Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Salade de Pommes de Terre aux Harengs

A little bit about this salad. It is a classic in the fast disappearing eating houses in France where a person can go and get a meal very cheaply. Now you really must search for the places where it is still something cheap. Sometimes you'll see it as an appetizer in a fixed menu that costs a lot of money, because they know that it holds nostalgic value.

There used to be places where you could and serve yourself a boiled egg from a bowl on the bar. It would cost something like fifteen cents if you didn't sit down. The last place I knew that did that in my neighborhood went down last summer.

The egg from the bar ritual was my lunch many times when I didn't have the cash for the luxury to be served a prepared meal, but needed energy to keep me going while I was out and about. The salad in the photo above, although it's a home and a rich style version, is also one of those dishes - often listed in a menu as the cheapest one, and a very satisfying one at that. It is a salad of warm potatoes, smoked herring, whatever herbs they might have, and oil.

When we arrived to Lyon I discovered smoked herring rather quickly, since we were in a in a state of poverty that goes beyond depressing and into bare survival. Although that state only lasted half a year at most, and at any time we might have broken down and reached out for help, we didn't. There are reasons that go to the root of a couple's strength why we stick together and make it through difficult times without help. Strong lines that unite us even now were formed at that time.

You could get a packet of smoked herring at the market for very little cash and that would be enough, with a few potatoes and oil, for dinner, along with whatever greens you mustered up. Then at the end of the week, if you had managed to put aside enough spare change, you could get something else. One of those harrowing weeks I saved for a much needed needle and thread through the judicious use of smoked herring. It goes well with eggs, potatoes, on toast, etc. We never got tired of herring and eating it now is comforting, somehow even more now that we have it only once in a while than it was even then. We can take how far we have come into consideration. Smoked herring is friendly, helping-hand kind of larder fare that reminds me of a time when fate dealt a difficult hand, and we managed to play it through.

Salade de Pommes de Terre aux Harengs

3 smoked herrings
4 potatoes
1/2 an onion
3 Tblsp. oil
1/2 tsp. pepper
capers (to taste)

Rinse the herrings to remove as much salt as you can. Soak them in milk if you have some on hand, which will cut the salt and smoke taste. Remove their skin, and slice them thin or in chunks, your preference. Slice the onion. Steam or boil a few potatoes to your liking, slice them, add the fish, the onions, the oil, and pepper. Sprinkle with capers if you are using them. Toss gently and serve while the potatoes are still warm.

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Blogger Lucy said...

Lucy, that looks INCREDIBLE.

Longing for summer weather. Sigh.

1:14 AM, August 23, 2007  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hello !

/*/ .../... It is a classic in the fast disappearing eating houses in France where a person can go and get a meal very cheaply. .../... /*/

It is a national catastrophe.

In Partis last year something like 250 establishments (cafés and restaurants) closed down. Chains are everywhere.

Amerloque extends his thanks for this recipe ! (smile)


11:28 AM, August 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to try this sometime. It's sad that the old ways are going. I also can relate to your story. Poor times carry memories and all not bad. Struggling alongside someone brings a certain closeness, right?

11:47 PM, August 23, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Once again you have created a thoughtful essay and an appetizing photo, Lucy.

Yes, the hard times we tough it out do create a strong and good bond. I recall times my husband and I lived on a very small amount of money every week, and ate lots of egg-salad or peanut butter sandwiches. I really cherish those times.

I agree with Amerloque. Too many chains in Paris!

3:15 AM, August 24, 2007  
Blogger Wendy Miller said...

I love the custom of being able to grab a hard boiled egg off the bar in cafes in France. How sad that may go by the wayside :( The salad sounds fabulous!

10:37 PM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger Helene said...

My dad being from the north, this is one of his favorite dishes to make us. Gorgeous!

4:22 AM, September 11, 2007  

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