Pulsating Year For Lentil Lovers

Some more misspelt ramblings from deepest France

Here is some rip roaring news – the UN has declared 2016 as the « International Year of Pulses. »

Also known as « grain légumes », pulses are a group of 12 crops that includes dry peas, chickpeas, lentils and beans – yes !, this year will be full of beans. Certainly a rip roaring year.

Pulses are good for you, packed full of proteins, though they can have indesirable side effects, but the effects of flatulence are far outweighed by the nutritional and environmental benefits of the humble pulse. So, your main source of protein is meat – nothing like a big thick juicy slab of Charolais beef to get those tastebuds tingling. There is of course the whole contentious issue if raising cattle. How many hectares of rain forest were destroeyd for pasture land, so that, when alive, the steak on your plate had room to roam and graze ? How much water did it take ? Then there is the whole issue of slaughtering the beasts. No slaughter can be humane. Imagine we if were a society of cannibals. Would we be raising an slaughtering humans for human consumption ?

Compared to cattle, Pulse crops make good enviromental sensé. They are one of the most sustainable crops a farmer can grow. It takes just 43 gallons of water to produce one pound of pulses. They also contribute to soil quality by fixing nitrogen in the soil.

Pulses are hassle to cook though. Lentils for dinner ? This is not a snap décision. Proper « gritty » lentils have to be washed and then soaked for hours before cooking.

Buy tinned lentils ! (I can hear pulse purists screaming as I write.)

Thank heavens for the easy-to-cook, ready sorted, non gritty lentils sold in easy-to-open packets. Measure out a dose of lentils, shove them in a pot in 3 to 4 times their volume of water, pop in a stock cube (or some real meat or veg stock if you have any tp hand) and then cook gently for 25 to 30 minutes. No, this is not some traditional, ancestral French way of cooking lentils, I am just following the cooking instructions on the side of the packet.

I am a lentil lover. Lentils are wholesome, nourishing « comfort food ». What can be better on a cold dark night in deepest winter than a piping hot bowl of lentil broth ? With every spoonful comes that warm inner glow of goodness.

My first lentil soup memory is French – In France, the lentil has been a gastronomic staple for years – I suppose in the UK it is still considered as a food for bespectacled, goofy tooth vegetarian types – hippy food. – It is 1996, I am in Paris with friends looking for somewhere cheap, but « authentic » for our evening meal. We end up in the 6eme arrondissment, near the Odeon métro station in a restaurant called « le Polydor. » It is certainly authentic, the walls are that unmistakable mustard nicotene yellow colour – years of béret coiffed workers and impecunnious students puffing away on Gitanes and Gauloises until their lungs were only fit for coal ; the furniture is traditional « inter-war » bistrot. Nowadays, this place, minus the nicotene paint job, would be highly fashionable Boho

On the menu (what we can afford on the menu) – Lentil Soup – I’ve never had lentils, but my friends convince me –« If you like potatos you’ll like lentils » – Out saunters the overweight « patronne », half-smoked, unlit ,Gauloise cigarette end miraculously adheering to her lower lip, she is clutching a huge métal saucepan of steaming lentil soup. The saucepan is all dark, dried food stains on the outside and age-old burn marks on the bottom (the « patronne » is a bit the same ) – this is one of those place where the pots never have the time to get washed, they are on the boil the whole time, no rest for the pots, the food must be good – you know what they say about the best food from the dirtiest kitchens. La Patronne grunts the briefest on « Bonjours » in a traditional Parisian twang, then she slops out vast ladles full of lentil soup into our bowls. « Slosh and slop, slosh and slop » – lentil soup spattering everywhere, and then we taste – WOOOOOOOOOW !! – and that was how I became a lentil lover.


And now, I live in that historic rural region of deepest France, Le Berry, and I am a happy man, because apart from the wine and the Charolais, in the Berry, we’ve got lentils – green lentils – and we produce thousands of tons of the things every year and our lentils are a part of national gastronomic heritage. Like fine wines and cheese, the green lentil of the Berry has an AOC – Appelation d’Origine Contrôlé – my local lentils are as much a part of French cultural héritage as the Châteaux of the Loire. The AOC means that lentils are subject to strict production norms and stringent quaility controls.

There are many « fin-gourmets », who are fond of the green lentil, however there is one « band of brothers » who are obsessive.

Meet the « Confrérie des Fins Mangeux d’Lentilles Vertes du Berry » littéral translation The Brotherhood of Berry Green Lentil Eaters or perhaps a more fitting English version might be « The Brotherhood of the Green Lentil. » More than excues for getting together to eat and drink, this band and brothers (and sisters) are very serious about their lentils, they even have an annual lentil festival every second weekend in September. One of their main objectibes is make the Green Lentils of the Berry, world famous. I think I might just try and get in contact with them for for lentil adventures.

For your personal lentil delight, here is a spot of local green lentil info



And I am off for my dinner. Not lentils but steak and french fries.