Hi everyone! I’m writing in bed with a wool blanket, two down comforters, and the puppy on top of me (with a glass of wine nearby). Keith is in Paris right now doing secret scientific stuff which has me reminiscing about my French cooking adventure this past summer in Lyon. Before going anywhere, I usually search for food blogs in the area to try get to know a place from the locals. In researching Lyon, I stumbled on Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook, a scrumptious blog by American expat Lucy Vanel. Even more exciting, she had recently started a cooking school, Plum Lyon, out of her home in the historic Croix-Rousse district. I signed up for her market to table class and counted down the days until I could be there.
Keith and I stayed in a room on the fourth floor of an old building with unusually large and winding stone steps and windows that opened onto the courtyard. There were large pots of multi-colored hydrangeas and birds darted in and out a lot, their squawking amplified by the stone courtyard so much that it felt as if I had a flock right above my head. You could also hear everyone’s conversations (mostly they were talking about how loud the birds were!). Golds, burgundy, and emeralds dominated the room, just how I imagined it to be. The curtains were a heavy silk and damask combination held open on one side by a thick rope of gold and silver silk. The walls were covered with a a shimmery cream wall paper with ornate pattern. There was a marble and cast iron fireplace and the lights just bright enough to make everything look even more golden. In the sitting area were red velvet chairs (perfect for writing in my journal or lounging with coffee). The bathroom was bright and modern with a full-sized tub. I was pretty in love with all of it.
I walked to Lucy’s neighborhood on the first morning in the city toward the old silk district. It was lovely and hilly. I wore my favorite flowy lace skirt, a striped t-shirt, sandals, and black sunglasses. The stair steps were neverending. My favorite part was going through a traboule that was like a secret passageway. It was actually used for silk transport back in the day so that the fabrics didn’t get wet. Finally, I got to 49 Rue des Tables Claudiennes, Lucy’s cooking school. We had a little coffee while we waited for one other student that day. Her name was Gina, from Mt. Prospect Illinois, of all places! We headed out or shall I say “up” to the market. I saw the reason for Lucy’s market bag on wheels.
The Croix-Rousse market was bustling with its 200 plus vendors. Later, I learned that every neighborhood in Lyon is near an outdoor market and a lot of people are fiercely proud and loyal to the one nearest to them. The markets run year-round. It was July when I was there. The strawberries were finishing (I saw a few mignonettes). The cherries and currants were in full swing. We stopped at a stand to taste some cherries. I was really happy to see about a dozen types of onions. The market smelled of roasting chicken, skewered and roasting in spits, making everyone salivate, begging to be taken home or devoured on the spot. There was a lot of cheese. I especially loved the little thimble-sized chevre. We tasted some fat and to-die-for Lyonnaise sausages. There were some spicy ones, some mixed with pistachios, black pepper, and truffles. Beets are not my favorite root vegetable but it was interesting to see it being sold already cooked. What a great idea.
An atypical sight was fresh offal. I was especially drawn to a case filled with hearts from different animals. Tradition Lyonnaise food utilizes the offal. The meals were and still are served in bouchons where the people usually know and have a connection with the owner. Bouchons were originally the inns where the silk workers ate in the 17th and 18th centuries. The dishes are heavy, fatty, and comforting. Some traditional dishes are tripe sausage, quenelles, coq au vin, and boudin noir.
There were also a few stands with some gorgeous and unusual types of fish and fowl. The market bag slowly filled-up with lots of herbs, courgettes, apples, squash blossoms, eggplant, and duck breasts. I loved the guy in the collage above smoking and displaying his beautiful collection of lettuce. It’s all about balance in life, right? Another thing we purchased was a block of the jellied tripe pictured below. After the market, we went a couple blocks to a bakery for some baguette then to a cheese shop. I was especially excited about it because my friend Andy (who knows just a little bit about cheese) gave me a list to try. Lucy liked the list so we found and bought most of Andy’s recommendations. We zigzagged downhill (thank goodness) through a park, saw some cute dogs, and finally were back in Lucy’s kitchen. After unloading and cleaning the groceries, Lucy heated up the jellied tripe, sliced some sausages, and poured us some Crémant de Bourgogne.
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