Tuesday, June 8, 2010

So this is summer then ...

And I rather think I should be able to handle a wee bit more of it, thanks very much. Beautiful day today, spoilt only by the fact that I was up at the office, as all too often happens on a Friday, rather than lying in a hammock down in the garden like any right-minded person. Still, right now I'm out on the terrace having taken the dog for a trot, I've a glass of rosé to hand to help me admire the sun going down behind the Bauges and I'm contemplating fixing myself a Nepalese omelette for dinner before flopping down and watching  the first episode of the new season of "Burn Notice". So much to do, so little time ...

I installed Jeremy at the hotel in Aix last Sunday - just around the corner from the Casino, and a fairly posh place (as, let it be said, are most of the hotels there - "well-off" would be a mild term for most of the people who go there) it is too. Not that he'll see too much of that side of it, I think: for one thing he's supposed to be working 9 to 5 (which in practice, in a restaurant kitchen, means 9 to 9), and for another he's actually put up in one of the little studios they rent out weekly or monthly. Think shoebox, but smaller. You definitely wouldn't want to swing a cat in it, if you've any feelings at all for cats. But being a studio it does have its own little coin cuisine, which pleased him no end. In fact, it pleased him sufficiently, and such, I assume, is the busy social whirl in which he lives, that he's decided that he's not coming back home for the weekend - too many people to see. And we are not included in their number.

I hope you're sitting down or, if not, standing near something you can grab on to or which is not, at least, too uncomfortable to fall on, for I have to tell you that I'm going jogging again. After about a 25-year hiatus. Sophie mentioned the other day that it was far too long since she'd gone out on a run, and how did I feel about it? Like a fool I said something along the lines of "Why not?", so I'm now booked in for a half-hour jog before the apéro tomorrow lunch-time. Why do I do these things? And on top of it Karen's down from Mumblefuck tomorrow and Margo and I are supposed to be going round for drinkies in the evening: it's my turn to drive and I think my legs will be sufficiently wobbly from doing things I haven't called upon them to do for so many years so I personally won't be drinking that much. Which kind of obviates the point of the whole exercise, doesn't it?

You may have noticed that food (and, of course, drink, 'cos the two are indissociable) plays a large part in these scribblings. This is because food is probably the most important thing there is, even counting sex. I mean, even great sex is just that, great sex, but you're still hungry afterwards, and anyway great food is sublime. Come to that, when you're starving, so are crispy-fried earwigs - but I digress. And yes I know, you can combine the two, but I do not wish to get into that sort of discussion.

Anyway, one of Marie's staples when we're all together at Pesselière in summer is the tomato flan: pastry shell, sliced tomatoes and maybe some grated cheese on top, in the oven and there you have it. I came across a variant the other day in David Lebovitz's excellent blog (yes, there's a link over there on the right somewhere) which I thought looked rather more than appetising, so I thought I'd try it with Sophie. I was right to do so. It's basically the same thing, but first of all you spread some mustard out on the pastry base (I use whole-grain, what the Frogs call moutarde à l'ancienne, but whatever takes your fancy is fine) and let it dry for a bit before spreading out yer tomato slices over the top.

Unless you're using something like the big beefsteak tomatoes (which do look pretty but have sod-all taste, in my opinion) I would recommend squeezing out some of the juice and seeds, or it will be very watery. Anyway, having done that and sprinkled some fresh thyme and a good grinding of pepper over it all, it would be a good idea to put a few (many) slices of fresh goat's cheese on top and then - the stroke of genius - drizzling honey over the lot before baking in a really hot oven for about 20 minutes. Wait for next summer and give it a try - it's good hot or cold, good rustic barbecue/picnic fare.

And of course, when it's served with pan-fried trout, I'm personally very close to a state of bliss. Which is probably illegal in most parts of the USA, but I don't care.

Just in case you're wondering, we did not in fact go jogging after all. It was too damn hot at midday, and Sophie had been told by the quack that her blood pressure was a bit high and he wanted to do some tests and so what with one thing and another we decided to put the idea on hold and just have the usual rosé. Until next weekend or something, and then perhaps earlier in the day. Unless of course we drive off to Montmelian and commit the act on the shady paths along the banks of the Isère, but I must confess that that sounds a bit like cheating to me. Whatever, I've had a temporary reprieve, for which I'm grateful.

And I'm also quite glad that I did not confess to Sophie, as we chatted idly away over coffee (wine is not the only thing we drink, you know) about this, that, and the other, that I'd got a speeding ticket in the mail the previous day. My first ever in France, in 23 years (I'm not going to count the NZ ones, seem to pick one up every time we go over. Can't think why.) I just opened the envelope and looked rapidly at it, saw it was for the nationale, direction Aix-Grenoble, and glumly assumed it was when I was coming back from dropping Jerry off. Still, being done for 91 kph in a 90k zone seemed a bit stiff, and when I took a closer look this afternoon  I noticed that the vehicle cited was not an Alfa Romeo, but a Suzuki. So Margo can add another ticket to her list. (Mind you, I still feel that being done for just 1 km over the limit is unsporting.) But you can see why 'fessing up would have been a waste of time.

Not that there haven't been occasions when I really should have got a speeding ticket. There was the time when Jerry and I took the Alfa up to 220k on the autoroute, just to see what it was like (yes I know, but it was a fine sunny day and the road was, except for us, totally empty), and the time coming back from Pesselière when I actually got flashed doing 120 in a 90k zone (road works, don't you know?) but never in fact got a ticket ... life can be so unjust sometimes.

And yes, we did make it off to see Karen. Margo had spent all day up in the Bauges for the AGM of Oxalis, the cooperative to which she belongs (yeah, I know, who in their right minds would name a co-op after a noxious weed?) and came down around 18:00, and when I'd come home and unloaded the shopping (mostly wine, I must confess) we headed back into Chambéry and met up with Karen, Sylvie and Brian at le Refuge, Karen's favourite bar, behind the hôtel de ville. (I think it's her favourite because they serve nibbles with the wine, and they don't mind having loud English-speaking persons around. Possibly we bring in more custom than we frighten away.)

And after that the idea was to head off to a little African restaurant that's just opened up on one of the little streets around the market. Unfortunately, Saturday was le marché des continents in the jardin du Verney - have it every year - and as the whole point of that is to have little stalls selling food, drink and interesting articles from faraway places the little African restaurant was there instead.  A bit of a bugger, so we wandered vaguely elsewhere and wound up having Chinese instead. Been a long time since I actually went out to a restaurant other than for work, and I have to admit it was quite pleasant. Didn't hurt that the owners knew Sylvie really well and treated us like family, nor that the food was in fact rather good.

Anyway, the Merkins have started airing some good TV series again ("True Blood" should start up again!), so I'm off to vegetate in front of "Lie To Me" and maybe "The Good Guys". Which are both trivial, but fun, which is what I look for in TV. Don't want my brain extended, want it tranquilised. Goodnight, all.

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