Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Bugnes

I am sure if you don't speak French you must be puzzled by the title of this post.... How to pronounce "bugnes"? Let me try to explain. The last 4 letters "gnes" form only one sound, similar to the ñ in Spanish (like in "mañana"). B is the same b sound as in English (like in "book"). The u sound is unique to French, and impossible to explain... It's somewhere between an "ee" (like in "freeze") and a "oo" (like in "cook") but it's neither of those sounds. Close your lips as if you were going to say "oo" but take the sound to the front of your mouth by lifting your tong... I think this should work. Here (and here) are neat pages where you can hear each individual sound. In IPA "bugnes" would be spelled: [byɲ].

Bugnes are a specialty of Lyon, where I grew up. They are thin and crispy doughnuts (strips of dough, fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar) that are made for "mardi gras" ("fat Tuesday": today!). You can buy them at the "charcuterie" (deli meat shop), at the "boulangerie" (bakery) and people cook them at home too. My grand-mother did, every year. There are variants: some are crispy, others are a bit thicker and spongier. Some have an orange blossom flavor, others are plain. Some have a knot or two, others don't. Some are long and thin, others are much bigger and square. This gives plenty of good excuses to eat a whole bunch of them (science to the rescue: we need a good comparative study here). The only constant is that you can't eat them cleanly: you always end up with grease and sugar all over your fingers and lips.

If you read this blog regularly you must think that I am a very traditional person, only eating traditional French food, only when it is the tradition to eat it... To be honest I am puzzled by this tendency of mine to blindly obey these rules (bugnes for mardi gras, crêpes for chandeleur,etc...). This is so far from my usual aspirations (the constant pursuit of novelty). I guess this is old Pavlovian conditioning rooted in my childhood. Each traditional dish I eat brings back so many memories. Moving half way around the world hasn't helped forgetting them. To the contrary: it has made them more vivid and vital (a way of balancing all the new things I experience).

Anyway, this weekend I will tell you how you can make good bugnes, all year 'round!

8 comments:

leonine19 said...

lol, i love this word, bugnes!bugnes!

Homesick Texan said...

Can't wait for your recipe! It sounds like that New Orleans favorite, beignets, comes from bugnes.

Anonymous said...

Oh I've never heard of Bugnes before. Are they like croustillons (which we eat a lot of in northern france) ?

Susan in Italy said...

Hey, they taught us that trick for the U pronunciation in college! Inside the mouth you pronounce the I and outside, the O.

I wonder if the New Orleans beignets are at all similar to the Lyonnaise bugnes.

Estelle said...

Hi guys,

leonine19: if you love the sound of "bugnes" I'm sure you'll love their taste too :-)

homesick texan: "beignets" is actually the generic word for fried dough or fried dumplings. "Bugnes" is a regional word and it's a type of beignet. I wish I'd tasted New Orleans beignets...

I don't know if bugnes are like northern France croustillons either. You'll have to tell me once you see the bugnes recipe and picture.

susan in italy: great pronunctiation tip! That should work perfectly!

Betty C. said...

I've never made "bugnes" -- it's not really a regional thing here in Aveyron -- but crêpes for Chandeleur are a must! It's kind of the last gasp of winter -- for some reason, carnaval doesn't seem to be a big deal here, either (thus the lack of bugnes!)

Tammy said...

I was honored to try bugnes from the chef herself! They were fabulous: perfectly crispy and lightly sweetened with powdered sugar. Yum!! Now I have to practice saying them....

Pepe Cadena said...

I think that if we have as a native language the Spanish , try to lean other languages can be difficult , for example I've never could get the translation of the word " retrogrados" To French