Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sifting Through The Wreckage of the Week ...

So just why is it that the bicycle-fascinated and cerebrally-challenged don't seem to want to learn about evolution? OK, they're working on supersizing their Lycra-clad calves and buttocks by wobbling erratically over the little back roads: I can live with that, but riding three abreast on the frikkin' nationale?

That's suicide in my book, or at the very least tempting fate, with chocolates. Mind you, I suppose most of them have had their children and the retard race is perpetuated, so from evolution's point of view their rôle has more or less ended and they can be subtracted from existence without prejudice. There's no justice.

Anyway, I roasted a chicken, stuffed under the skin with garlic and parsley, the other day and as luck would have it Jeremy did not have his usual garguantan appetite that evening (and in any case won't eat breast meat, for reasons which escape me) so there was plenty left over for curried chicken empanadas.

(Handy hint, from Jacques Pepin via Julia Childs: finely mince the garlic on a board, chop in the parsley, and then crush the lot into a pulp with the flat of a decent heavy knife. Gives a good paste, and cleaning-up entails no more than wiping down the chopping board - no more faffing about trying to get the stringy bits out of the teeny holes of the garlic press.)

End of the aside: I just tossed all the chicken meat I could find on the carcass into the faithful Kenwood (25 years we've had that thing, would you believe, and it's still going strong) along with the few roast potatoes that were left and a couple of teaspoons of curry powder and whizzed that up, then chucked in a chopped onion just for good measure. After which it gets mixed with a very thick bechamel and loads of chopped mint, for fun, and then goes into the fridge to wait.

So while it's doing that, make up some feuilletage batard, roll it out and cut into 4" circles, which you should then stuff with the chicken mixture to turn them into little cornish pasties: when they're all ready, just fry them. A couple of minutes a side is all it takes, assuming you don't want them blackened and inedible. Good with chutney or a sweet chili sauce, and if you've got too many they can go, unfried, into the freezer for a quick snack at some later time. Not really Jeremy's thing, though.

Whatever, finally found the time on Friday to go off and have lunch with Sophie. (Problem with seeing a teacher: their hours are kind of unreasonable, especially now as the end of the school year approaches. The last time we made a date she had to cancel about 15 minutes before I left, due to some sort of meeting being called. A right bummer.) A little place behind les halles called la Bohème attracted her, with its private courtyard and all, so that's where we met up. A shame, really, that it was pissing down, because that rather ruled out our eating outside under a parasol, but never mind.

The place is sort of eco-bio but not obsessively so: meat does not seem to be on the menu but I can handle that too. And the food's actually rather good, and attractively presented which also helps: sad to say we were neither of us feeling adventurous (and in any case the choice was limited, which makes sense) and chose the same thing ie gaspacho with tapenade and rillettes de thon on the side, salad and a tomato and asparagus croustade. Although I must admit I was tempted by the poivron and ricotta tart, but I know that if I'd taken that we'd have wound up messily exchanging mouthfuls over the table. (On forks, people. Calm down.) Not half bad anyway, washed down with a glass of rosé.

The only reservation I would have about the place is that there are only the two women who run and own the place behind the counter, cooking, taking orders and serving, so the service is a bit random and depends on who's chatting to whom. But still, I'd go back. The furnishings, not to mention the plates, cutlery, and glasses, are a rather eclectic collection - as though they'd gone to a brocante and got one item of every set - but it somehow hangs together and makes a cosy setting for a light meal and a long chat.

As I've said before, one of the drawbacks to Bryan having opened this bloody language school is that his availability on a Saturday morning is quite restricted, and I really hate having to drink alone. But luckily he managed to free himself, so the pair of us + Beckham wound up at l'Arbre à Bières (perhaps I should just give in and call it the Beer Tree like everyone else) to soak up the sun and say goodbye to Romain the chef, whose last day it was.

And also to catch up on Beckham's sex life, which is always fascinating. I'll spare you the sordid details, some of them are a little unbelievable: maybe she just makes them up to humour us, in an attempt to brighten the sad lives of two middle-aged gentlemen. Wouldn't put it past her.

And I suppose that after twenty-five years as a dedicated Mormon, with all that special underwear and stuff that she won't talk about, it's understandable that the road to normality is kind of twisty-turny.

So that was Saturday morning taken care of, in a long and lazy manner: this did mean rushing home to unload the car and get a dessert ready before even starting to think about lunch, for we were invited to Mumblefuck for dinner and that meant getting there before 18:00 if possible so as not to miss out on the apéro.

Luckily the weather stayed relatively fine, because the rising damp in Karen's house has finally become sufficiently bad that the landlord's insurance have decided to shell out to have something done about it and this involves all the wallpaper being ripped off, three huge dehumidifiers being installed around the house and sundry other inconveniences, and on top of that Philippe's mother has been moved into an old people's home and so room has to be found for all her furniture and there's the aunt with Parkinson's to be taken care of ...

Being able to have a barbecue outside was thus a Good Thing.

The occasion, apart from swapping bags of books and stuff, was that Reiner and Hildegaard were heading back to Germany after holidays in Aix-en-Provence. You could be forgiven for thinking that they'd stepped out of a Wagner opera and they do in fact look the part: Reiner's about six foot and built to match, and Hildegaard kind of looms and would make a very good, if rather cheery, valkyrie.

In real life he spends his time on the road, driving lorry-loads of used tires from Stuttgart to Manchester (who'd've thought there was an occasion for arbitrage in old rubber? Seems German used tires are still good for another eight months life in the UK) and she runs a translation business. And they both have a double life and turn up at quilt shows, which is how Margo and Karen met them.

Also, Reiner - oddly enough for someone who looks a bit like a tall beer keg - is an amateur of good cigars, which makes him an excellent chap in my book. And they have a small friendly dog, whose passion and main objective in life is to run after a tennis ball, and as far as she's concerned anyone officiating at a barbecue obviously has nothing better to do with their time than throw or kick the damn thing as far as possible so that she can run happily panting after it and then proudly bring it back, loaded with another layer of saliva, for another go.

Luckily, I find that if the pork chops are covered in enough chili sauce, no-one's going to notice the odd bit of drool and blades of grass in the marinade.

Not all French-women are slim sex-objects
It was a good evening, even if somewhat liberalement arrosée, as our frog friends say - sufficiently so, in fact, to lead me into error and say to Margo that when we get this gite, provided there's enough land, she can have a donkey. And unfortunately, there were witnesses: too late now to back out.

Anyway, I have to go and sharpen Jeremy's knives before his exams: they're in an appalling state. What do they teach the yoof these days? See you.


  1. So just why is it that the bicycle-fascinated and cerebrally-challenged don't seem to want to learn about evolution?
    From the description that followed I imagine (as you say) that they would learn about evolution - in a rather terminal, Darwin-award-material kind of way...

    the road to normality is kind of twisty-turny.
    Also wibbly-wobbly & timey-wimey???