Feature: French flavour with Vanessa Couchman

Historical fiction with a French flavour (1)

Morning all! Today, I’m delighted to welcome back to the blog Vanessa Couchman, to tell us about something very close to my heart – food! Over to you Vanessa!

Thank you for inviting me to your Sunday Sojourn, Jennifer. It’s always a pleasure to be here.

Food in fiction

The Corsican Widow Cover MEDIUM WEB

The Corsican Widow, released recently, is my latest novel in the Tales of Corsica series. It’s set on the Mediterranean island of Corsica and in Marseilles during the mid/late 18th century. This was a time of great turbulence for Corsica, which was owned then by the city state of Genoa. The Corsicans struggled for independence and set up their own republic, but this was doomed to failure when the Genoese sold the island to the French in 1768.

I needed to do a lot of background research to find out how Corsican people lived during that period. What sort of houses did they live in, how did they dress, what social customs did they observe – and what did they eat?

Getting my characters to eat potatoes would have been a major gaffe! Although they were introduced to the island during the 18th century, it took a while for them to catch on. It’s unlikely that my heroine, Valeria, a young woman brought up in a simple north Corsican village, would have eaten spuds.

During the Corsican revolutions, the Genoese imposed a naval blockade to grind down resistance. This made it very difficult for essential supplies to reach the island. Corsican people grew their own food, but were reliant on imports of grain and other staples. The blockade led to considerable hardship and famine, but somehow the doughty Corsicans kept going.

ChestnutsThey used chestnuts as a staple food. Chestnut trees were introduced to the island by the Genoese and still thickly clothe the slopes. Chestnuts were used to make bread and a kind of polenta. Corsicans also made a soup with them, or simply roasted them. Reacting to the naval blockade, the leader of the Corsican republic, Pasquale Paoli, said, “As long as we have chestnuts, we’ll have bread.” I couldn’t help quoting this in my novel!

Corsicans also reared pigs, sheep and goats, there being very few cows on the island. In the winter months, they made a soft ewe’s-milk cheese called brocciu, which is similar to Italian ricotta, but contains no lactose. Today, this is one of the foodie emblems of Corsica and is used in many dishes from first courses to desserts. I include a recipe for omelette au brocciu below.

Brocciu cheese, Wikimedia commonsIngredients (serves 4)

8 eggs

½ glass milk

500g brocciu (or soft goat’s or ewe’s milk cheese)

Sprig of fresh mint

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Beat eggs with milk. Add salt and pepper. Snip mint leaves finely with scissors. Add cheese and mint to the egg mixture and beat well.
  • Heat olive oil in a frying pan until smoking hot. Add mixture and allow to set on one side. Turn over until the other side is set. The omelette should be firm.
  • Serve with green salad with a walnut oil dressing and plenty of crusty bread.


About Vanessa

Vanessa Couchman

Vanessa Couchman is a novelist, short story author and freelance writer and has lived in southwest France since 1997. She is fascinated by Corsican and French history and culture. Vanessa has published two novels in the Tales of Corsica series, The House at Zaronza and The Corsican Widow, and plans further Corsica novels as well as historical novels based in France. Her short stories have won and been placed in creative writing competitions and published in anthologies.



Corsican Widow buy link http://mybook.to/CorsicanWidow

You can catch up with Vanessa online in the following places:

Website: https://vanessacouchmanwriter.com

Twitter: @Vanessinfrance

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/vanessacouchman.author/

Amazon author page: http://author.to/VanessaCouchman




2 thoughts on “Feature: French flavour with Vanessa Couchman

  1. Reblogged this on Vanessa Couchman and commented:
    Did 18th-century Corsicans eat potatoes? Fellow Ocelot Press author Jennifer C. Wilson kindly invited me to her Sunday Sojourn slot today, in which I talk about food in fiction and how I found out what Corsicans did eat, for my latest novel.

    Liked by 1 person

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