Monday, January 30, 2012

Moss, the Perigord Vert, France



Tom suggested I do a blog entry on moss. I have to confess I am speechless on this subject. Except to say that here in the Perigord Vert, or the county of green, it's not a good idea to be still for too long. 







 

















Friday, January 27, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bourdeilles Country Ham

How many days are there in a year?
363?
How many days are there in a year?
360?
Tom would incredulously ask me this question once or twice a year for the first 5 years marriage.
Finally 365 stuck in my head.
That is a quick insight into my affinity and relationship with numbers and any application of the dang things. Currency conversion, distances, cooking weights, each application has a story. Every story is another addition to the multiplying repercussions Tom and I have had to untangle because of this problem. (Though these ripples have never subtracted or divided us.)
Here is the most current one........



Last Saturday was the village of Bourdeilles’ “Best Wishes for the New Year” party. We listened to a speech from the mayor, then greedily scurried for drinks and appetizers. While town-folks mingled before dinner two young people went from person to person with a large ham and a clip board. You were to give an estimation for a length of string loosely swirled around the ham and then the weight of the ham. I watched as old timers hefted that ham up and down, serious expressions on their faces. They have had some experiences with calves, lambs, maybe even what we would think of as an enormous duck or two. The “recorders” would nod heads, record the estimations and then move on. 
Finally it was my turn. I looked at that long black string and blurted out. “ 7!”. 
“7 what, madame?”
 “Oh... 7 meters.” 
“ (Guffaw) 7 meters?! 
This was duly noted on the recording sheet and I took a peek at the paper, the largest number I could see was 2.8 meters - boy was I off. 
Now time to heft the ham and proclaim the weight. 
“12.” 
“12, madame!! 12 what?”
“Er... Kilos?” 
“No no you must mean pounds.” 
“Oh yes, well then it must be something like 6 kilos!” (I only know this from all the years of starving poor Jolie the dog so she could make the Air France carry on weight). But this ham had to weigh more than Jolie so I added a bit and said 7 kilograms. Then off they went snickering about my foolish guesstimates.


Sometime after the 3rd or 4th course a hush came over the crowd. It was time to announce the winner of the coveted ham.
“The length of string is 6.8 meters - there are two people with an estimate of 7 so the weight will decide the winner- and the weight is 6.6 kilos -so the winner is Madame V, i, e , t, h.”
I wish you could have seen the faces of those two ‘record’ takers. We just looked at each other and laughed.

As usual in a French crowd there was an endless flow of advice.  All food concerns being gravely important. Am I going to be able to eat all of it? Do I know that I am supposed to eat the ham very thinly sliced. That it is to be eaten with a big bowel of onion soup. That sharing your ham is perhaps the very best way to honor it?

And now I cannot walk through the village without being asked how my ham is. Oh, the French are such romantics! 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Brantome Winter Market



Friday morning, market time - 35 degrees and raining - and we love it. Well not really, but one puts up with this sort of weather in exchange for having our world to ourselves. Living in a place so full of history, natural beauty and architectural elegance we are inundated with tourist and summer residents from June till September. As the weather becomes more challenging, it is only the locals that venture out to the markets. The sharp blade of cold weather pares down the number of vendors as well.



The first market of January has 15 or so stands, down from summer’s 40-plus vendors. Offering us products direct from their farms and gardens, these are a tough bunch of local producers. They arrive in the dark of a winter morning, bundled up for the cold, damp, 4 hours of selling. With the transient crowds gone the producers depend on the regulars.  And the regulars depend on the producers to have good fresh ingredients for this weeks meals. Rabbit, duck breast, eggs, leeks, goat cheese, root vegetables. Luckily the other day there were brussels sprouts that I could buy. Before next Friday I need to look through some recipes for celeriac and endive. The seasonal limits of our local market makes you expand you horizons in cooking.

Cookbook advice is always welcome, but this quiet time of year allows for the best cooking advice available--- that from the folks that grow what you are going to eat, and from your neighbors in line who have eaten these things before you.  Last week I was searching for a substitute for cottage cheese. With no one in line at the goat cheese vendors I got up the courage to describe to her the texture and the strength of cheese that I was looking for. She took great pleasure in going over three subtly different forms of goat cheese that I had never taken the time to investigate. I chose one that could be broken up with a fork and added to my corn muffin recipe. Next time I’ll try the more liquidy one suspended in it’s own juices. No idea what I’ll do with that yet. If there is no line I’ll ask what she thinks. It was lovely to have this interaction and not feel worried that I was making her miss a sale or that I was being judged by the people in line behind me. Although to be honest I often think the people in line around me are more curious about my lack of understanding of various forms of cheeses that they, naturally, take for granted. They lean in, wanting to hear what I am trying to concoct. Then they wade in to  share their favorite classic way to best use this straight-from-the farm ingredient.

As in summer, a trip to the market in winter takes all day. The time you gain by not searching for a place to park or standing in line is taken up by the extra time you spend visiting with people. For now there are plenty of tables available at the café and time to have a warming hot chocolate and croissant. There are empty chairs on which to place those winter scarves and hats, next to your market basket full of fresh ingredients for this week’s meals.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday's Petite Aquarelle

Clouds and Red Bench 12" x 16"

**Michael C in NC please contact me**

                                                                                         $120 including shipping
                                                       available at www.tomviethsketches.com

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

To Yoga and Back

No, this is not a golf cart path. Yes, this is the main road from my house up towards yoga class.

Neighborhood home.

A neighbors grapevines.

The crossroads where I pick up a friend.

The first hamlet we go through.

I almost always have to stop to let the chicken cross the road........

Stone quarries where the stone for my house might have come from.

The second hamlet we come to and the sweetest valley.


Just a few more curves.

That's our building on the left. One room in this building is the lunch room for the villages elementary school and one room is the town 'party' hall. Yoga is in the 'party' room. The town hall is to the left out of view. It was the building with the black roof in the previous photo. I tell you this so you get a feel of how tight everything is held together in these hamlets/villages.

The village is huddled under the romanesque church. Notice the second floor with no windows which is where the villagers would have come to hide during a raid.

Yoga class.



Another crossroads on the way home.



Almost home. Just before one enters the village of Bourdeilles.
















Saturday, January 7, 2012

Friday's Petite Aquarelle

Flower Market under a Chateau 12" x 16"

$120 including shipping
available at www.tomviethsketches.com


Sunday, January 1, 2012

What Kind of Ooh La La are You?

Tom has sworn me to no questionnaires with this blog, but here is a question that I could not resist....


What kind of Ooh La La are you?


Listen to them both and then let me know what your style is.


Enjoy and Happy New Year!






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