The glorious classic gastronomical traditions of Brittany (the farthest region west of France) were transported to T5 of Wilson's School last Thursday as the entire French A level class and I attempted to recreate some popular traditional Breton dishes. Using the extensive range of ingredients Madame Bodinier had so graciously bestowed unto us, the class split into two teams and began our journeys into, quite gracelessly, trying to reproduce customary French food. It was not long before we realised just how unprepared we were for the challenge that awaited us. 


The first team, the one I found myself somewhat leading, was tasked with cooking the galettes. We began by staring in awe whilst watching Madame Bodinier’s excellent demonstration. She began by revealing a pancake-like item, sourced, as she never hesitated to remind us, from the depths of London Paddington following a lack of stock in any local stores. Already in awe, we became even more surprised when she placed said pancake-like item onto a frying pan and began constructing what seemed to be a savoury dish. Expertly, she lathered creme fraîche unto the base and topped it with what I can only assume to be the finest grated cheddar cheese. Next, she unloaded a barrage of fried mushrooms and ham onto the developing foundation of the galette before finally cracking an egg into the middle. After letting it cook for a while, she skilfully folded the edges of the galette inwards; it neatly contained all of the ingredients whilst elegantly exposing the egg in the middle. It was both pleasing to the eye and, from her own reactions, assumably delectable. The same would not be said for our own unsuccessful attempts.


Bewildered from what we had just seen, the team began preparing the ingredients. Dealing with a seemingly never-ending army of mushrooms was our first duty: a plenitude of mushrooms were ready to be washed, diced, and fried, and, surprisingly successfully, we completed this task and worked well as a team. From there, it was downhill. Perhaps the problem derived from the rest of the recipe having to be followed unattended and unescorted by my peers. Without the moral support of my team (as each person was to individually create their own galette), the monumentally intimidating frying pan was to be the bane of my existence. Up until the point where it was time to fold the galette, everything seemed to be conducted effortlessly and without hiccup. It was the folding of the ingredients that proved truly difficult - impossible even. After numerous attempts to imitate the prowess demonstrated by Madame Bodinier moments before, my galette completely collapsed inwards and the finished product did not even slightly resemble what had been displayed to us. I would say that this was the result of my own incompetence in cooking, although I was not alone in my misery as many other members of the team’s galettes suffered the same fate.

Arthur Wilson, a student on my team, remarked, "I just don't know how she made it look so easy! I cook at home often and my galette still looks nothing like it's meant to." 


Occasionally I would glance over to the workings of the other team and the result was severe disappointment. Whilst at least my group were somewhat successful for the majority of the cooking process, the other team did not share in our triumphs. They were making ‘crepes’ - in inverted commas simply because I would find it disrespectful to the original creators in thirteenth century Brittany to deem what they had thrown together an authentic crêpe. Their batter had lumps of unadulterated butter and flour within it and the resulting crêpes were severely undercooked and far too thick. Their mixture was doomed from the offset and the scraps they were producing were laughable. Our own team did indeed chuckle at their misfortunes whilst enjoying our own, admittedly quite disfigured and collapsed, galettes. To put the icing on the cake, or the sugar on the crêpes in this context, the ridiculousness was augmented as their team attempted to douse the raw mixture on a plate in lemon juice and cinnamon. 


Despite us not doing the Breton founders who created these assumably delightful sweet and savoury dishes justice, the overall experience was unforgettable. The sensational teamwork displayed from the galette side of the cookery room up until the final step of the procedure did not go unnoticed with many designated crêpe making dissenters seeking refuge in our ranks. It was definitely the best way to spend my Thursday lunchtime and I eagerly await the next opportunity to perhaps better prove my adroitness in cooking and further assimilate the notion of French heritage through gastronomy and cuisine as we originally set out to do.