In Clarence's Time - what's to eat in the mountains?

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

boursouzes 672x372Helen Blanc-Francard writes...An extremely well researched, exhaustive and interesting paper entitled 'Les Plantes Alimentaires de la Vallee de La Roya’ (click here to download it) by Danielle Mousset was published in 1983. It gives us a real insight into exactly what Clarence, his household staff and any visiting guests would have eaten on a daily basis at Casa Fontanalba. Traditional recipes, perhaps some of the dishes prepared by the Pollinis, are listed and identified too are all the cultivated plants, herbs and fruits, the wild plants, berries and mushrooms that were growing in the countryside around the house. Many ingredients were gathered to be eaten fresh or to be dried, preserved or pickled and added to soups, salads or stews at different seasons of the year. There are chapters about the cultivation methods and seasons for the vegetables and fruit trees specific to the locality, the gardening tools and even the cooking utensils that were used. An excellent bibliography offers a rich source for further research.

On the subject of food cultivation and preparation and to wind the clock back to the 12 year period Clarence was living in Casa Fontanalba (1906 - 1918) there are two collections in Tende of the locally made artefacts and objects dating from the beginning the century originating from the village houses, farms and rural properties around Val Casterino. They include the household and domestic utensils as well as the craft, agricultural and horticultural tools, implements and accoutrements of every sort that Clarence would have seen around him on a daily basis. Known as Les Musées d’Art Populaire the Collection Gabelli is a large collection that has been amassed by a collector over a period of 40 years. The address: 32 Rue Cotta, 06430 Tende. For opening times call (33) 0 4 93 04 69 05. The Collection Vada is a smaller collection of objects from rural life. The address: Place Lieutenant Kalck, 06430 Tende. For opening times call ( +33) 0 4 93 04 76 22 If visitors to Val Casterino actually want to sample some of the traditional alpine dishes that Clarence might have enjoyed there are several inns and restaurants close to Casa Fontanalba. These include: Le Chamois d’or,   Les Mélèzes , Auberge Val Castérino , Auberge Marie-Madeleine . Details can be found on .

The Auberge Val Casterino claims that Clarence stayed there whilst waiting for his house to be built. It has been run by the same family for three generations and they are still using locally sourced ingredients and recipes that have been handed down through the family. To give you ’the taste’ of a couple of topics in this paper here are some pages about the customary gathering of mushrooms and wild plants for culinary use.

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