Sunday, March 14, 2010

Encona and I ...


Its spelling may vary, depending on the batch you buy, I suspect, but Encona or Ancona or whatever is my friend in the kitchen. Even nuzzles up to the wine, just to prove how friendly it really is. Everyone should have a bottle - personally I have two, one that's currently in use and the backup bottle for emergencies. Just a dose in a Chinese meal makes up for the inadequacies of the Chinese chili sauce you can buy over here, and a decent helping in a wet curry definitely lifts it out of the ordinary. I have not yet used it for a roast leg of lamb, but I strongly suspect that when barbecue weather comes round again I will be slathering a bit on the meat in the last stages of cooking.

Or if you happen to have some rare roast beef sitting around (bloody leftovers again) you could always slice it thinly along with a couple of shallots and maybe a bell pepper before mixing it all up in a bowl with some crisp fresh lettuce (my favourite rougette) and a simple sauce involving soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, a sugar cube and a good dose of Encona. (Or sambal oelek if you happen to have some. Some do. Always got a jar in the fridge, personally.)

Anyway, it's not really time for salads now: just our bloody luck, we've got the bise. This is not some sort of rude disease nor, as those of you who know some - but not enough - French might think, a kiss: it's the northerly wind, and it's viciously cold. One day I'm rolling up my shirtsleeves and looking at the snowdrops and primroses popping out, the next it's back to -5 and this bitter wind blasting down from the Bauges behind us. Been going on since Saturday, and let me tell you it's nasty. I'd rather hoped to be able to put the big fluffy parka away, but I can see that's not going to happen just yet.

Off tomorrow to pick up Malyon: she is supposed to arrive at Geneva at 11:40 and, as she is apparently travelling light, with only carry-on baggage, we don't care if the baggage-handlers are on strike. Then she comes home for the night, buggers off to Grenoble and I think we get to see her Sunday and Monday. She's already put in her menu request: honey chili chicken and roast lamb. Not, evidently, at the same meal. Have to try to organise that for the weekend, I think - tomorrow night she'll probably get steamed pork bums, which is what I happen to have in the freezer. Getting rid of more leftovers.


Another Saturday with Sophie - who has, by the way, looked at this little blog and accuses me of writing limpid, classical prose. Because otherwise, she said, she wouldn't be able to understand it. Personally, I think her level in English is a damn sight better than she's prepared to admit. Whatever, I turned up just after midday with Jerry in tow (he'd stayed over at the internat on Friday night 'cos it was the school open day on Saturday and on top of that they had a charity soirée to raise money for Haïti), just in time to see her disappearing down the road to drop Rémi off to tennis. Which was fine, as it gave the rosé a bit of time to chill out in the freezer whilst I unpacked the goat's cheese and played hunt-the-caterpillar with the salad.

So when she got back we shamelessly left the two boys (can't really say that any more, I suppose - Lucas is 18 now and so I guess has to be considered a young man. Oh dear.) doing whatever it is they do upstairs, and took advantage of the peace and quiet to open the rosé, demolish the salad, attack the cheese, scarf a whole-grain baguette and down a jar of venison pâté. And I'm afraid to say that we still had a bit of room left after all that so we had to open a bottle of white, the rosé having mysteriously evaporated.

A nice tranquil moment, and I'm sure we could have gone on to solve most of the world's problems had we not been brutally interrupted by the arrival of the ravening horde from upstairs, braying loudly for food. At which point I must admit that, although it's not really my thing, there are certain advantages to having a stash of ready-made pizzas in the freezer.

All in all it was probably a good thing that the mob did appear, otherwise we'd doubtless have carried on moaning about yoof and where did we go wrong (Sophie's having problems with Rémi, and we just got Jerry's latest marks - don't ask) and possibly even had to open a third bottle, which would definitely have been excessive.

Actually, some of Jerry's marks are not too bad. I mean, he's getting 17/20 for maths, as opposed to 5/20 last year, but the problem is that it's very uneven and he takes no pains to hide the fact that certain subjects simply do not interest him. Nobody expects him to go into "Technique and Practice of Service" with a song in his heart, but he could at least have a smile painted on his lips. And how anyone can get 16/20 for "Economics and Management" with one teacher and 8/20 for the same subject with another teacher is, although not totally beyond my comprehension, somewhat annoying, to say the least. On the bright side, he did actually come to talk to us about it, rather than our having to call him in to have a strip or two ripped off. So I suppose there's hope for him yet.

And while I'm in the mood for such things, I'd just like to take the opportunity to say that campervans should be exterminated. Preferably by the judicious use of low-yield nuclear warheads, or perhaps a cruise missile up the exhaust. I say this because, having got into a traffic jam on the autoroute heading in to Chambéry this morning (why a traffic jam? All the bloody Parisians should have left last weekend. Must be foreigners.) I finished the shopping at St Jeoire before doubling back on the nationale to pick Jerry up at Challes. Not one of my better ideas, really. I cannot honestly say that every damn campervan in France was on that particular stretch of road at that precise time, because that would probably be untrue, but it certainly felt like it. And just to annoy me even more, they were driven by people (using the term loosely) who appeared unwilling to startle the traffic lights (of which there are an inordinate number) either by approaching too rapidly or by setting off, when finally one went green, at a pace exceeding that of a sluggish glacier. Must have taken me twenty minutes to cover three kilometres, I'd have done better to walk.

Otherwise the weather's turned bright and sunny, the wind is disappearing and it's supposed to get warmer this coming week. I must admit that I've had serious thoughts about the barbecue, but if I drag that out of hibernation it'll probably start to snow.

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