Friday, September 20, 2013

A True Story

The true story of a big event in Bourdeilles.

The town's biggest event of the 16th century was the announcement that Catherine de Medici was going to visit. As the mother of a couple of kings and the evil instigator of the slaughter of thousands of French protestants, Madame Medici inspires hosts to be thoughtful of her lodgings when she drops in.
The count and countess of Bourdeilles decided that the already 400-year-old castle was starting to show it's age. The decision was made to build Madame de Medici a palace inside the castle walls. She gave a few year's warming, so if everyone did the impossible, the palace should be ready in time.
The count and countess were just tickled how well it all turned out.
But then the biggest event turned into the biggest non-event when Catherine changed her travel plans.

**There has been some artistic license in this story as the count of Bourdeilles was long dead when these events happened.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Big Things in a Small Village

It’s just amazing what shows up in our small village in this deep ancient corner of France. Last week posters appeared announcing a big event for Bourdeilles. There were to be movie star horses, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and a film of his triumphs that had been filmed in our region. This was going to be a community event not to be missed. Tom was trying to figure out just how old Mr. Ed must be now.  Our neighbor was hoping for Brad Pitt.  

The French are notorious for am overly casual sense of time, but fifteen minutes before the start of the show there was a flow of neighbors heading up the street to the city park called the “Promenade”. This Promenade was created as a space for shady afternoon walks. Some of the shade comes courtesy of trees planted in the time of Louis the 14th  (three heads before the Louis that lost his).
The amphitheater-type space filled in quickly.
At 6:30 the audience buzzed as a horse and rider started their entrance down the length of the grassy ramp. Not just a horse walking along, but a horse prancing, dancing, head held high, a regal, and elegant presence. Immediately the spectators were pulled into the emotion of the show.

We were treated to a performance by three horses trained for the movies. Their trainer is renowned for his ability to train horses how to act and express sweetness, aggressiveness, pain or elegance. But they could dance as well, and those three beautiful horses treated us to a ballet of grace and strength. 

The second part of the evening’s event was a movie about a young man, his efforts and struggles to win a gold medal in jumping and the special horse that carried him to that victory. A horse named Jappeloux. A cantankerous, small horse with a great big spirit and a talent for jumping. We had the honor of the Olympic Gold medalist himself introducing the film - and staying afterwards for questions.
The film was shown in the courtyard space between Bourdeilles’ medieval and the renaissance chateaux. It was quite something to sit there in the dark of a summer evening surrounded by the shadows of these ancient buildings looming up behind a modern movie screen. Tilting ones head to the skies you could watch the stars slowly filling the sky around the outline of the castle’s tower and the crenelations of the ramparts.
At midnight we all headed back out through the enormous defensive gates of our castle into the narrow streets of our small village. No one had far to go as the day’s  grand events had come to our doorsteps. Doorsteps that have opened onto small events for hundreds of years with grand events such as this sprinkled in from time to time.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday's Petite Aquarelle

Village Fields
12" x 16"
$120 including shipping
available at

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bourdeille's Festival Committee

Scenes from Bourdeille's festival committee:

Even though the location has been the same for fifty years, committee members discuss where to put the barbecue.
Among the many things to set up, never set up the bar tent first.
To keep peace, decide upon only one dessert concession.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fruit Fruit Fruit

Every evening we walk Jolie up one side of the river valley or the other. This time of year the walks take a bit longer than usual as we nibble our way along the route. All those beautiful trees that we saw blooming in the damp, mild spring are now laden with fruit. The walks we take lead past old gnarly fruit trees planted years ago to provide winter apple sauces, pears for jams and liqueur, and plums for tarts. Oh, and plums to make eau de vie, which is a fancy French name for what we would call moonshine. Apple tree branches are bent to the ground, pears are hanging like golden decorations, plums carpet the ground. 
We feel comfortable sampling the many varieties and making comparisons of texture and taste. We make notes of which ones we’ll snack from on future walks. The best is when we find a plum called a Mirabelle. We are sure that these plums were the ultimate reference for the nectar of the gods. They have be eaten hot off the tree, literally heated by the sun, and taste of honey, apricots, brandy, life, love, happiness, and indescribable deliciousness. 

The weekly markets are also overflowing with the summer’s abundance.The vendors have boxes stacked up next to their already laden tables. Here there are peaches, nectarines and apricots brought in from the countryside just south of us. There must be a lot of homemade preserves being made to spread the taste of summer through out the winter.

 We can only eat so many tarts and pies so I’ve taken to trying out varied recipes for eating up luscious sun ripened fruit in as many ways as possible.

Here are my two favorite discoveries from this season. One sweet and one savory.

Ricotta, Apricot and Crisp Proscuitto Tartine 
Renee Erickson, Seattle from the Richmond Times Dispatch

Quick easy and such a wonderful summer lunch or dinner treat. I’m looking forward to a few more lingering summer days to share this for a lunch time treat. 

olive oil
4 fresh apricots, halved and pitted
Sea salt
 Four 1/2-inch thick slices country bread (of course here I used a baguette)
4 thinly sliced slices of prosciutto
1/2 cup of ricotta, at room temperature
mint leaves, roughly torn

What To Do:
Set a grill pan over medium heat and brush lightly with oil. Brush apricots lightly with more oil and season with salt. Once grill pan is hot, lay in apricots, cut-side down, and cook until charred on both sides and just tender, 3-5 minutes total. Remove apricots from pan and set aside. Lay bread into grill pan and cook both sides until golden and charred i spots, 3-4 minutes total.
Meanwhile, swirl 2 tablespoons oil into a medium saute pan set over medium-high heat. Once hot, add prosciutto and cook until darkened in spots, less than 1 minute per side. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
While toasts are warm, spread generously with ricotta. Top with apricots and prosciutto. Garnish with oil, salt, pepper and mint.

Peach Pie     easy easy easy!
Joy of Cooking  Rombauer  Becker
Preheat oven to 400
*9 inch single-crust *
Combine and blend well:
1 egg
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup melted butter

Pour this mixture over 6 peaches halved and place cut side up in the pie shell.
Bake 15 minutes at 400, then reduce the heat to 300 and bake about 50 minutes longer. Serve hot, or if cold garnished with whipped cream.

*crust:   preheat oven to 400
1 cup flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
mix with a fork

1/3 cup oil
3-5 tbsp milk

mix together and press by hand into pie plate.
bake at 400 for 10 minutes