Cottage industries, traditional crafts and old skills are celebrated in France. Stained glass window makers, wrought-metal workers, carpenters and stonemasons are trained in special schools.Traditional sentiments are brought forth when butter is labelled, ‘au beurre de baratte’ = made by churning. Ham might be cooked ‘au torchon’ = in a tea-towel. When I wanted to know more, I looked on You Tube and found that the meat was salted, wrapped twice in material like a thin rubber glove (well actually, it was like a huge condom), then shrink wrapped in plastic before being cooked on a very low heat. The original idea of ham being wrapped in a tea-towel was not very appealing, but the reality of replacing that with several layers of plastic was even less so! Sometimes, I would prefer a less ‘hands on’ approach to life. Some Brie cheeses are manually poured into circular moulds using an authentic Pelle à Brie = “Brie shovel. Does it make any difference to the flavour? When I read on the packet that my salmon slices were ‘salé au mains’ i.e. salted by hand, I would prefer that a machine did it, rather than a trainee who had not washed his hands to surgical standards! Why is it impossible for a French artisan to make a cheese without putting his/her bare hands and arms, usually up to the elbows, into the curds and whey?


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