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Archive for April, 2009

Real French life

It is a while since I last had the chance to sit and write this eagerly awaited column, what with the novel I am writing, the new website I am building, visiting customers in my new capacity as computer consultant, not to mention leaflet dropping and finding cheap, ie free marketing methods to scare up more customers.

On top of all this it rained for at least 10 seconds and the grass grew 3 feet immediately.

The point is that we have a great life here in France but the real world still has a habit of barging in.  The simple fact is that the pound against the euro rate of exchange has dropped from about 1.45 euros to the pound in 2003 to not far from a euro and a pound being the same.  You do not have to be a great mathematician to realise that if you are relying on pensions from the UK to live on, your income has dropped by almost a third.

Sadly this has meant that a fair few people including people we know and are friends of,  having to give up their dream and sell up and move back to the UK, find jobs etc.

Fortunately France is still a lot cheaper to live in than the UK, providing you know what to look for.  I know I have said it before but when you go to the supermarket here you buy whats fresh and on promo.  For instance, our french neighbour has invited us to her birthday party on saturday, more of which later.  We went to Evron to buy a present, next to the super U there is a shop which sells an amazing variety of things, from ornaments to vases, scented candles, sex costumes and paraphanalia, I kid you not, to guns, I nearly bought an uzi.

After making our purchases we went to the supermarket next door to buy dinner.  Steak was good at 5 euros for 5, so we decided on steak and french fries.  The lettuce was a snip, and it was iceburg which you do not often see in france and is my favourite.  The fish counter was next, and the smell of the sea was unbelievable, not fishy just salty sea air.

Huge prawns were on promo so a kilo was quickly ordered and the crab was so cheap it made me almost want to cry and it was already cooked, I have been buying live crabs recently because they are even cheaper than cooked but I still feel a bit sad having to dispatch it first.

Strawberries were good at 2 euros for a half  kilo punnet and a fresh pineapple was 95 centimes, bargain.

We also noticed that a 2007 Bordeaux was half  price, well out of our price range normally but at less than 3 euros a definite must for the steak, a still hot baguette was scooped up and away we went.

So bearing in mind this was a wednesday our dinner was some prawns out of the kilo, the rest will freeze for future use, the crab claws and legs, the brown and white meat from the body I will have for thursday lunch, the lettuce and mayonnaise and a bottle of sparkling muscadet that we bought the saturday before at the princly sum of 85 centimes.

We then had frites, very thin chips with the steak which I had marrinated with fondue oil, flavoured with herbs, salade and mushrooms cooked on the george with the steak, the baguette, crunchy outside and fluffy inside, and the bordeaux.  Strawberries and cream for pud, oh and the milka chocolate was on promo, 6 bars for 2 euros, so a bit of that with the coffee.

We have been entertaining recently and have been entertained, a 60th birthday party, a couple of dinner parties, we had a seventies themed dinner party on saturday, prawn cocktails, steak fondue, chocolate orange mousse, after eights.

Then this coming saturday lunch our french neighbours birthday party which is at a very posh place near Evron.  If it is the one we think it is, it is beside a large lake and we once tried to get in but it was full.  I will definitly be getting some photos for the next instalment.

So back to the grind, washing to hang out although the weather looks a bit ominous, then fight my way through the jungle and mow the lawn.  Must check the vegetable patch as well, we had some really nice asparagus out of it on tuesday, it is a hard life.

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exciting developments?

Okay so I have not written for a while and I am sorry to the hundreds of devoted readers for not being more consistant. I will try to get a pulitzer prize winning blog out at least once a month I promise.

So why, I hear you shout, what have you been up to that could stop you from writing this awe inspiring er stuff.  Well first of all I found twitter and I am still trying to work out exactly what it is and exactly how I can use it.  Yes it is great having all these followers and being able to exchange messages with eddie izzard and read the hilarious comments of Stephen Fry, I have not plucked up the courage to send him a message yet,  and I still cannot get a twitter widget on my blog or web page, Helen could you help please.  On top of that I have been busy constructing my website for my new business and if that was not enough I also came across a site called webook which is all about writing a novel or short stories, so I have started writing my novel.

Then of course the weather came good so the grass had to be cut and strimmed, things wanted planting etc,etc.

The weather has now reverted to cloudy and cold so hasty retreat back to the study and blogging.

I was inspired by an article on food stories, yes I know I push it all the time and yes it is written by my youngest sons talented partner, but there you are.  Anyway they sampled the delights of a burger recently which cost a whopping great 15 quid, so it set me off, I decided to build the equivalent gallic version.  Let me say upfront that I am a dedicated burger king double bacon cheeseburger or is it double cheese bacon burger, whatever and the nearest burger king from our village is probably Paris, a mcdo or the french version called quick is probably 30 miles away at least so we do not get take away ever.

The next obstacle is that the french do not do burgers to buy in the shops, what they do is what are called steak haché, literally pure minced beef in an oblong shape and probably twice or even three times thicker than your average shop or take away burger.  Now I did not want any old steak Haché for my perfect burger and so it was that I discovered Charolais beef.  These cattle originated around Charolles in central france.  The breed became established there and achieved considerable regard as a producer of highly rated meat in the markets of Lyon and Villefranche in the 16th and 17th centuries.http://www.fwi.co.uk/blogs/livestock-and-sales-blog/2007/07/outstanding-charolais-heifer-t.html

These are big animals, white in colour and are easily seen in the fields of Normandy and Mayenne.

So having found the finest burger I could, the next step was the bread.  You can buy seeded bread baps in france and I am quite happy to eat these with the normal steak haché but I was paying nearly 11 euros for 10 as oppose to a couple of euros for the standard burgers so I found a chabatta style roll which just to smell them was to die and go to heaven.

Now I do not like cornichon or tomatoes so they were never going to factor in this, however I love fried onions and cantel cheese so these were used on the lightly toasted bread rolls.  Some smokey bacon, green leaves and real mayonaise to top the burger and there you are.

Result, cooked on the george foreman, the meat was so moist and soft it was unbelievable, a cold alcace beer to wash it down and for less than 3 euros, you cannot go wrong.

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