and find a sense of belonging to a culture that is very dear to them.
Mamie loves to travel and taste foreign foods which doesn’t only widen her culinary palette but also makes her appreciate her beloved French food; at the end of the day, she wants to celebrate a meal with a sip of red wine and a platter of cheese. French cuisine is so strongly implemented that people truly identify with it. Her granddaughter Léa oftentimes goes to Galeries Lafayette in Berlin to get hold of her favourite French products such as cheeses, biscuits and French wines – when being abroad, good quality French food is hard to find, but it’s there.
One evening, Mamie Jeannine made grog for Léa and me; hot honey with fresh lemon juice and rum – super strong et très délicieux! As we are sipping our hot drinks, the sky above Marseille’s mountains unloads itself with thunder and lightning which makes our gathering even more cosy. That night we enjoyed lemon-infused almonds, salted pistachios, green and black olives, crackers with hummus and a warming pumpkin soup followed by roasted chicken and oven potatoes. Were we happy? What else?!
Upon request, Mamie Jeannine allowed me to browse through her cookbook collection and I found some gems among these piles of books. One heavy-looking leather-bound book caught my eye in particular; it is put together by Mamie herself, either handwritten or with cutouts from magazines, featuring hundreds and hundreds of recipes ranging from Crème brûlée and gateau au chocolate to boeuf bourguignon and tarte au fromage. I asked her if she made each and every recipe and she just looked at me and smiled: Bien sûr!
The following day, Mamie took us out for an exciting, authentic, seaside excursion. We took a little bus to a fisher’s village outside of Marseille, where we found calm boats, seagulls, rocky cliffs, many waves and the world’s best bouillabaisse: a French fish stew that originated right where we were in this very moment – the port city of Marseille. Traditionally, bouillabaisse is made with different types of fish such as red rascasse, sea robin and European conger. These and other fish are cooked in a broth along with potatoes, leeks, onions, tomatoes, celery to then be served with rouille (a sort of mayonnaise made from olive oil, saffron, garlic and pepper) on grilled slices of bread. It is a great opportunity to taste a dish where it was developed, because it doesn’t only contain the most authentic ingredients but is made by the people who’s ancestors naturally invented it. I can tell you – it was quite the experience and oh, so much delicious food!
And now, please be prepared for some superb bouillabaisse, my fellow foodies!
As if all of this food wasn’t enough, Léa and Mamie convinced me that we had to order dessert: such a feast needs to be rounded off with a heavenly sweet dish, they said. Our selection? Mousse au chocolat, lemon meringue, panna cotta, tiramisu and profiterole. Upon reading the last item on the dessert menu, Léa had decided for all of us: profiterole it was. Profiterole is French choux pastry filled with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream and topped with hot chocolate sauce, almonds and strawberries. If that sounds indulgent to you it might be because it is! And I mean just look at that:
To digest this kingsized meal, we went for a stroll next to the sea and had strong, black coffee. Ladies and gentlemen, what a food trip! A dream come true for any foodie who values to dive into foreign culture and cuisine! I was especially lucky because I had such wonderful, food-loving hosts and tour guides who showed me the best traditional bakeries and seafood restaurants in and around Marseille – it truly doesn’t get any better than that. If this makes you want to travel to France: do it, though be prepared that if you’re lactose intolerant, it might be difficult to avoid cheese. Fromage seems to be lurking around each and every corner!
Thank you, Mamie and Léa, for inviting me to this gorgeous, very French and extremely tasty trip to Marseille – j’ai eu un voyage fantastique!