Tag Archives: France

Shocking Label in Heart-Land of France

We need food labels.

Here is a label that surprised me.  “PRODUIT TRAITE” it says on these yummy looking donut peaches, an heirloom variety commonly found in Europe.  I know what “PRODUIT” means (product).  But what did ‘TRAITE’ mean?

I was in Central France in the Loire Valley and saw this at a regular run of the mill supermarket “Super U” (which is a well know chain, not known for health foods or organic foods.  The organic section was rather disappointing: bananas, potatoes and apples).  I went to ask someone what this label meant.  A manager at the store explained that PRODUIT “TRAITE” pronounced TREH-TAY means that the food is sprayed with harmful pesticides and we should not eat the skin of these fruits and veggies.  And/or wash them very carefully before eating.

Wow.

Talk about a country informing it’s citizens, a store letting customers know that there are toxins in what looked like beautiful fresh ripe fruit.  We can’t see them, taste them or smell them.  If they’re not labelled, how else can we know how they are grown?

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With pesticide use now at record highs, we should have the right to know what toxins we’re ingesting in N. America.  GMOs are sprayed, positively doused with pesticides.  That is how they are grown.  GMO and Conventional farming are heavily sprayed with toxins that pollute the water and the soil and kill the bees.  If around 90 percent of N.American Wheat, Soy, Sugar, Soy and Corn are treated with toxic, harmful pesticides…. Can you imagine what kind of labelling must be in place to protect us and our defenceless children?

I can imagine some upper level decision maker in the Super U store saying, “Traite?  Eet ees treated wiz round up and ozzer pesticides?    Zat is legal.  Oui. But zat ees not right.  Hi dont want my cheeldren to eat zat.  My mozzer should not eat zat eizer. Eef some body wants to eat zat, zey must be told.  Zut alors.”

Let’s take the best practises we can find worldwide and apply them to better ourselves and our planet.

What more can I say but: Vive la France!

Cracked but beautiful

“Old things are always in good repute, present things in disfavor.”

– Tacitus

In France, I was excited to see this cracked old historical metal plate on an ancient wall in the town of Chenonceau.  It was close to the ground on a public street’.  Maybe about a foot tall.  There was no signage or indication it was anything special.  Me, however, I was welling up with enthusiasm.  I felt like I found a treasure on the sidewalk!  If this was in Canada surely a museum would build up around this.  Cracked and rusty, nonetheless, it was a little piece of magic for me.  I welled up with questions.  How many years has it been affixed to the wall?  How many tourists and locals have walked past it unawares?  What does it symbolize?  Who put it there so close to the ground?  Why isn’t it in a museum?

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This embodies what I love about Europeans.  They value what is beautiful.  In becoming old, an object becomes even more valuable and precious, impossible to replace, destined to crumble, but honored just the same.

On Mange Bien a Paris

“There is no Sincerer Love than the love of food.”

– George Bernard Shaw

Below are images from a typical summertime family lunch in Paris.  Fresh almonds, fresh figs, Chanterelle or Girole mushrooms, ratatouille, the sweetest juiciest melons ever, salade de tomate et mozzarelle, and sweet -not spicy – radish.

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The French have a wonderful cuisine, due, in large part, to regional specialities.  Just like accents change every 20 or so kilometers, so does the food.  Like wine, as the terroir changes, so do the subtleties of flavor.   For everything.  Each town has at least one speciality cheese made only in that town, by a farmer or producer who is damn proud of his cheese.  And he has the right to be. Ben Oui! It’s the pride in diversity, the celebrated differences which make France a culinary haven.  Vive les diferences!  Vive la France!

On this trip, I learned about a group in France called “Les Faucheurs de OGM”.  The GMO harvesters.  The faux is a scythe.  The faucheurs are activists/eco-terrorists who clandestinely organize to destroy GMO crops.  This happened in the United States for the first time this Spring.  This event didn’t hit mainstream media, so you may not have heard about this.  I do not condone eco-terrorism.  However, the misguided mono-crop culture that GMOs embody is the absolute opposite of a healthy, thriving ecosystem.   GMOs are the death of diversity.  GMOs are grown with huge amounts of pesticides and herbicides which destroy life, poison the water, poison us, and deplete the soils.

