Saturday, 28 March 2009

Les autre choses: le vin et la farine

I think I mentioned previously that we have a range of other classes to attend besides patisserie. One of these is oenology or the study of wine. Our classes haven't exactly been regular, think we're averaging 1 class per month (due to have 6 in total) and we had our 2nd class earlier this week. Our teacher, Agnès is brilliant and a true expert of the field - I enjoyed the class so much that I managed to take 9 pages of notes! Agnès continued from last time with a general background to wine including explaining different types of wine (AOC, vin de pays, vin de table), how to read a wine label, what info can we expect to see on a wine bottle and a quick overview of the wine regions of France. Then it was off to the lab to have our first wine-tasting session - it was nothing fancy but a real eye-opener for me; we tasted 2 dry white wines, one Sauvignon Blanc and one Chardonnay. It was amazing how different these 2 grape varieties can be?! Great class and a shame that its not a larger part of our curriculum.

We ended this week with a class trip to a flour mill called Moulins Bourgeois in a village called Verdelot which is around 1 and a half hours drive east of Paris. It was pretty interesting as we were given a tour of the mill, which included an explanation of how the wheat which is brought to the mill is then transformed into flour, all in French of course! I didn't understand everything but prolly got maybe 80% of it. We were also given a quick presentation by a lady who ran the lab in the mill which analyses the quality of the flour (amount of gluten, what flour type, elasticity and extensibility of flour, humidity, etc) being produced. The trip ended with a visit to the old mill which is a few minutes drive from the "new" mill and is currently being renovated. It dates back to the 1900s and even has a 25km diameter water wheel which was very impressive. The battery on my camera died at the end of the trip so I didn't have the chance to take many pics in the old mill - it was a little chilling seeing some old flour sacks there which had the stamps of the 3rd Reich on them, relics from WW2.

It was a long day and we finally arrived back in Paris around half 4 in the afternoon. I had half contemplated skipping this trip cos Pa Chan was in town for an overnight trip, but in the end, I didn't which meant only managing to squeeze dinner with him.  We were invited to go to China Town Belleville, the largest Asian restaurant in Belleville and were treated to a sumptuous and generous dinner by our host, the owner of the restaurant who is originally from Cambodia. He was looking pretty sprightly for a 70-something and it was also very interesting to hear his story; arriving in Paris as a refugee with nothing but the clothes on his back, juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet and finally saving enough money and being able to open his own business. 1st generation Asian migrants work usually extremely hard in their adopted countries (mostly in the restaurant business) in order to provide a better life for their children, who are generally discouraged from entering the same profession for fear of a harsh life which they may not be able to handle. Yet, when this older generation contemplate retirement, deep down, I think they would really like for their own children to carry on their business - a curious contradiction....I'm not sure how Pa Chan feels about the subject but I think he is happy that I am finally doing something that I am passionate about and makes me happy, none of which would've possible without his or Ma Chan's support :)      

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