Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rare Bird

As long as I'm whining about stuff I can't get here, I should remember that green onions are called "spring onions" in England and just maybe the reason I can't find them all the time around here is because the French are a lot more scrupulous about stuff being in season than, say, the Germans are. Also, they don't use green onions as much, I guess.

But there is one thing I really and truly can't get here which I wish I could, and it's got nothing whatever to do with seasonality. I found some in Spain in January and brought back as much as I could. When a friend told me last night that he was going to be in Barcelona at the end of the month and might be able to sneak across here for a dinner or two, the first thing that came to mind is that this stuff was running out:

Right. Chicken broth. Bought in aseptic boxes which are just big enough to provide enough broth for two Chinese meals, or two meals with a broth-based sauce like I make for pork chops sometimes. About a cup, I think: 250 ml.

I've mentioned this to other people here and their response has been "Good lord, can't you cook? Just get a chicken, roast it, and make broth out of the carcass!" I assume these people are retired diamond merchants and drug dealers, since chicken is more expensive here than anywhere I've ever lived. Better, too, but you have to be prepared to shell out €14 for a whole chicken. (And that's another thing: you can get skinless, boneless breasts, or leg-thigh joints, but you can't buy a cut-up chicken in the supermarket). Things are a bit, um, austere around here at the moment, but even if they weren't, one chicken carcass doesn't make a whole lot of broth. And I'm a single guy who doesn't entertain. (This apartment is so small there's no room for two people to dine, let alone more, believe it or not). There'd be plenty of leftover chicken. No, it's just easier to buy chicken broth. You can do it in Germany, for heaven's sakes (although it's in a condensed form called Fond, with seasoning added), and in America Swanson's figured out that people wanted it without a lot of salt and with no MSG, and now they're making twice as much money as ever.

And in Spain, this company Caldo Aneto has acres of supermarket space for its products. With my nonexistent Spanish it took me about ten minutes to figure out that the product you see above is the one I wanted. I have since used it for superb Chinese meals and the occasional gravy. I know some of the Brits around here make day-trips to the Spanish border to hit the supermarkets there for stuff they can't get in France and now I'm beginning to see why.

So if you're going to be in Spain, say Barcelona or Girona, you should consider coming to Montpellier for a day or two, because we're real close. That's what my friend might be doing at the end of the month. And yes, you can ask me what I want from Spain, and I'll tell you a beautiful Spanish woman with a hair-trigger temper, some of those wacky Valencian plates, a nice Iberian ham, some of that incredible chorizo sausage, and...a buncha chicken broth. Hell, I'll settle for the broth. This time.


  1. Odd. I don't remember bouillon being difficult to find in France. What's so special with the spanish variety?

  2. Jeez, that's what I get for posting after spending a day writing: not addressing the sodium issue here.

    No, those little dried cubes aren't at all difficult to find, if that's what you mean. The evil Swiss duo of Knorr and Maggi are all over the place, sticking monosodium glutamate in everything that bears their label. Like any rational person, and certainly like any rational person with high blood pressure, I avoid that stuff as much as I can, which is pretty easy to do here, unlike in Germany, where it's in tons of the food you get in the stores, as well as in restaurants. I can buy bio bouillon cubes, too, and have a bunch stashed away: no MSG, but tons of herbs and other flavoring agents which are sometimes okay in a sauce, but sort of weird in Chinese food.

    On the other hand, this Spanish stuff contains dead chickens, water, and salt. And now I see on their website that they have salt-free, too. So anyone coming from Spain, bring some with you!

  3. Just made Chinese black-bean garlic cabbage parsnip (bear with me here) fermented-tofu turkey for lunch, using half a box of low-sodium happy-chicken stock from Trader Joe's – shall I send over over the leftovers? May be in Spain this year, will keep you posted...


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