Saturday, February 9, 2013

Beans, And Stuff ...

And so then Margo reminded me, ever so gently, that for her next sewing class in two weeks time they'd decided that having a festive cassoulet together would be a Good Idea, and that if I could possibly make it for rather fewer than fifteen persons, given that they will be but six, that would be an even better one.

As luck would have it Carrefour had a special on cuisses de canard so there are four of them sitting in the freezer downstairs, and quite frankly le lard paysan is not exactly lacking around here just now, what with all those slabs hanging up drying in the cellar. (Incidentally, my ham is smelling marvelous. That may just be the rum, but I hope that when it's finished curing it tastes as good as it smells now.)

Given that for that small number there is no way I can fit a bit of lamb breast into the pot, Margo will just have to go off and get a garlic sausage and a couple of saucisses de Toulouse and a packet of dried white beans - unless I decide to get some of those wonderful multicoloured varieties (what the gooey people call "heirloom beans", a phrase that is guaranteed to piss me off because a) it sounds pretentious and b) if all I ever got as an inheritance was a handful of beans I would start to wonder about what great-aunt Hortense really thought of me) that one stall-holder at the market sells fresh, and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Luckily I do have a big stainless steel lidded pot from Ikea which should just about be the right size, so long as I do not succumb to the urge to add just another little wafer handful of beans. Which is always a temptation because they look so sad and lonely there in the bowl before you cover them with water in the evening: it's a different story the next morning of course, the little buggers have drunk too much, overflowed and seem to be playing hopscotch on the kitchen floor.

Skynet tightens sphincter
So these days I am very strict and stern and have learnt the importance of self-control in such matters.

Whatever, I still have this nagging suspicion that there will be too much, they will just have to live with that. But I guess that, being as they are ladies, I could add a teaspoon of baking soda to the bean-soaking water, which is supposed to reduce the tendency to make you fart. Which just might stop them making rude jokes, although quite frankly I rather doubt it. (And truth to tell, they'd probably regret the missed opportunity, flatulence can be such a great leveler.)

Anyway, I headed off to the Beer Tree to inhale a pichet of pinotage along with my bavette sauce moutarde with spaetzle on the side, and I could not but notice that the next concert, on Wednesday night, will feature "DALEKo".

Personally I blame the education system: turns out too many bloody mad scientists, never happy until they've resuscitated dormant forces of ancient evil which would far better be left undisturbed, and busily undermined the very foundations of the world as we know it. As soon as I hear a maniacal laugh I'm out of the place.

So anyway, it started snowing today. As it got heavier and heavier, I decided to leave early - a mistake, for reasons which will become obvious. I knew it was headed titsup as I navigated to the roundabout some 500m from the office, the one that gets on to the road that goes down the hill to the VRU: a small lorry/big van full of small frightened squawking animals had got himself stuck there, wheels spinning uselessly, and no-one else could come up, go along, or get around. The traffic jam went all the way down to the VRU, I noted.

Finally I made it down and pootled off at the magnificent speed of 60kph, all the way home: overtaking out of the question, except for prats in Audis who whizzed in and out of lanes before ending up in the ditch ... funny thing about driving in snow, it's kind of like being under a ping-pong ball. The sky is a white, luminous bubble overhead and around, and the world seems to exist for a 30m radius about you - you can see how that could be rather disorienting.

After about an hour of that I made it to the St-Pierre exit and managed to make it across the bridge and along and up the hill, and at the bottom of our little street I made one of those executive decisions, seeing as how the snow-ploughs had not yet come past, which was to go up the main road into the village and then go down from there: sometimes you regret those choices.

For as I went up it became clear that the main road was in no better state than ours, and little Suzy started slipping and sliding and I decided that perhaps I should just pull over and chain up.

Of course there's not really anywhere to pull over except into snow, which means, having no gloves, kneeling in 10cm of snow to try to get these evil chains which knot themselves together as soon as you take your eyes off them around the tyres with hands that are rapidly becoming frozen lumps (at least like that you don't feel the flesh wounds) as the snow-plough roars past splattering you with slush and all that takes at least twenty frigid minutes just so you can finish the five minute drive home ...

Where, once I'd started to thaw, I promptly threw the coffee pot onto the floor, which made it sad and it broke. Some days, you really are better off not getting out of bed.

Truth to tell, most days you are probably better off at least lying in for a while, say until midday, until Mr Brain finally springs (well, stumbles, in my case) into life and is capable of making informed choices, like how at twelve am there really seems precious little point to changing things seeing as you'll only be going back to bed soon enough, so why not just stay where you are?

Which would, I admit, be an attractive and viable option were it not for the simple fact that, spending life in bed or not (and let's face it, your bed is extremely comfortable, never more so that when you have to leave it so why, lord, do people insist on making one's bed and thereby changing it from its ideal platonic state, which is how it was when you got out of it) you still have to eat.

Pretending to be an invalid may work for a while (although not around here, sad to say, sympathy for the apparently dying and barking mad is often sadly lacking chez Bimler) and in any case a diet of chicken soup may prove to be terminally boring: my point is that if you're The One That Cooks you cannot, I'm afraid, spend all bloody day malingering. (A word, incidentally, which I assume comes from the French and would mean "to wear lingerie badly or with evil intent". Sounds about right.)

Whatever, despite it being a Saturday, day of rest for the oppressed working man and all that, I still had to leap from bed around 7am to drop Jerry off at Montmelian (yes, it does indeed take me an hour - at least - for me to stop clicking my talons and get up to being semi-human, ontogeny recapitulating, as it will, phylogeny every bloody morning) before heading off to the market.

(Reminds me: if you think I'm bad, you should see our son. The Beast From Below headed off to its nest this evening, after a fairly copious dinner, accompanied only by a plateful of four thick slices of wholemeal bread - I guess that's healthy, anyway - slathered with Nutella, and a couple of clementines. And a huge bucket of hot chocolate, apparently a bit too hot for he was mumbling "Ouch hot Burny! Burny!" as he went up the stairs. Just as well really as Margo popped her head out to see what was wrong, so I have a witness.)

But I digress. Or something. At 9 am the shops have not yet opened, the stallholders, swindlers and racketeers at the monthly antiques sale in place St-Leger have not yet set up the stands and are still polishing their dubiously provenanced "antique" champagne flutes, and it's too damn cold for the old ladies to be out and about.

Being as what they are cold-blooded reptiles, you understand. Did I mention that it was snowing lightly as I made my rounds - rather rapidly, before repairing chez Liddy for a restorative glass of Chignin blanc? No? Thought not.

Still, at least one shopkeeper seems to think that spring is on its way. Either that, or he has really good central heating. Or some rather strange (I'm not saying "bad") ideas as to how one might keep warm in the afternoon.

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