Note: Nearly all the pictures--not including the food-- were taken in the 1960s and one from 1985 via slides. I had them developed as photographs and then took the pictures of the photographs with my digital camera. I also took pictures of other photographs I had. Many are in black and white (some of them postcards). Click on any picture to enlarge it and to clarify it. Just click on the arrow at the top of the page to return to the blog.
Below is a view of the Canadian PMQs (married quarters) in Longuyon, France in the 1960s.
Our kitchen held a sink (no hot water, just cold) and a wood and coal stove, on which we not only heated our water but did all the cooking. The oven was just large enough for a turkey at Christmas. Others we knew had to take theirs to the bakery or butcher shop to be roasted, which was common then. We shared a fridge with our landlords, the Adams. It was new. I remember seeing only milk, butter and meat in it belonging to them. They were not used to fridges yet.
To do the laundry, I walked through Madame's kitchen in the rear of the house to an unheated stone room; lovely in summer, cold in winter. The washing machine was electric but the water was heated by gas. To start the process, I first had to light a wick underneath the machine to light the gas to heat the water. None of these inconveniences bothered me in the least. I was thrilled to be in Europe and I was young, so I did not mind any of the less-than-perfect amenities.
They invited us to supper one night, and that is when we were introduced to the soup. I have never seen a recipe for it and have never seen the soup anywhere else but there. It was darkish green in colour and thick. With it she served a hearty bread from the bakery just off the market square. We began buying our own bread there as well.
Below is the narrow cobble-stoned street off the market square. The bakery was on the left side, almost across from the car in the picture.
Last week I made Madame's soup and enjoyed it almost as much--along with a good bread. I was unable, of course, to buy the Belgian bread to accompany it. I did the next best thing and bought the best bread in the world from Herr Burger, the baker in Biederbach, where we go nearly every second Saturday afternoon for a visit. See it below.
La Soupe Verte (Belgian Green Soup) a la Madame Adam
2 bunches of leeks (4 per bunch, with an outer leaf or so removed); 1 whole head of celery, with leaves; 1 onion, peeled and sliced; about 6 tablespoons butter; 1-ounce piece of salt pork or smoked bacon fat; 8 to 10 cups good-quality chicken stock; 1 bunch of parsley, with stems removed and discarded; 4 to 5 medium potatoes (7 small), peeled and quartered; salt and pepper to taste. Optional: A sprinkle of Fondor or similar seasoning and some splashes of Maggi. Toppings or Additions: Creme fraiche or whipping cream.
Slice into half-inch (1 cm) rings the white part of the leeks and the green part immediately after the white. (The remaining green portion can be used for something else.) Wash again thoroughly. Wash the celery and leaves; remove the leaves and set aside; cut the celery into half-inch (1 cm) pieces.
Melt the butter and salt pork in a large soup pot. Add the leeks, celery pieces and sliced onion and saute them, uncovered, in the melted fat until soft and aromatic, about 20 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the celery leaves somewhat and chop the parsley coarsely. When the vegetables are soft, add the chicken stock, stirring it well. Add celery leaves and parsley. Bring to a boil over medium to high heat; then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for one and a half to two hours, until everything is tender and the stock is full of flavour, adding the potatoes about 30 to 40 minutes before the soup is ready. Partially cool.
When cool enough, strain it through a sieve, as Mme Adam did, or blend it, as I now do. Because this soup should be fairly thick, I blend the entire amount, doing it in stages so as not to overflow the blender. Pour it into a large pot, heat it again and season to taste with salt and pepper. I add some Fondor and a little Maggi. If wished, you can stir in some fresh cream or creme fraiche before ladling it into soup bowls, although Mme Adam did not do that. You can instead add a dollop of creme fraiche or whipped cream to the soup bowl before serving. Add a sprig of parsley for contrast. This soup, along with hearty bread, is a meal in itself. Great on a cold winter night--or even on a spring evening.
The Adams also initiated us into the world of red wine. Up until then I had found all wine either sour or too sharp. We were introduced to a wine that changed all of that. It was one Monsieur Adam brought up from his wine cellar. That cellar must have had hundreds of bottles, all on their sides in individual little caves in the stone wall. I have forgotten the year of the wine but it was at least ten years old at that time, so it must have been from the early 1950s, perhaps even the late 1940s. It was a red Burgundy from the Cote de Nuits, a Chambolle Musigny. That wine was so smooth with no sharpness at all--just a lovely taste on the tongue and palate. I learned then that one should be initiated with a good wine, not a mediocre one.
During our last two and a half years in Belgium, we lived in Lamorteau, the border town, as we needed more room for the children. We didn't lose contact with the Adams, though, and visited often and later kept in touch for many years.
In our new place, we had a fully furnished apartment with our own washer, gas stove and fridge. Good friends lived in the apartment below. Our landlords, the Toussaints, lived in the house next door, all of it (including ours and the barn), one-connected building, as is often the case in Europe. This had been a chateau at one time, though more a country manor house from its style.
A view of Monsieur and Madame Toussaints's house (ours is to the left and hidden) with the small river passing beside it. We were told that Marie Antoinnette had stayed here overnight enroute to or from France.
Our house faced the side of the stone church that bordered the farmyard. Just around the corner was a small bridge crossing a narrow river, with a bakery and a hair salon on the other side of it and a grocery store just beyond them. By this time our two children were speaking French and often went to the store or bakery for us. No worries back then for children out playing.
To the right is a postcard showing the stone church. Our house is just to the right of the white building and facing the church.
A winter scene in 1963. The bakery and hair dresser are both on the corner with the river flowing beneath the road (bridge). The church and our house are just out of sight on the right side.
Lamorteau was a small village and years later, when Hans and I returned on a visit, it hadn't changed other than all the cattle dunghills were no longer in sight. In this part of Belgium and all over northern France that is where you found them--outside the barns, almost next to their front doors. The backyard is where their gardens were. Today, things have changed in both Belgium and France. Driving through the area on that visit in 1985 and again a few years later, it was quite amazing and pleasing to see flower gardens and grass instead along the streets. For many years now communities all over France have been vying for the stars given each year for especially lovely flowers and gardens in the villages, towns and cities. The signposts on entering a community show how many--if any--stars they've received. As this can be a draw for tourists, it does encourage towns to participate.
The picture below, taken in 1985, shows our house, the one with the red geraniums in the windows. Just to the left was our garage. To the right, is the Toussaint's house. Across from our house, is the side of the church.
One of the things Madame Toussaint made was "gaufrettes" or waffles. She would cook them in her waffle iron, open her kitchen window outwards and call the children. She would then lean out to give each a warm waffle, sprinkled with icing sugar. That was a real treat and all of them loved them.
Years later, in the early 1990s, I attended the Dijon Food Fair in Burgundy with a friend. One of the booths at the fair was making waffles, triggering that Lamorteau memory. Lillian and I had one each. First, hot from the waffle iron, the baker spread them with a rich chocolate sauce and then slathered them with whipped cream. Oh, how delicious they were! It brought back those years in Belgium and those other hot waffles, simpler and made by a farm woman in her kitchen--but no less memorable.
This week I decided to make them myself. The picture at right shows a waffle topped with Canadian maple syrup (Ahorn-Sirup in German) which I bought at a supermarket here. That is a product that wasn't seen in Germany that long ago.