Veggie Pride

Provence Graffiti 

I have never written a blog about a radish. Never. Not once. It hasn't been a subject worthy of words typed onto a page.

Until today.

Let us now praise these lovely radishes
I traveled to Provence in the south of France for a business conference. We stayed about 45 minutes from Marseilles in a lovely hotel and conference center with beautiful views of the sea and local vistas.  The town was Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer. At the first meal, we had a buffet filled with all of the typical charcuterie that I don’t eat and several other foods that when described sound like something, something, French word, beef, entrecote, meat, meat, something, sauce, meat, something French word with something else.

Then I stumbled upon the vegetable and salad section of the buffet. I spied these elongated radishes that I have only heard about from my wife who lived in the south of France (Toulon) for about a year during a year abroad. Three things struck me: the magnificence of the pink coral color, the fragrance of the elongated natural root and the distinctive peppery bite of the radish. This edible root vegetable is a member of the  Brassicaceae family. Radishes are rich in 
ascorbic acidfolic acid, and potassium. They are a good source of vitamin B6riboflavinmagnesiumcopper, and calcium. One cup of sliced red radish bulbs provides approximately 20 calories, largely from carbohydrates.

Something about this taste was simultaneously earthy and elegant. My veggie pride was showing.

A Rose by any other name 
Along this same pink theme was the rose wine. If you don’t know or like rose, you should buy wines from the Provence region to begin your tasting journey. I had the pleasure of enjoying and tasting dozens of roses from this region. (I work in the wine industry and so I am fortunate to have these types of tasting opportunities).  Unlike the pink sweet and cloying roses we find in the U.S. in many grocery and retail stores, French roses are something special.  A more delicate fruit flavor with a soft pink tinge that comes from the skin of the grapes. I enjoyed hints of watermelon, apricot and a certain balanced acid that delivers a wonderful wine experience. These were dry, crisp and delightful. I also got to taste roses from several other parts of the world as the guests at our conference all brought wines to sample. But the roses of this region really were a perfect complement to the lighter vegetarian fare I ate at many of the meals. I also got a chance to taste roses from seven or eight other countries in Europe and it was a real treat. (Marketing idea: Instead of an ice cream truck, have a rose wine truck that turns up in your neighborhood at nighttime for tastings). 

French salad with fresh herbs and sprout shreds
While others consumed beef in sauce with butter, fat and more extra fat and even double extra fat, I ate my veggies and felt perfectly happy.  Our gala dinner was lamb. When I informed my daughter Fanny (via text), she immediately quote My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the Aunt, upon learning that her niece’s boyfriend doesn’t eat meat, tells them, he don’t eat meat, OK, I’ll make him lamb”.

With the pink radish wonders were beautiful heirloom tomatoes dressed in a light and fruity olive oil. Next to them were four types of thin shreds of sprouts that were both light and also spicy. All of these veggies were cuddling up to daikon (a white radish) and grated fennel. I do eat fish and chicken so my veggie pride isn’t radical. But I can’t recall enjoying vegetables with such relish. 

Seeing the world through rose wine colored glasses
There must be the something in the earth or the air in France that brings out my roots. Cheers to Provencal radishes and rose wines. 

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