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Hey Jak!

Manchester N.H.
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Hey Jak!

Greetings from New Hampshire, where the flowering crabapple trees are in full bloom.

Maybe you can answer this question. Do you know why cafe au lait is served in bowls? I'm assuming it's done that way in France as well? Mu sister and I had a funny experience in the Vieux Port, when we were served 2 bowls. We had never seen this before, and didn't quite know what to do. It seemed obvious to just pick it up and drink it, but what if...just what if it was the custom to drink it with your spoon? Either way, if we did the wrong thing we would look like real nerds. This got us into a fit of laughing, and I mean the kind of laughing where you can't breathe. We were really gettting silly, and it was a day I'll never forget. Anyway...she would also like me to buy her some nice bowls while I am shopping. I prefer to buy from local artisans, as they work so hard, and I want something that will be unique. Maybe you can kill 2 birds with one stone, and give me the history of "the bowl" and perhaps an idea of how to find a good local artist. I found your food tips very interesting also, and FOR SURE I'm going to the place where they serve the fresh fruit drinks.OMG,I love that stuff!! Happy spring...Nancy (aka: Lilac Lucy).

Montreal, Canada
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for Quebec, Montreal, Quebec City, Mont Tremblant, Miami, Miami Beach
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1. Re: Hey Jak!

Just to let you know that the cafe au lait bowls are a fairly new thing in Montreal (as is cafe au lait actually).

The espresso machines were popular in our Italian cafe for a very long time but they don't serve caffe latte in bowls.

The custom was brought in Montreal with French Immigrants that arrived after the war but it was solely a family affair (that's how I was introduced to it) During the day the French will drink only small and very strong cups (we could say shots) of coffee but for breakfast they consume a large amount of this milky concoction, more than would fit in a cup (and mugs were not invented) since the whole breakfast wil be composed only of a few croissants or brioches plus the ubiquious bowl (that will be filled with hot chocolate for the youngsters). In fact the bowls will be used once more during the day: for the "collation" that every French kid get after coming back to school and that include again hot chocolate. There is a celebrated vintage poster that you might have seen of a little girl, viewed in profile and drinking religiously her chocolate from the ubiquious bowl.

The handling by childres might actually explain the origin of this custom.

Back in Montreal, it was when French cafes and pastry shops started to sprout around, in the early 70's that the custom spread. But even nowadays it is more of a cafe thing and, except for foodies, very few people have them at home. Anyway most of the time we don't drink cafe au lait in the morning but the regular American java.

Manchester N.H.
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2. Re: Hey Jak!

Hi Rickb,

Thanks so much. That was very interesting. My grandmother used to serve us cafe au lait as kids (with lots of sugar). She was from Quebec, but not sure exactly where.She didn't have any bowls, but we thought it was such a treat. I like a nice bowl of it when visiting, but I usually order it in the afternoon (easier on the tummy). However, I'm a complete addict and must have stong java in the morning. (Oh I'm just a slave to my dark master) :-)........I will still be looking for bowls to buy for decoration. It's really not the type of thing I would do at home either ( for spilling reasons). I'm a "regular" at my local Starbucks, and joke with one of the guys there. He asks me how many shots I want, and I tell him, "Buddy, you set 'em up, and I'll knock 'em back"! I'll be up there in 2 weeks, and can't wait.

Thanks again, Mon ami.

Montreal
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3. Re: Hey Jak!

Hey Nancy;

Thanks for giving me so much importance that I don't deserve I was only discussing with DianeCu, who shares a common interest with me.

rickb has already given you some very useful information about the cafe au lait bowls. I won't be able to add much to it, as I am not a coffee fan, actually coffee doesn't suit me or my stomach doesnt agree with it. But, the origins of coffee itself are more than a 1000 years old and it is amazing to know how coffee was discovered and how the coffee culture evolved from Arabia (Yemen) although some say it started from Ethiopia when they discovered the goats getting hyper-active after eating the leaves.... Arabs call it Qah'va and from there it went to India, Turkey and to the rest of the world. There are some amazingly interesting stories and also the benefits and risks of drinking coffee, OMG I don't want to get into it.

Like you, myself, I am a collector of bowls but not cafe au lait bowls, and whenever I travel, I buy a few antique bowls from different countries. Like, hand carved silver bowls from India and Jade bowls from China, wall nut wooden bowls from Kashmir India and also some African and Indonesian origin. Even in Montreal from an antique dealer I bought some stone-ware bowls for serving nuts and munchies.

But, my fav. are the silver bowls. They are traditionally used for drinking water from it and they are regularly polished and were kept in the kitchen area in those countries just like we keep our day to day drinking glasses in the cupboards. And drinking water was stored in clay ptichers and some of bowls were used as a lid cover for the pitchers.

You know before the refrigerator days even today in some remote areas in the sub-continent, storing of drinking water was in hand made clay pitchers, which are porus and air passes through it. For decorative purposes the pitchers are covered with cotton lace and the other reason was to keep the water cool. Everytime someone drinks water from the pitcher, they used to pour water over the cotton lace to keep it wet. Early morning the dew also create a cool soothing effect, amazaing isn't it?

And you know what? Eggs were stored in a drum full of lime paste and the temperature remains surprisingly cool, otherwise during summer time where the temp. goes close to +48C eggs used to get rotten in two to three days whereas, this method could keep them fresh for 15-20 days. I have seen this very recently in one of the remote villages.

Anyways, good luck to you in getting those bowls and may be you can find one in Old Montreal. For sure I have seen a shop in the Old Quebec City last August and the guy was telling me that these are hand painted bowls by a local artist, I can't remember the name of the shop, but it is not a long street and you can find it.

Montreal, Canada
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for Quebec, Montreal, Quebec City, Mont Tremblant, Miami, Miami Beach
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4. Re: Hey Jak!

While visiting Montreal, have a look at the Arthur Quentin Store on Saint-Denis street, the motherlode of nice French cooking material...

Manchester N.H.
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5. Re: Hey Jak!

Bonjour to Jak+Rickb,

Thanks so much for all the interesting info.I'm counting the days till my trip,and will be wearing my "shoppin shoes".

Jak, I really enjoy your stories about your travels.

My Dad served in Burma during WWII, and brought back some sterling tea spoons with wild animals carved on the ends.Amazing craftsmanship. He had some wild stories about that time in his life! He also brought my mum an enormous topaz, which had a million facets, and my sister and I used to use it as a prism, to look at the sun. Kids will be kids, and anyway, we took it to the playground for "show and tell" and lost it. that was not a real good day for the Nanster! But I digress...I really do appreciate your help, and now you have given me an excuse to see Quebec City. I understand it's very beautiful, but not as cosmopolitan as Montreal. This is also "off the subject",but I was reading about that amazing Hetel in Dubai. Oh my goodness, have you been there? I will book a room, as soon as I marry a prince. Again, merci to both of you gents!!

ps. Jak, your comment about the Chinese chicken feet was too funny.read that last nite before leaving work, and trust me..I needed the laff!

Montreal
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6. Re: Hey Jak!

Burma Teak and Burma Rubies are reportedly the best in the world. I saw a pair of Burmese Rubies at Ruby Jewellers in Dubai and that is a few years ago and they were extremely beautiful and expensive. Yeah, I can tell you a lot about Dubai. But, life in Dubai is so artificial that I like Montreal more than that Oasis which is filthy rich.