The Gourmet Buzz

By Margaret Kemp

So I’m in bed fiddling with my Yacht Boy. Hang on! hang on! don’t get the wrong idea. My SONY Yacht Boy, short wave radio. Some of you need Prozac, others Viagra, me, I need my Yacht Boy to send me to sleep. The minute the plummy-voiced BBC announcer announces Alistair Cook – I’m in cloud cuckoo land. Who needs sheep when you’ve got a Yacht Boy! Anyway, the thing is sometimes I just can’t face old Cookie’s pontifications, and the news, well tell me about it, nightmares I can do unaided. So I fiddle and find a radio station BFM or France Inter, whatever, and hear a voice talking about food. Instantly I’m in the wide-awake club, recognise the voice, calm, well spoken, re-assuring, even though I would not recognise the face--yes it’s François Simon, the Lone Ranger of the gastro-world. They say the way you can tell if he’s "doing" a canteen is if his trusty rusty bicycle is outside, and he’s inside with some lucky Tonto. Simon goes in disguise, dark glasses, wigs, Michelin in hand, maybe a mask, always his trusty video-cam. No pots de vin for the Lone Ranger--he always pays!

Even the presenter sounds interested, pumping questions the way Schwarzie pumps iron. The hook for the programme is a book, just published, written by Simon, "Manger Est Un Sentiment". Now you’re sighing, looking up you’re your glass of red saying, "only in France" could somebody write 236 pages telling grown-ups how to eat, piffle! But don’t forget this is the country that holds Food Weeks daily, where everything stops for lunch at 12, and if Saddam’s reading this in his bunker--France could be invaded at 12.10 and nobody would realise until at least 3.30. Even that’s doubtful because that’s when they go back to check their e’s before heading off to the Plaza Athénée bar, Saint Tropez and other watering holes.

"Eating is not complicated," Simon tells the presenter. "But it’s important to stop when you’re satisfied and only eat when you’re hungry!" Simon wants us to practise his très zen method of dealing with this. "Start with petit dejeuner", he suggests. And then empty your cupboards, put everything in the garden, on the balcony, and when all is outside, take a good look. Give your kitchen/house a facelift. Give everything you don’t need to your neighbours, who will be curious at the activity going on chez vous. At the end of the day, sing "La Marseillaise" and salute the dust-cart/ the neighbours as they disappear with your unwanted tat. Now you’re ready to balance your life. "And, of course, if you have a wine cellar, don’t forget that even the best bottles don’t last for ever, drink them!" advises the Lone Ranger.

This is a delicious little book, could make you think next time you sit down à table. And if you want to discuss it with Simon, he gives his phone number on Page 139 – 01 42 21 61 59. See if you can get him to take off his mask.

Manger Est Un Sentiment
By François Simon,
Editions Belfon.
13.90€

So when you’re all set, having digested "MEUS", here’s a super little address to practise your new found serenity. La Famille ("qui vous aime", goes their answerphone message). Just when you thought le tout Paris was getting tout aggressive, along comes a new family who really want to give you a good time. You’ll have to schlep over to the 18th (an up and coming area) unless you’re already so trendy you bought/rent/hang there in Montmartre. The chef, Iniaki, is Basque, worked as 2nd to Gilles Choukroun (Café des Délices) and has now set up on his own, with his cousin. There’s a DJ (bring your own vinyls), laughter and interesting dishes based on Basque cuisine with algues (seaweed). Gazpacho peche-tomate, guacamole de petits pois, raw gambas with green papaya. OK, he does the classis "Choukroun" Créme brulée au foie gras, but also Foie gras miso with eau de mer algues. Want to taste it all? The first Sunday of each month is "cuisine miniature" night, the entire menu; version tapas! (3€ a dish). Call it "feelgood cuisine".

Famille’s open midi and soir, gives you a love-bracelet when you leave and the wines are excellent, coming from the caviste along the road. You may have to buy back your hub-caps, so take a taxi or the metro. But go, go, go…….

41 rue des Trois Freres 18th.
Metro: Abbesses
T: 01 42 52 11 12

Hey ho Silver…and away!

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