Eek! It’s only Day 2 of VeganMoFo – “recreate a childhood meal” – and I’ve already almost come undone. Until right now I wasn’t sure I would get this post written; I’d didn’t think I’d have the appropriate material as I had yet to recreate a childhood meal (with appropriate veganisation) and as I was travelling home from Paris in the afternoon, I also wasn’t sure to have the time to write anything.
Although you would think that recreating a childhood meal – our MoFo brief for the day – would play right into my vague food memory theme, most of the meals I have the fondest memories of can be found clustered into my teenage years. Perhaps younger children, or maybe just younger Claire, pay less attention to the actual food on their plates?
A few key meals spring to mind, however, and once again, it is a particular Sunday ritual that shines brightest from the years of food memories. Sunday night was always chicken and chips, followed by crêpes. Although I went off chicken fairly young – well before I went vegetarian aged about 14 – I’m pretty sure the crêpes endured many years. And as with many things that are made by one’s mother or father, it was hard to conceive of ever eating them elsewhere – out of fear of disappointment, for very little can top a dish lovingly made by a parent, but also out of the fear of the very slim chance of finding a version that could maybe be better.
We stayed pretty traditional with our crêpe toppings. I alternated between lemon and sugar, cinnamon and sugar, and maple syrup, but my parents usually had theirs with a sprinkle of sugar and Grand Marnier, which came with a ritual of its own: as I (helped) set the table for dessert, I would go to the kitchen cupboard on the end, the one with the bags of potatoes and onions, excess plastic shopping bags – and the Grand Marnier, apparently. I remember the distinctive pop of the cork as my dad would squeeze it out from the stout round bottle, followed by the glug of the alcohol onto the freshly served crêpe. My parents rolled their crêpes up, and ate them quickly to avoid all the liquid filling dripping out the end, but I experimented with folding mine and cutting it up instead, to make it last longer.
The only time it was acceptable to eat a crêpe other than my mum’s, was if I was in Brittany, or on a summer holiday with my grandparents, where we would also go for a lunch of savoury galette and sweet crêpe, washed down with a bowl of apple cider – when I was little I had sweet “doux” apple cider which contains about 2% alcohol, and I knew I had matured when I enjoyed the tasted of the slightly stronger “brut” cider.
The savoury galettes are made with buckwheat flour and, I believe, are normally vegan by default – unfortunately, the vegan fillings are slim pickings. I think I’ve only ever seen mushrooms on a galette topping list, and that would make for a mighty dry lunch. So, I haven’t had a galette since I went vegan. Conveniently, my aunt lives around the corner from a vegetarian and vegan-friendly organic crêpe restaurant in Paris, and Ben and I happened to be in need of a casual and quick lunch before our train back to London!
Crêperie de la Joie only have one galette that is vegan by default, but the staff were super friendly and helpful in suggesting alternatives. I went with the suggested “Nain prospère” replacing egg with carrots and potatoes, along with red lentils, onion, and zucchini. Totally nothing like I’d have had as a kid beyond the pancake itself, but it hit the 25-year-old vegan spot.
Ben went for his own creation of vegan ham and potatoes with a tomato coulis, and that would be what I’d have next time. Although if I was trying to recreate something I’d have had as a kid more authentically, I’d probably have to go with the vegan ham and mushroom.
I didn’t want any alcohol and was hoping to splash out on some non-alcoholic cider, but there was none on offer – so I settled for an organic apple juice and sneakily poured it into my cider bowl for authenticity!
I never went for a savoury galette without following it up with a sweet one because… why would you do that when you have come so near to a sweet crêpe? and because crêpes aren’t really that filling. And because my granddad – chief crêperie chaperone – has a voracious sweet tooth. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what fillings I normally had in an authentic crêperie, but I know I thought apple compote on a crêpe a vile concept, and I wasn’t as into chocolate then as I am now (I know, what???), so I never had the chocolatey toppings.
I guess I’d probably have had lemon and sugar – but oddly there was no sugar on this menu. The sweet crêpes weren’t vegan, but the staff happily suggested using a savoury galette for my sweet toppings. I couldn’t resist indulging in a dark chocolate, banana, and coconut galette – since I’ve been vegan and fully committed to chocolate and to bananas, I have looked at those pairings on non-vegan street stall menus and wished I could partake. It’s pretty cool that they use Vivani organic 70% dark chocolate too!
Unfortunately, turns out I’m just not a huge fan of super-rich toppings on crêpes! It was a little much for me, and though Ben’s pick of apple compote and cinnamon was delicious, I think good old lemon and sugar would have been spot on!
Although I didn’t make the best filling choices today, it was so fun to be able to indulge in a galette lunch in a casual rickety-table spot, for old times’ sake! Thanks #VeganMoFo for making it happen!
(P.S. I’ll be back maybe later this month or next with a full-blown review of the vegan eateries we visited in Paris!)