The French have much to protect.

So do we all.

La Savonnerie du Zebre

When People used to wash Once a week, Savon De Marseilles was perfect.  It had a high pH and it sloughed off the dead skin beautifully.  Now people wash 2-3 times a day and our skin needs good tender low-pH soap that Biodegrades.

– Charles Chesneau, owner of La Savonnierie du Zebre, paraphrased

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This was part of a discussion we entered into at the Savonnerie du Zebre http://www.la-savonnerie-du-zebre in France, near the Azay-le-Rideau chateaux in the Loire Valley.  We were visiting the amazing castle, a fine example of Italian-inspired French Renaissance architecture.  Leonardo Da Vinci, who set up at nearby Amboise had a little something to do with this.  We were about to leave for the famed Amboise to see the Maestro’s home itself, when I espied a soap store by the parking lot.

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 I remembered that our B and B didn’t have proper soap but only a liquid gel (which I don’t like).  I knew that I had many reasons for not liking the average liquid soap.  I was reminded by this ingredient list below.  Below is a list of ingredients in the average liquid soap.  Better if you can read French.  If you can’t, don’t worry I won’t translate it for you.  The take home message is that the average liquid soap is water and dubious synthetic chemicals that  soften your skin and mostly do not biodegrade.

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What a great topic to blog about!  I have an excellent post in the works about eco-friendly cleaning products.  And I won’t go deep into the scawy ingredients in liquid soap but rather will highlight what Charles is doing with his Little Soap Factory.  In for such a treat and informative discussion, we stayed in the shop for over an hour and left Amboise and Leonardo da Vinci for another trip.  Leonardo changed the world in myriad ways.  But Charles is doing it one little hand-made bar of soap at a time.

Charles hand-makes and stamps each soap.  The soaps are made with fair-trade and organic shea butter, third-party certified by EcoCert. The soap itself comes out of what looks like a pasta machine in an oblong shape which is then cut with this cutter below.

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Unlike liquid soaps which are generally water and detergents that do not biodegrade, Charles was proud to pronounce that his soaps are 97% biodegrable.  He has rainbows of colours, and many dozens of different flavors, from Mango to Musk.

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The Savonnerie de Zebre’s perfumes are made in Grasse, France the world’s most notable perfume region.  The dyes are natural.  Charles then stamps each soap himself with a wooden stamp.  I wish I could show you the handsomeness of the maker himself.  He has thick, long brown hair (which he ties up) and deep penetrating eyes.  I wanted to photograph Charles’ but he said, “Only the hands”.  When we first entered his shop, I asked his permission to take photos and he agreed.  Later I saw the “Do Not Take photos” symbol displayed copiously around the shop.

So Charles was quite generous.  But after leaving, I metaphorically stung my eyes with savon de Marseilles.  As a soap maker, le beau Charles didn’t want to be photographed.  But as a subject for the Style-Diet Shot, he might be been persuaded….

Okay. Next trip to France: Leonardo, Amboise and Charles.

What is a Vannier?

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

Villaines-Les-Rochers is a little town in the middle of France where people traditionally live in  houses carved in the rocky hills.  These caves naturally maintain a humidity level which is ideal for basket- weaving.  Reeds from the nearby rivers are cultivated for the artisan tradition called “la Vannerie.”  Vanniers are people who are keeping the tradition alive in France.  What caught my eye when we went to the largest Vannier cooperative was that Hermes used the Vanniers from Villaines-les-Rochers to make a reed bag for their Haute Couture Collection.  It looks like  a Birkin.  However, it would probably be much lighter than those heavy iconic leather bags.

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This is a ginormous basket from outside the cooperative:

20130704-185504.jpg Here is a Vannier a work.

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Here is another Vannier.

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Below are a random sample of objects for sale at the Cooperative.

Sadly they didn’t have the Herme’s bag.

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When confronted with a shopping choice, think about the work that goes into making an object.  Consider whether it is biodegradable, safe for you.  Sustainably made.  Question which hands laboured to make it.  How were those hands treated? Query yourself as to what this supports.  Dig deep, ask questions.  Then buy to last, buy quality.

Make every dollar count.