There’s a casual coziness about my house and garden that bear witness to my love of the French Country style. My furnishings, all the way down to the kitchen sink canisters fits this motif, though I had no grand plan to make it so. French Country just says home to me. It always has.
Most of my furnishings are relatively new — purchased in the last twenty years or so — with a few antiques mixed in here and there. My favorite is the antique hutch I stumbled upon at a Paris flea market. I’d been looking for a piece like this for years but had given up hope of ever finding one. To run into this elusive piece while on a family vacation made for one unforgettable souvenir and story.
I’ve never regretted my impulse buy, though there was a point when it seemed the purchase wouldn’t happen; the shopkeeper didn’t accept credit cards and to complicate matters, she spoke only a few words of English while we spoke no French.
I learned real fast that our shopkeeper was not going to let a few little obstacles like language and finances get into her way of making a big sale. Before I knew it, she had rounded up three good friends who kept shops nearby; one had a credit card machine, another knew the ins and outs of exporting and still another spoke excellent English. Even now, I admire her ingenuity and her persistance in overcoming problems. And then there’s the memory of her wonderful friends, who went to such trouble on her behalf — they wanted the sale to close as much as she did –and after it was all over, everyone who played a part walked away happy.
All this industriousness and making light over troubles goes a long way toward explaining how the French don’t mind spending a couple of days in the kitchen cooking their wonderful French Country dish of Cassoulet; to say it’s a white bean stew cooked with chopped vegetables and meat (traditionally duck and pork) doesn’t do it justice. I’m lucky that my first taste of cassoulet came over a business dinner in Paris. I was so taken with the dish that I wanted to make it in my own kitchen as soon as I returned home; however, the desire soon passed with one glance at the recipe.
Today, as I was considering ways to use my leftover Navy Bean Soup, I remembered my Aunt Daisy’s simple recipe for a faux cassoulet. Pulled together in minutes — with a can of Grandma Brown’s Baked Beans and a little chopped onion, garlic, bacon and brown sugar — Aunt Daisy never called her dish cassoulet; it was just baked beans. Being of Canadian French descent, I imagine Aunt Daisy wouldn’t have presumed to confuse hers with the real deal.
Maybe someday I’ll make a real down-and-dirty-two-days-in-the-kitchen Cassoulet. But for me, it’s faux for now. From my life to yours.
Serves 4 as a side dish2 cups of cooked white beans (Great Northern or Navy Bean) or 1 can of beans (15 0z) 2 pieces of bacon, fried crisp and crumbled 1/2 cup onion chopped 1 Tbsp of olive oil 1 clove garlic minced 1 to 2 Tbsp of brown sugar (to taste)
Fry bacon. In a small skillet, saute onion over medium low heat in olive oil until soft and clear — about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. In a greased casserole dish, mix all ingredients. Bake 1 hour in a 350 oven.