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Food for Francophiles: Two programs on TV5Monde


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Dedicated to John Whiting, Voyager, her friend Jake, and all those who love dining in France:

 

 

As my gift to the community, I bring you enlightenment to your food TV viewing. Compared to the stuff you see on the Food Network, my preferences are the difference between sophisticated enlightenment and drivel.

 

I am sure that everyone's cable TV system offers TV5Monde for $10.a month or less. It is worth the money (and if you want to watch on your computer, some of what I am about to mention is free). Now on Tuesday mornings, TV5 presents with sub-titles "Les Escapades de Petitrenaud" and "Epicerie Fine". What they have in common is the food you find in France; the former as manifested by chef-restaurateurs, wine-makers, and bakers, and the latter each half-hour (hosted by the famous Parisian chef Guy Martin) devoted to a single product such as a cheese, a fruit or vegetable, or fish or animal, for example. I have my DVR set to record and save them, such that I just belated watched one of each very recently-- a visit to Brive-La Gaillard in the Dordogne and a primer on Bresse guinea fowl.

 

Jean-Luc Petitrenaud, a former circus clown (and occasionally a bit of a cut-up) imparts a joie de vivre and lightheartedness to what is mostly restaurant life, about half in Paris and the rest throughout France. Although he makes the occasional stop at the higher-end decorated-chef restaurants, most of his programs revolve around masterful execution of classic and bourgeois dishes by chefs in their restaurants, bistrots and wine bars. While there is the occasional straight-forward making of dishes in the restaurant kitchen, he likes to film outside where the local baker, wine-maker, charcuterie and cheese-store owners and other colleagues, friends and family members all gather round to dig in to mouth-watering dishes. An indication of how compelling “Les Escapades de Petitrenaud” is that when the show ends, I almost always go to Google Maps to find out precisely where the village or town he highlights and to Google itself to look at the websites of featured restaurants and food artisans. In other words, the program makes you (momentarily) ditch whatever vacation plans you have and decide instead to go eat seafood in Brittany, game in Alsace, or, as one program did, buy kosher food in the Marais.

 

Guy Martin, a bundle of nerves, turns a good part of his program to documentary filmmakers and voice-over narration, then devote the final part of the program preparing a personalized version of a dish around the program’s topic and sharing it with a personage associated with the product; for example the best-known purveyor of Bresse poultry. The exposition is enlightening and a treat for the eyes, telling you what you need to know about how products are grown, raised, caught, aged, and so forth and the best way and time of the year to enjoy them.

 

If you don’t want to subscribe to TV5Monde, which is something you should do since there are other food programs and life-style and cultural programs, in addition to being a good way to hone your French, a good amount of these two programs are available of the TV5 website and YouTube. It’s good to know that certain glories of French cuisine are alive and well, even if it is not always obvious in a growing number of restaurants there.

 

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Thank you for the good dining wishes, Robert. I have long enjoyed Petiterenaud on United flights to France, and now watch Martin on Air France. These are indeed quality programs, altho Petiterenaud needs to take responsibility for the touristification of more than a few of the places he has showcased.

 

We are, I cringe to admit, the only household in America without cable. However, France24 is my default kitchen TV station and regularly airs interesting segments on food.

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Voyager, there is lots you can watch on-line. If you are diligent, you can watch the recent programs. I'm not sure to what extent Petitrenaud boosts patronage. My major complaint is the feeling I get that what he shows is can better than what you would eat if you went there. That's the impression I get sometimes from lookng at the wbsite menus. Especially if the menu is limited or no-choice. On the other hand I have yet to see anything that hints at sous-vide. Perhaps like chefs of his generation, he isn't a partisan.

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