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Archive for October, 2008

The story so far 2

I am sitting in my study staring at the monitor in front of me and struggling not with what to write, but how to write it.  I have also been playing musical computer chairs with Barney the cat.  Every time I get up to go make some tea or lunch or whatever, when I come back he is fast asleep in my chair.  This is the sixth time I have had to move him.  I started this at 9.44am it is now 14.40pm.

I am listening to Nostalgie on the radio, a french oldies channel and they are playing a Michel Sardou song which my then girlfriend now wife played me in 1976.  I had a Citroen 2cv6 back then, bright orange and we drove it during the summer of 76  down to the foothills of the pyrenees.  It was my first visit to France, my wife had already spent a year in France for her teacher training.  That is when I fell in love, with Margaret and France.

I think a recipe is required, and I apologise in advance that I have no photos to show you unlike my fellow blogger on Food Stories who takes the most incredible pictures of the food she cooks, with time things will be different.  So without further ado, 6 hour lamb.  I said French country cooking was simple and it does not come simpler than this.  You need a decent size hunk of lamb, leg or we used shoulder I think the last time we made it.  Put said lamb in slow cooker and add 150ml of dry  white wine, 4 carrots quartered if big, garlic to taste;, 2 medium onions quartered, sprigs of thyme, 250 ml of water and slow cook for 6 hours.  The smell after a few hours will drive you crazy and when it is ready, the meat will fall off the bone and melt in the mouth.  We use the juices for the jus or gravy and serve with my incredibly buttery creamed potatoes,  I like cauliflower cheese with 3 cheeses, a recent find,  and yorkshire puddings, I know yorkshires are not french but hey I am a yorkshireman so get over it.

Before the next instalment, I would just like to say that I made the move to France sound extremely easyin my first blog, the truth is buying the house in France was a breeze, we found the dream cottage, we put in an offer, the offer was accepted and we had I think 7 days to change our minds.  After that we had to pay a 10 per cent deposit and if we failed to go ahead we lost it.  Contrast that to the UK experience, the house sold in March, thankfully our buyers stuck to the agreement like glue, but the chain below kept breaking for the most ludicrous reasons, in fact the house had still not gone to final contracts in October when we arrived in France and it was not until November that the nightmare came to an end.  End of rant.

Because of the above we had to very hastily organise a removal firm, the catch was that our furniture and clothes were going to be 2 weeks behind.  This meant we had only the clothes we were wearing so more expense buying new clothes.

So it was that we started exploring our new home in France.  About the time we arrived it was the annual general meeting of the commite de salle de fete, the organisers of the various functions that the commune enjoys throughout the year.  These are the loto night, known as bingo in the UK, the entrecote steak evening, the fishing competition as it was known then, more on that in a complete blog of its own. Finally the méchoui, the lamb barbecue in the height of summer.

We decided to attend the meeting because we wanted to be part of the community and I was staggered at the reception we received.  We were made to feel welcome and even though we did not vote, the meeting was to elect or re-elect commitee members, we felt it had been well worth while introducing ourselves.

Our community, that is to say the commune of St.Thomas de Courceriers has about 220 people and it has been a revelation to contrast the difference between the attitudes here and in the UK. And on that note I am going to finish.  I know I promised entrecote evening but I really seem to have got carried away, but here is a photo of Barney with Omah when they were still friends. 

Barney is on the right.

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a gratuitous photo of fruit de mer

a gratuitous photo of fruit de mer and my all time favourite

Well how time flies, we have been living in France continuously for 5 years.  This means we are now classed as permanent French residents. 

So what took you so long to write a blog I here you cry and who are you anyway?

The fact is that it was my youngest sons partner, Helen that inspired me and kicked me into action after I and my wife started reading her excellent food blog, FOOD STORIES, there is a link from this very site and if you care even the slightest about eating good, seasonal food with a dash of local London colour, then this is for you.

So I decided that I would do a blog with a food theme running through it but also combine it with what everyday life is like living in the French countryside.  A sort of French archers but with food. 

French country food is very simple and as the vast majority is home grown it is also very seasonal as well.  The french who keep animals, which by the way are invariably free range, are not squeemish about killing and butchering the animals they have raised and on a number of occasions we have been given live creatures which we were expected to deal with ourselves.  This is part of country life and a reminder just where those bits of meat under clingfilm come from. 

It has to be said that our diet has changed since we have been here, for instance we eat a lot more seafood, fish, duck and pork because it is a lot cheaper than in the UK but beef and lamb tend to be expensive unless they are on promo.   Also things like lamb tend to be only available at certain times of the year and is very expensive.  We also eat more bread and salad, the latter of which no self respecting frenchmen would be without in his vegatable patch.  With regard to fish, I am a big fish lover but here I have tried far more varieties than ever I did in the UK simply because they were not there or too expensive.  I will do a seafood and fish special at some point in the future.

We live just outside a very small village in Mayenne which is in the Pays de la Loire.  Even though we had been holidaying in France for 30 years it was not somewhere that we had even heard of, in fact some French friends who live in Normandy which is just above Mayenne had not heard of it either.

The next few blogs will be about the ups and downs we have experienced since we arrived at our country cottage, the people we have met and the friends we have made and of course the wonderful food that we have grown ourselves, been given, or shared with our friends over the last 5 years.

Of course we had planned to some day move to France, I fell in love with the place in 1976 when we came for a holiday and then on our 25th anniversary in 2002 we went on holiday to Théoule which is a fabulous tiny village overlooking the bay of Cannes.  There is a private beach right in front of the appartment we rented and the restaurant is right next to the beach.  If you want a drink or lunch at your recliner there is a waiter on hand to do your bidding. 

It was on the day of our anniversary that my wife dropped the bombshell.  We had breakfast in the garden of a local hotel; as we ate our croissants I said something I always say when we are on holiday in France, THIS IS THE LIFE, I wish we could live here to which my wife replied we can.  Needless to say I was speechless, but as we discussed it more the plan came to fruition and in October 2003 we sold up and moved to our dream house in France.

Next up, where is our furniture? The neighbours invite us round for drinks and the entrecote evening.

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