Pig & Pepper

- The Cook, column editor

(Wow! Wow! Wow!)

Enfant garni: the Alsatian delicacies of Tomi Ungerer

by The Cook

As the Old Year sweeps snowingly into the New, the cook is thinking longingly of France, and a cold December day in Strasbourg, when she and Mr. Cook stood in a seemingly endless queue in order to meet with author/illustrator Tomi Ungerer, who had then just released his latest picture book, Flix, as well as Mon Alsace (text by Paul Boeglin).

Pig and Pepper readers may not know of Ungerer's Alsatian roots. Alsace, that region swapped back and forth between Germany and France, is neither German, nor French, but thoroughly.....Alsatian. And if one travels in Alsace, one fully realizes the Alsace/Ungerer connection. Ungerer has, over the years, illustrated many posters and advertisements for events and happenings in that region.

But that Alsatian connection is also evident in the picture books of this 1998 Andersen Award-winning illustrator. Paul Boeglin mentions the illustration in Flix, where two dogs court on a moonlit night, with a skyline that is immediately recognizable as that of Strasbourg, the major city in Alsace (and, incidentally, home of the European Parliament).

But nowhere is that Alsatian connection more evident than in Ungerer's 1967 book, Zeralda's Ogre.

Now, Zeralda is truly a girl after The Cook's heart. "Zeralda loved to cook," we are told. "By the time she was six, she knew how to broil and bake and braise and simmer and stew."

Move over, Two Fat Ladies. Better kick it up a few more notches, Chef Emeril Lagasse! Because Zeralda is One Smokin' Cook.

When she first encounters the child-eating ogre, unconscious on the road after a bungled attempt to capture her, Zeralda's first instinct is to light a fire, set up spits and pots, and cook. And what a meal she makes for him: watercress soup, smoked trout, snails in garlic butter, roasted chickens, suckling pig!

The ogre is so smitten with Zeralda's cooking that he forgets his craving for children and invites Zeralda to come and cook for him.

It is in the ogre's typical midnight snack that the Alsatian connection becomes clear: choucroute garnie (sauerkraut garnished with sausage, amongst other things), pâté en croûte (liver pate in a pastry crust), côtelletes sur lit d'aspic truffé (veal cutlets with truffled aspic),.....not to mention the two bottles of fine Alsatian Gewürztraminer shown alongside the sumptuous feast.

So, in that spirit of Alsatian gemütlichkeit/joie de vivre, The Cook offers up another tasty Alsatian offering:

Tarte à la flamme/Flammenküche

1 package pizza dough (The Cook buys this either from her local Italian bakery, or from the Bakery aisle in the grocery store)
Onions (three to five, depending on size)
250 grams of lardons (small pieces of sliced thick bacon)
150 grams fromage blanc (substitute sour cream)
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 F (240 C).

Peel and slice the onions. In a frying pan, fry them in a little butter, until they are translucent.

Boil the lardons (bacon pieces) in water for about 1 minute, then drain and dry them.

Mix the fromage blanc (sour cream) with a little salt to taste, and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir until blended.

Roll out the pizza dough as thinly as possible, and place it on a pastry sheet oiled with olive oil. Line the dough with the onions, add the lardons (bacon), then add the fromage blanc (sour cream) mixture. Sprinkle some olive oil over the top.

Bake for about ten minutes in the oven, until the top becomes golden.

Serve immediately, with either cold Gewürztraminer or Pinot Gris, or an Alsatian or German beer.


Bibliographic Information:

Ungerer, Tomi. Mon Alsace. Texte de Paul Boeglin, notices de Thérèse Willer.
Strasbourg: Editions La Nuée Bleue, 1997.
ISBN 2716504393

Ungerer, Tomi. Zeralda's Ogre.
New York: Delacore, 1967.
ISBN 0385303866


The Cook loves serving up a fine kettle of fish, along with a helping of tongue in cheek, and finds inspiration in the pages of her favourite children's books -- Hansel and Gretel notwithstanding. After all, children are for reading to -- not eating!


The Cook

Volume3, Issue 1, The Looking Glass, 1999

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