Sunday, June 12, 2011

Basic beverages

That bit in the Bible about man not living by bread alone is fair enough, although it denigrates indirectly, to my mind, the fabulous qualities of good bread, evoked recently in my article entitled Our daily bread [display]. Besides, I've always been a little surprised that the Bible didn't get around to stating firmly that man cannot live by water alone... which would have been a friendly gesture from the Almighty in favor of marvelous beverages of all kinds.

If God were to put me back on Earth for a second existence (one never knows what might take place in the wake of the much talked-about Rapture… which unfortunately never seems to take place at all), I would hope to be able to retain my hard-earned French passport, because I've grown accustomed to Europe, and I wouldn't be too keen about returning to the relatively impoverished cultural and societal infrastructure of Australia. In other words, I would gladly spend my second life right here in God's own Mediterranean country, France, but maybe a little further south than Choranche, in a landscape where my old roses (which seem to be quite happy in my care at Gamone) would be accompanied by olive trees and prolific grape vines. I've often said that, in this second life, I would be tempted to work professionally in genetics, since I persist in believing that it's one of the most exciting sciences that exist. But I would still like to remain well-versed in computing, and I would continue to purchase from Amazon (whose business model extends up towards eternity) all the latest books on cosmology and quantum physics.

The basic beverages referred to in my title are tea, coffee, wine and beer. I would never think of claiming, of course, that this list of beverages is in any way universal. There are individuals who would replace tea by whisky or brandy, and many Americans would no doubt prefer to include Coke or Pepsi rather than wine. As for our gracious queen (who has just turned 85), she apparently prefers gin to Guinness.

I already have professional plans for my second life (over and above my research work in genetics and my constant activities in computing). I would like to set up a pub brewery in southwest France, in a fairytale place such as Carcassonne where the men play rugby and the women cook cassoulet: one of my favorite dishes [display].

This idea of making small quantities of beer in a so-called microbrewery first attracted me in 1987 when I was living out in Fremantle, where there's a nice pub brewery called the Sail and Anchor. In Sydney, there's a celebrated microbrewery at the Lord Nelson, which is said to be the oldest pub in the land. The metal equipment (mixture of copper and stainless steel) is beautiful, the aroma of brewing beer is fabulous, and I've always imagined that the very idea of transforming water and malt into beer is magic. (There used to be a great brewery in my home town of Grafton.)

The idea came back to me a fortnight ago at the People bistrot in St-Jean-en-Royans, at the regular Tuesday afternoon get-together of a small group of British expatriates who mingle there with French friends who want to brush up their English. There was an Australian visitor who told me that his job consisted of distributing German equipment to microbreweries throughout Australia.

Now, maybe you shouldn't take me too seriously when I talk about brewing beer in a medieval city of rugby and cassoulet, because strange ideas creep up on me constantly. Christine could tell you, for example, that I once suggested, during a visit to the Flemish city of Bruges, that it would be lovely if our daughter (who was then a baby) might have an opportunity of learning how to make lace. I hasten to add that Emmanuelle has never pursued this fine idea, nor has she ever thought about becoming a nun (as my mother-in-law once suggested, jokingly, to tease me).

Meanwhile, I decided to improve my production of another of the basic beverages: coffee. As a change from consuming standard supermarket stuff, I finally decided to look around for a place where they roast top-quality coffee beans. In fact, if you want a certain choice of beans that have been roasted only a few weeks prior to your purchase, well there aren't too many such places around. The Internet pointed me to an industrial site named Pivard, to the south of Valence. When I got there, I discovered a vast factory with chimneys belching marvelously-aromatic fumes. Fortunately, they have a delightful boutique in the heart of Valence, with a wide choice of the world's best beans. I purchased a packet of freshly-roasted beans of one of the most illustrious coffees in the world: Ethiopian Yrgacheffe. Back home, I used the ultra-fine setting on my KitchenAid burr grinder, to obtain espresso-grade ground coffee.

This morning, I took advantage of the sunny weather to take my DeLonghi machine outside and give it a thorough cleaning, both inside and outside.

Then I brewed my first Yrgacheffe.

The lady at the Pivard boutique in Valence had told me: "If your grinding and brewing are in perfect harmony, the surface of your espresso must be covered in froth. If there's no froth, then something's wrong. Then, of course, you'll judge the result by tasting it." As you can see, there was lots of froth. And I assure you that the taste was great. My Yrgacheffe espresso was absolutely perfect.

No comments:

Post a Comment