Thursday, December 10, 2009

012.Bonne Maman Chestnut Spread

Produced in Biars-sur-Cere, France
Distributed by American Marketing Team, Bloomfield, New Jersey
Claim: none
Ingredients: sugar, chestnut puree, cane sugar, vanilla.
$2.41 ("clearance" price) for 13 ounces

Biars is a village in the Lot region of southwest France. It's apparently something of a ville de confitures - a jam town. Bonne Maman, in spite of its rustic packaging, is an internationally famous preserve. American Marketing Team is the same group who bring us the Jules Destrooper biscuits.

I can't remember where I got my first taste of creme de maron. Some patisserie somewhere, lathered onto a croissant or something. I do recall our first encounter with chestnuts: Toulouse, New Year's Eve, in the place du Capitole, watching dark, handsome gents - their black curls drifting out from under their black, Gascon berets - roast whole chestnuts over steel barrels banked with hot coals. The smell was caustic, invigorating, of an ancient regime.

Chestnut spread is not jam. More like apple butter, a bit grainy and not too terribly sweet. It has a nuttiness that's invaded by some other nuance - something perfumed, maybe. It's hard to peg. But it tastes wonderful on toast.

011.Verde Valle Frijo Mayocoba Peruano

Claim: “Mexico’s #1 Brand of Beans”

Ingredients: mayocoba beans

99 cents for 1 pound

I stopped by Las Americas last Friday after work to pick up some carnitas to go. The thick chunks of pork shoulder, poached gently in a vat of their own fat, remind me of the duck confit of southwest France. It is a flavor I crave, often with a vengeance.

While there, I did a little shopping. (Las Americas is also a grocer.) It's enormous fun for me, strolling the aisles in search of nothing, led by a curiosity and a vague sense of recognition. I bought some McCormick strawberry ("Fresa") jam, some Guerrero tostadas - fried, whole tortillas, stacked in cellophane - a jug of Jumex mango nectar for the lads and a one-pound bag of green beans.

Not those green beans - whole, dried shell beans, similar in shape to pintos but clearly green-yellow in color, even through the murky package under dim light. This is the kind of stuff that drives the Aisles Project. What could these oddly-colored beans be? Aren't beans reddish brown, black or white?

I took them home and got them soaking, then went online and found a story that told not only of the bean's South American ancestry, but also of a tidy little turf war being waged in the name of the mayocoba. Here 'tis.