Sunday, July 29, 2012

In Which Pooh Is Serious ...

This is unusual, but une fois n'est pas coutume as they say, and with a bit of luck I won't have to do this again, so I am going to start on a serious note. This blog started out as a diary of sorts - like it says on the tin - and little by little over the years it got a life of its own and friends and acquaintances started popping up in it - some of them have become regulars - and, as will happen with me - constitutionally incapable of leaving well enough alone - they came in for a bit of tender mockery. Tender because I love them all, but to those friends I do owe an apology: I can be cruelly thoughtless, I will exaggerate (not actually lying, maybe some details get omitted or even changed I admit) for the sake of a good story, and it's not as though you even asked to make an appearance here. So I'm sorry, and I will think a bit more before opening my mouth in future.

This public service announcement and mea culpa being over, normal service is now resumed.

So having, once again, occasion to find myself in a pharmacy with nothing better to do, I amused myself looking over the shelves of condoms and KY jelly. (Please, do not ask. It's not really germane.) Things certainly have changed, not sure if it's for the better, it was so much easier before all this choice became available.

I mean, they had "Senseo Ultralite" with "Intimi-Fit technology" for "un max de plaisir", packets of "Prolong'" for "un effet retardateur" (yes, that means what you probably think it does), a "Magic Box" of 18 different styles, colours and, no doubt, flavours, and then the ones that I imagine must just fly off the shelves, "Extrem XXL". So who in the name of hell is going to ask for small-size condoms? I mean, really? Back in the day it was a choice between a packet of 6 or a packet of 12, and if you didn't want flesh-coloured (actually, livid pink) you were stiff out of luck. Tell that to the young folk today ... spoiled rotten, they are.

There was also a packet with a picture of a feather on it, but I didn't open it to check if each was indeed equipped with a feather on the end: I suspect I'd have been bitterly disappointed. Also, they did not have small Meccano-like shoulder-fitted winch systems, for those awkward moments when a bit of mechanical assistance is required. I guess Viagra has rendered those obsolete. I know you have to go with the times, but it's still rather sad to see these old crafts disappear.

Mind you, some of them were pretty pointless, not to say cruel. I mean, badger-baiting? I really cannot see a trout going after a badger on a line, no matter how attractively dressed. (A shark, on the other hand ...) And as for the old Shriven Wednesday tradition of tormenting an adolescent weasel (these days, by making harsh comments about his acne), I don't know why they bothered. The little bastards are depressed enough as it is, no point to adding to it.

Saturday turned up again, as it tends to once a week, and S. kindly offered to take me in to the market. She had ulterior motives, of course: wanted to head off first to a farm across the valley that sells home-butchered meat, mainly pig, and beef once a month. I can see I shall have to go back there - the diots looked really good, and the chorizo was excellent. And apparently they save the hampe for them as likes it, which means me, maybe I shall order some.

And as her idea of 9:30 errs more on the side of 10:15 (in all fairness, mine's not much better) we weren't exactly early at the market, so it's her own fault that someone snagged the last bundle of purple basil at the stall I often go to for vegetable exotica. Shame, for I would've liked to have tasted it: supposed to be a bit lemony. Still, they had sweetcorn, and my pepperoncini should be ripe in a couple of weeks, and their tomatoes are excellent, even the really incredibly fleshy ones that look like some wierd pointy pepper. (They're actually rather good for cooking, as you don't have to bother squeezing juice and seeds out.)

There were also round courgettes, about 3" diameter, which meant that I had to go pay a visit to the charcutier just inside the actual market hall and get some lard fumé paysan. I really need to make some more of that, especially as they charge €18/kg for the stuff, and I can put it together for about €5. (Note to self: must get on to trying out my idea of using a flowerpot and a hotplate as a simple smoker.)

And then she fell to talking, as she does, to all and sundry and in particular to a little old Algerian lady kitted out in headscarf and a literally golden smile, who told her all about how to conserve celery (although personally I can't imagine why anyone would wish to do so but what the hell, I'm broad-minded) and they discussed important matters like whether or not it's possible to have too much basil. (The answer, incidentally, seems to be "no". I swear they both left with what looked like an acre's worth of production each.)

