Eau de Robinet, c'est Degeulasse

Monday 21/3/2005

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Diary and Notes

Oh those frenchies! Look what they are up to now.

The denizens of Paris (denizens is a word usually reserved for the inhabitants of hell I should point out) will not drink their water and the authorities have considered it is time to act.

Well, they will drink water, the Parisians drink loads of it, but they will only drink expensive bottled water and swear that the tap stuff is disgusting and only good enough for washing (not that they do that very often) so the Paris water authority has started a marketing campaign to make Eau de Paris a designer water in its own right. They have started giving out special eau de Paris carafes to drink it out of and a marketing campaign with celebrities and the likes is in full swing.

Personally I don't think they have a chance and for a multuitude of (very French) reasons.

1) Snobbery: I'm not saying that all French people are snobs - they're not. I am however accusing Parisians of being snobs, they are.

2) Price: Water in Parisian cafés is expensive - really expensive. If you order a glass of water in the city centre it will cost you more than wine or beer - if you drink water this costly, you become very fixated about how good it is.

3) The law: Due to strange French café laws, if you sit down at a table you are legally required to order a drink (and to pay for it). Even if you have an expensive meal and don't want a drink you have to have one. As such, a lot of people not wanting anything alcoholic order water - if you have tap water you still have to buy something - it's the law. (These laws also mean that cafés selling food have to have a fixed price menu available and a few other 'customer friendly' things as well.

4) History: For years French water was unpotable - it wasn't that it tasted bad, it just wasn't clean enough. Until the introduction of EU regulations on water quality, French water was nasty, often brown and not suitable for human consumption. This is no longer the case however, but the collective memory lingers on. The mention of drinking tap water in France is often greeted by a disgusted expresison and a sharp intake of breath.

So the Parisians will carry on spending inordinate amounts of cash on bottled water, when perfectly good water now comes out of the taps. I never drink water myself, unless it's boiled to make coffee, or added to yeast, hops & barley and fermented into beer so the bottled water craze never really affected me, but it seems a shame to be using so much packaging and raw materials, giving somebody an idea of purity and chic, for no material benefit whatsoever. Whoever was the marketing genius who came up with the idea of designer water, should be killed - for the benefit of all mankind and to teach him (or her) a lesson.

(I apologise for my stereotyping of the French in today's blog. I realise this isn't what they are really like, but it's fun to have a poke at our cousins across La Manche.)

And today I cooked something French for dinner - it, much Like Mary Poppins (who wasn't French), was truly scrumptious.


Don't think about making this unless you have some good duck stock. I made some stock from the carcass of the duck I bought (for a fiver) on 18/3/2005.

Cake Blog

Raspberry and custard pancakes - made by my flatmate Ben.


  • Duck Breast in a Tarragon Velouté
  • Timbale of Mirepois and Wild Rice
  • French Bread


    Duck Breast
    Olive Oil
    50ml Duck Stock
    Dash White Wine Vinegar
    15g Butter
    tbsp Flour
    tsp Dried Tarragon
    1/2 Glass White Wine
    Salt & Pepper
    Olive Oil
    1/3 Carrot
    1/3 Onion
    1/2 Stick Celery
    1 Clove Garlic
    1 Rasher Bacon
    100g Wild Rice
    1/2 Glass White Wine
    Salt & Pepper


  • Duck: Leave the duck breast out of the fridge to get to room temperature before cooking it. Make a beurre meunier by mixing the butter and flour to a paste. Sprinkle a little salt on the skin and fry gently in a little olive oil. When the skin is good and brown, drain off excess fat (tip it down the sink for instance) then turn the duck breast and cook on the other side for a few minutes. After about 5 minutes and the duck juice runs from the flesh, add a dash of wine vinegar then the wine. Reduce to about 1/2 volume, remove the duck breast and allow to rest. Next, to the sauce, add the stock and the tarragon. Bubble gently for a few minutes, then a little at a time add blobs of the beurre meunier and stir until a thick sauce develops and all lumps dissolve. Season and serve drizzled over the duck.
  • Timbale: Finely dice the vegetables and sweat in a little olive oil, add the minced garlic and finely chopped bacon. When everything is softened add the rice and stir. Pour in the wine and let bubble for a minute or two, add some water and put the lid on. Every few minutes add a little more water until the rice is cooked and all the water absorbed (like a risotto but not creamy - don't stir too much as this will break up the rice). Season and pack into a small ramekin then turn out onto the plate (this is the timbale bit - it's all about presentation).

    *All quantities are very approximate and for a single person