What's it like to live and eat in Chalon-sur-Saone?

            Gastro-Podium:  a platform on which to discuss gastronomy: the production and preparation of food and wine.  Gastropoda:  snails, escargots!

            I'm writing this blog for fun, and to share my love of French food and wine.  I want to write about trends, French attitudes towards eating and preparing food, how French people organize their meals, and how food and socializing go together.  An important topic is terroir:  the sense of place imparted to food or wine by the  climate, soil, and other variables determined by where it is grown and made.  A Bresse chicken is special because of where it lives.  That chicken can be flown to Tokyo, but it retains the terroir of the village near Simandre where it ran around outside in a pasture, feasting on insects, snails, worms and locally-grown cereals and dairy products.  That chicken also has a genetic background that was in part determined by where its ancestors evolved.

            I've lived in Burgundy now for almost 15 years:  in Southern Burgundy to be precise, in the river port town of Chalon-sur-Saone.  The Saone connects to just about everywhere in France by a series of canals, and barges can travel all the way from Le Havre on the Atlantic coast to Paris, and then south to Chalon, on to Lyon, taking the Rhone river to Marseille where the Mediterranean sea begins.  Chalon-sur-Saone is a town that has always been a sort of hub for travelers and goods.  The Roman roads from Italia to Britannia ran through this town.  Trucks still pass near Chalon on the A6 between Spain or Italy and Northern Europe.  The Saone is busy with barges and enormous river cruise boats full of Dutch, German and American tourists bound south for Avignon.  We are only 15 minutes from Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy, and a stone's throw from the most prestigious vineyards in the world, the finest poultry to the south, and smack in the center of Charolais beef cattle country. St Marcel, a suburb of Chalon, is a large producer of vegetables, and fields of leeks, cabbages, and rows of greenhouses stretch for miles, alternating with fields of chickens or fish ponds.

            The area is rich with history. Despite a neo-gothic cathedral, half-timbered medieval buildings, and one of the finest photography museums in the world, Chalon still can't seem to pry the tourists away from nearby Cluny and the Beaune Hospices.  It's sad really, like a Jane Austen younger sister whose prettier older siblings get all the attention.  I like living here because while we are close to beautiful dramatic landscapes like the Jura or the  Morvan for recreation, we also have daily TGV connections to Paris and Nice. Only an hour drive away is the Lyon airport with connections to Amsterdam, and Geneva is a 2 hour drive.  The nearest ocean is a bit further :-).

            Try to be a locavore, try partial vegetarianism, follow a modified paleo-mediterranean-diet, eat a little of everything, avoid palm oil and high fructose corn syrup, use fresh, varied ingredients, try new things!  Those are a few of my guiding principles for diet. I have strong opinions about food and wine, but I realize we live in the real world and must adapt. I love animals, but I like an occasional steak and I don't think I could forego fish or poultry permanently. . . and I don't want to be dogmatic.  Vegetarianism is better for our planet, but meat has a rich history in cooking and culture.

I love Burgundy wines, especially the lesser-known more reasonably priced ones.  My favorite white wine is Pouilly-Fuissé, grown under the Roche de Solutré south of Macon.  My favorite red wine is Jean-Yves Devevey's Beaune 1er Cru Pertuisots.

            Above all, I try to remember how lucky I am and maintain a sense of perspective. . . my ancestors in Denmark, Germany, Holland or Ireland did not have access to such a variety of high quality foods and beverages.