Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Right Excellent Discourse on Stuff ...

Thursday night and right on time, a month before Christmas, the first little white flakes are falling from the sky: destined, in our case, to land on the decking where they will melt or, if they're lucky enough to survive until morning, the dog will piddle on them.  Don't know which is worse, really. Those of you who enjoy a decent climate probably have no idea just how depressing this is: the last nail in the coffin of the year, a taste to come of life when the sun gutters and goes out and we all sit huddled in our thermal underwear around a smoky candle waiting for the sabre-toothed tigers to come back.

On reflection that's perhaps a little gloomy, but I really could do with some of that global warming stuff they've been promising us. It's not as though snow's any good to anyone, it just plops sullenly down the back of your collar, makes you cold and wet, and generally plays hell with traffic. Whatever, we're up for three months of it now, and there's not much I can do about it.

On the bright side, it does encourage winter cooking. I actually thought longingly of a decent soupe à l'oignon, which is a rare occurence, but then Margo has a pathological hatred of soups and in any case there are only three onions in the house (must get some more at the market on Saturday) which is not really enough to do a decent job. There's no bread either, and a toasted slice of baguette laden with cheese is a must for floating on onion soup. Which goes some way to explaining why we're having tandoori chicken tonight.

And then Jeremy (and Malyon, when she turns up with Tony in tow) will require fondue, and raclette, and tartiflette. All of which I personally find a bit suffocatingly heavy, as they're 95% melted cheese, and about as subtle about it as a blow to the head with a sledeghammer. Still, maybe I'll be able to get away with a choucroute and perhaps a cassoulet or two - that would be nice. Have to invite friends over, of course: I still haven't learnt how to make either in quantities sufficient for fewer than 8 people. Not that that stops me.

Of course this morning, just to piss me off on a Saturday, it snowed some more. And for some reason the snow-ploughs wanted to stay snugly tucked up inside in the warm, because they certainly weren't out when Jerry and I left for Chambéry at 9:00 am. First snowfall of the year and all of a sudden everyone forgets how to drive on the stuff: I mean I'm quite willing to admit that I get a bit tense, especially when overtaking, but there's no point in going all to pieces, for god's sake! There were a couple of cars in the ditch on the little stretch of road down below us, and one ahead of me with its tyres vainly spinning as it slid sideways ...

Not that Chambéry was much better. The autoroute hadn't been déneigée either, and best perhaps not to speak of the state of the VRU ... still, we got through to Carrefour with only a few brown-pants moments on the odd roundabout, and on the upside both the supermarkets and the market itself were pretty much deserted, with only the odd brave or foolhardy soul (which does that make me, I wonder) doing the rounds.

It's an odd thing, but where we (or more perhaps our colonist cousins) would describe something as a lemon, the French call it a turnip. Un véritable navet d'un film to describe something like, say, 2012. (Which was, let it be said, pretty bloody awful.) It's strange because the French actually rather like turnips. Fair enough, especially as they eschew the horticultural-society monsters and prefer them young, the size of golf-balls: still, as far as I'm concerned they'll always be cattle-fodder. I"m doubtless doing injustice to a noble vegetable, but there you are.

I've spoken of them before, and I know you wonder: this is what my little croquettes de porc look like. Guess what we had for lunch? More good comforting winter food. On the "pro" side: no need to wash the frying pan, two adolescents with chunks of baguette will wipe it cleaner than your dishwasher could ever do. Also, you only need two glasses of white wine for the actual recipe, which leaves you a reasonable amount to drink. Before getting on to the rosé. Although it's probably time we stopped pretending that it's still summer, give it away and start hitting the red.

Anyway, Jeremy came with me for a reason: normally he'd still be looking forward to another three hours in bed at the time I leave. But as it happens there was to be a rock concert - at which some of his friends happen to be playing - up at St. Hilaire du Touvet, so I said that if he tagged along and behaved himself I'd take him up after lunch. Of course that was Friday night, and I had most emphatically not counted on the snow. Have I mentioned that St. Hilaire is a little village, at about 1400m altitude up in the Chartreuse, accessible only by little twisty windy decidedly narrow roads, the sort with a cliff-face on one side and a precipice on the other? Thought not.

Oddly enough, and despite Sophie's dire forebodings, it was actually less painful than getting in to Chambéry. By the time we headed up the roads had been cleared, and I left him with the traditional phrase of parents everywhere: "make sure no-one throws up on your sleeping bag, 'cos you're the one who'll be cleaning it and vomit is hell to get out of the zipper teeth". The only grim spot on the horizon was coming back down, when I got stuck behind some old fart in a Kangoo who evidently thought that 50kph was a bit daring. As there was nowhere available to force him off the road, strap him to the bonnet of what I suppose I shall have to call his car and do an impromptu transplant operation, I refrained from eating his liver raw with a plastic teaspoon, and just overtook him at the first opportunity.

I'm sure, as he disappeared rapidly from view in the side mirror, I saw him shaking his fist angrily, doubtless dribbling curses about the "yoof" who've no respect for human life through his dentures.

That cheered me up immensely, so much so that I decided to do a bit of baking whilst I had the oven on for our roast chicken. The excellent David Lebowitz had a recipe for Oatmeal Raisin cookies and suggested that perhaps replacing the raisins with cranberries and white chocolate would be a good idea. I did that and he was, as usual, quite right. Goodnight, all. Happy barbecue, whilst we is freezing in the dark. Don't snigger, it'll be your turn soon enough.

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