écume (ay-koom) noun, feminine
Bavardage est écume sur l'eau, action est goutte d'or.
Chat is foam on water; action is a drop of gold.
While reading a book* demystifying the complexity of French cooking, a little étincelle* of hope appeared, like the spark at the end of the wand which lights our simple gas oven. But when hours before our lunch guests were to arrive I misplaced the cookbook, and with it the fastoche* instructions for pot-au-feu,*
that hopeful spark turned into a roaring pit and I into the pot above it!
An internet search revealed hundreds of recipes for pot-au-feu, one contradicting the next. "Place the beef into the pot then cover with cold water..." one site instructed. Another insisted I add the meat to *boiling* water, to seal in flavor. A third recipe recommended putting the vegetables (navets,* choux,* carrots, poireaux,* and onions) in first, before the meat... and a fourth cautioned cooking them separately....
I put a stop to the confusion by remembering an old French dictum: "Trop de cuisiniers gâtent la sauce".* Next, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work (first boiling the meat, careful to tuck a few bay leaves and a sprig of thyme in between; next, I added the vegetables).
Three hours later I realized that the hardest part about making pot-au-feu is getting the beefy scum out of the pot (and that part's easy!). "De-scumming" (or "unscumming"?) requires time and a special "twist of the wrist" (so as to avoid coating one's kitchen walls when flicking froth from pot to poubelle).*
The pot-au-feu turned out nicely. Now to skim the carreaux de cuisine*...
* * *
Post note: While cleaning the clove-scented kitchen (from the stewed onions which were stabbed with the aromatic spice), I came across my mother-in-law's recipe for French beef stew. I'm still smacking myself on the head. When the head-throbbing stops, I'll see about posting her recipe.
References: book: "Recipes from the French Wine Harvest"; une étincelle (f) = spark; fastoche = (slang) easy; le pot-au-feu (m) = boiled beef with vegetables; le navet (m) = turnip; le chou (m) = cabbage; le poireau (m) = leek; Trop de cuisiniers gâtent la sauce = Too many cooks spoil the sauce;
la poubelle = garbage can; le carreau (m) de cuisine = kitchen tile
La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange: The Original Companion for French Home Cooking
:: Audio File ::
Écume. Bavardage est écume sur l'eau, action est goutte d'or.
MP3 file: Download ecume.mp3
Wave file: Download ecume.wav
In music: A French Christmas
In Film: Paris Je T'aime: Stories of Love. From the City of Love.
Terms & Expressions:
écumeux, écumeuse = foamy, frothy
écumer = to skim; to take the scum off
écumer les mers = to scour the seas
écumer (de rage) = to foam, froth at the mouth
un cheval qui écume = foaming horse
l'écume de la société = the scum, dregs of society
une écumoire = skimmer, skimming ladle
une écumeur littéraire = a plagiarist
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