It was our intern Kieu Anh’s last day at work today so we took her out to lunch, and she surprised us with parting gifts. (Isn’t that lovely? So unnecessary but so appreciated.) Throughout her internship I have repeatedly subjected Kieu Anh to impromptu French conversations, since I know she studied abroad in the south of France. She, in turn, knows I’m heading to Paris in a few weeks with the intention of spending 85% of my time eating, and she very thoughtfully gave me the perfect gift: “Edible French: Tasty Expressions and Cultural Bites.” It’s a colorful guide to French food-related idioms as well as a recipe book, and it’s beautifully illustrated with watercolors.
I actually mentioned wanting to read this very book a few weeks ago, but Kieu Anh had no idea since she didn’t even know about my blog til today. She’s just got a gift for good gifting!
Now I know what I’ll be reading on the plane… Thank you, Kieu Anh!
Pop quiz: What does it mean to say someone has “un coeur d’artichaut” (the heart of an artichoke)?
Because food is culture, and culture is its own important language.
First up, pan de queso aka chipás! Or: cheese bread for the gluten-free (a group of which I am, sadly, a member).
These little buns are more commonly known as pão de queijo and most people think of them as Brazilian but I first encountered them on the Argentinian side of the Argentina/Brazil border when I was visiting Iguazu Falls (the most jaw-droppingly awe-inspiring place I’ve ever been, by the way – you won’t be convinced from the pictures – you just have to see it to believe it).
Sadly, I didn’t try chipás at the time even though they were touted as “traditional Misiones food: tapioca flour cheese bread” on the little English sign in the hotel’s breakfast buffet. I couldn’t be sure they were 100% gluten-free without asking someone to tell me exactly what was in them, and in order to do that and to understand the response I would have had to speak way more Spanish. Yet another reason why it is useful to learn other languages – to avoid accidental ingestion of substances toxic to your body.
When I got home I did a bunch of googling and confirmed they were indeed gluten free and felt really sad. I had tragically foregone alfajores because of my condition but I hadn’t needed to miss out on cheese bread.
So I decided to make them at home, using this recipe from the Kitchn. If you have given up gluten consumption I think you’ll find, as I did, that these little cheese buns are a delicious consolation prize. If you’re used to eating whatever kind of bread you want, you may not see what the big deal is. As for me, I’ve now made them three times, dumping in more and more cheese with every batch. (I wouldn’t recommend this – last time got a little out of hand and now I’m going back to the original recipe.)
(Photo: Rodrigo Gianesi)