Anyway, about the time my basket was full to overflowing people started packing up, so we decided it was time to stick everything back in the car, adjourn to the Beer Tree and see if we couldn't tempt Bryan to abandon his vows of abstinence in favour of a glass of Gourmandise. (This latter being, in fact, an excellent rosé from the Languedoc. They have very nicely offered to get me a carton next time they stock up, as the stuff's only available at Metro - which is a supermarket reserved for professionals. I love these people.)

(Which reminds me that Bruno from Sorhea turned up the other day to discuss a job, and very thoughtfully brought along a case of Uby. If ever you see some do go buy it: it's a blanc de Gascogne, slightly sweet and exceedingly fruity, and absolutely delicious, well chilled, as an apéritif. But don't try drinking it with the meal, unless all you're having is foie gras. Try it, and tell me I'm wrong.)

Whatever, we were sitting hogging a table as Bryan related Beckham's latest adventures in Lille and this intermittent line of uncomfortably well-dressed people - I'm talking women tottering in  high heels that looked rather new and were obviously  unfamiliar - starting snaking out from one of the traboules that connects rue de Croix d'Or with rue Dessaix, and even Foul Ole Ron had a clean shirt on: the aftermath of a wedding at the cathedral in place Métropole, heading off to a reception at l'Atelier. At least, that was my bet.

Luckily we didn't have to move to check - not that we really had any intention of doing so - for about ten minutes later this harassed-looking guy came along carrying an enormous croquembuche with dangerously pointy-looking bits of nougat and put it down on a table at the Indian restaurant across the alley from us. Then, for some reason, he disappeared.

Only to reappear, looking even more harassed, to pick the thing up again and head along rue Roche with it, back the way he'd came. A clear case of mistaken identity, wrong wedding or wrong restaurant.

It turned out to be the latter, as an evidently uncomfortable guy in a suit (and it was very hot, and humid) came sprinting along, mumble-fucking as he ran, to get the cake delivery back on track. I'm sad to say that we were all laughing our heads off, mean-spirited of us I know but quite frankly, what would you have done?

I would like to take the occasion to say that Bryan, despite - or perhaps because of - his advanced years, has a shocking tendency to vulgarity. Not content with pointing out a passing resemblance between the pointy nougat bits and the male anatomy, and going on from there to a few ribald comments about the groom's equipment, he had to come out with this "And that reminds me ..." line about a party game for weddings, involving the groom (the target), the bridesmaids (the players), and a set of quoits. I could, actually, have done without that.

The meeting broke up in disorder about that time, mainly because Bryan wanted to head off for a run and on top of that it started to rain: not a good time to be sitting out in the sun.

So we left, and I started to think seriously about lunch, which turned out to involve those courgettes stuffed with a mixture of sautéed onions and lardons and their own chopped guts and chopped tomato and breadcrumbs and as much basil as I could reasonably get in there being baked in the oven with a huge glob of goat cheese atop each one (hint: pour a bit of water into the cocotte before it goes into the oven, what might otherwise burn turns into a really nice sauce that just cries out to be wiped up with bread.).

And whilst that's cooking (about 30 minutes at 210°C, do check from time to time though) you could do a lot worse than to cut the kernels off a couple of fresh ears of sweetcorn (don't forget to scrape down the cobs with the back of the blade to get all the last bits and the juice out), bring a frying pan up to heat and then sauté them in butter with some chopped onion, some sweet chili pepper, a sliced tomato, parsley (last-minute, please) and a bit of decent curry powder. When it's just about ready, could break a couple of eggs on top and cover the pan for five minutes. Sheer bliss.


  1. A clear case of mistaken identity, wrong wedding or wrong restaurant.
    It turned out to be the latter


    a party game for weddings, involving the groom (the target), the bridesmaids (the players), and a set of quoits.

    If this is leading up to a punchline about "quoitus interruptis", I'm outta here.

  2. I never even thought of that. Shit, I'm missing something here.

    1. Let the record show that the joke is stolen from one of your own Punch magazines, mid-1980s.