Saturday, February 23, 2013

So What Do They Call A Condom ...

... in Prague? A cancelled Czech, of course. Sorry, that sad joke probably belongs to Riddled. They have form.

Right, things are definitely escalating around here, to the point where we have a casus belli if ever I saw one. We're not yet at global thermonuclear war, but things are heading that way ... you'd think the godless creatures could take a subtle hint to stay off our turf, and indeed it seemed to work for a little while - all quiet on the western front as it were - until I went down to the kitchen this morning and contemplated the breadboard over my second coffee of the morning.

One of those peaceful moments, when a man can be alone and at peace in the silent calm of the early morning, or so I reflected, being rather proud of being able to have noble feelings like that at such an ungodly hour.

At which point, as I watched a small mouse run twice widdershins around the breadboard and then disappear down the back of the unit, and another long thin tail wave cheerily at me from the back, I came to the conclusion that perhaps a few packets of souricide casually dropped about the pantry were a bit too subtle as hints go, and that Something Should Be Done.

Cohabitation is not an option, and I'll be damned if the last thing we see when we leave the house for points south is a family of mice on the doorstep waving farewell and copiously weeping crocodile tears into tiny hankies. And grinning behind my back.

Also, I have to worry about the effectiveness of the cat; or maybe I should be more concerned about which side her affections lie. Perhaps refusing to buy her that up-market cat food was a mistake.

Whatever, our murine would-be overlords should be quaking in their bootees, because someone is going to win this war and it is not going to be them. We've tried to be nice, but accommodation hasn't worked: perhaps I should go dust off the flame-thrower.

... Well, that's two down, godnose how many more of the little buggers to go. Found two nibbling the crumbs in the breadboard and promptly picked it up and emptied its contents onto the street - sadly, one parachuted out en route somewhere in the hall - and then, not ten minutes later, hearing rustlings from the paper bag where old baguettes go to dry out before turning into chapelure, sure enough ... another trip out to the street.

(A word to the wise: don't eat anything with breadcrumbs in it or on top of it around here for a while. The explanation that "they're wholemeal" sounds attractive, but would not be entirely true in this case. But in my defense, saying "Oh, those are just mouse turds, pick them out if you don't like them" would probably put people off.)

And we had a guest last night: a young Irish setter. One of Margo's ladies had to head off to Paris for a funeral on short notice, kennel didn't want to take him, so we wound up with him. Beautiful dog, but thick as pigshit - and I guess that being named "Angie" doesn't help the mess boiling in his pitiful brain - and randy as hell. I swear that as we tried to spend a calm evening slumped in front of the box, watching "Justified", he was performing frottage on anything that'd stay still long enough for him to get his rocks off.

Which includes chairs, the sofa, the odd leg, but not, oddly enough, the cat. She disappeared early on, doubtless sheltering with her little friends.

Also, he managed to go up the stairs to the first floor, but apparently hadn't worked out the reverse procedure so I wound up carrying him down. I should probably have been more careful when I picked him up: the base of my back is still giving me twinges. Cue a Health & Safety advisory on how to lift large dogs in a safe and non-threatening manner.

Anyway, a nice cosy night full of dread trying not to brick embedded Linux devices for the SNCF: updating the bootloader, then the kernel and rootfs. The first of these operations is guaranteed to make you resort to the JTAG programmer if it goes wrong, so it's always a stressful moment. Exceptionally, nothing went wrong, which means I can get some sleep.

So we seem to be having another cold snap: got in to Chambéry this morning and a few dry flakes were falling from a leaden sky and being whipped into a frenzy by a playfully vicious northerly breeze.

Begloved as I was, with a scarf around my neck and a greatcoat over my jacket, the cold still sneaked in somehow. So in common with man + dog I made my trip around as quick as possible, and having picked up some more bergamots I repaired rapidly to somewhere warm, aka the Beer Tree.

Why did I get more bergamots? Because they are pretty, and they were there, and also Emily the neighbour wandered off with one of the two pots I made last weekend. My fault, I offered, and also when I say "a pot" I really mean "half a pot" because she spent her visit with the pot in one hand and a teaspoon in the other.

Quite fond of marmalade, she is. It is also the season for les sanguines, blood oranges, which could also be nice, maybe with some rum, and simmered with a cinnamon stick and some badiane ... I will let you know.

It would appear, by the way, and much to my dismay, that what we get in France are not the true bergamot (citrus bergamio risso, a bitter orange) but instead citrus limetta risso, which is a sweet lemon. Whichever, I am not going to complain too much.

And apparently I have spent the last few weeks with my head under a rock or something because as we inhaled our vitamins and chatted of Beckham's doings Bryan managed to slip in the news about the Titan Tire spat, USA vs France, which has - it seems - pushed horse-burgers off the front pages. It was all news to me, so I lapped it up. And I have to admit that the exchange of poisonously civil letters was a lot of fun.

So once he'd filled me in on that, and we'd discussed all those things that start to get important when you've reached a certain age, such as how young blondes seem to be these days, we bade farewell to the yoof, muffled ourselves up again, and headed off: in my case, off to pick up Margo at Montmelian.

Under normal circumstances this would be a no-brainer, just avoid the autoroute as it's now the February school holidays and today just happens to be the first of the chassée-croisées where one lot are headed down from the mountains and another lot are headed up.

But I do regret the democratisation of GPS. It used to be, back in the day of actual paper maps that you had to unfold and somehow wherever you wanted to be was always on a crease and obscured by a bit of old sandwich anyway, the locals took the back roads and the foreign-type persons would submit to their lot and suffer the traffic jams on the autoroute.

But nowadays every Tom, Dick, and Harry (or more to the point, every Gerhardt, Lars and Hans) will look at the festering cloaca that is on the roads and say "Hey! Why don't we just do a U-turn on the slip-road and take the back roads? The GPS will show us how, and it'll be so much quicker." or something like that, only in Finnish, which means that when you say it it sounds as though you've slit your throat and then stuffed the gap with paper towels so it comes out all guttural and bubbling, also it's not so nice for anyone else in the room.

Of course his wife and kids have heard this before but there's no point arguing and anyway she has a copy of the latest Cosmopolitan (Special Sex Issue, Seven Secret Moves To Turn Him On), a bottle of akvavit and 3kg of crosswords to do and the brats all have TV screens in the headrests so that they can watch "The Lion King" in 3-D, which somehow still doesn't stop them calling out "Are we there yet?" every 15 minutes, so they could hardly care less if the trip takes an extra seven hours or so.

I, on the other hand, could, and sad to say I really do not appreciate having to share the road at the best of times and when it comes to taking one whole hour to do the 15km from St-Jeoire to Montmelian I have been known to curse from time to time. But I do pride myself that some of them were quite inventive, calling into question not only the ancestry of the Dutch but also their dubious sexual proclivities and excessive use of hair-dye.

Whatever, finally made it back home around 14:00 and have not felt the urge to move since. Probably wise. Mind how you go, won't you.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Just When You Thought It Couldn't Get Any Worse ...

... it does, of course. What else do you expect?

Like I said, it was softly spattering snow on Saturday morning and then on Sunday it did a bit more, taking advantage of -10° temperatures (I can tell you that my little walk in the hills left me feeling that Scott had it easy) and then this morning the weather really went to town.

Only a couple of cm when I left home, but it still took me about 90 minutes to get to the office - 60 kph on the autoroute (snow-ploughs being notable by their absence), then down to two lanes on the slush on the VRU, and the last bit up the hill to Chambéry-le-Haut was a bit hairy. To say the least.

A fair number or cars had just slowly slithered over on to the side of the road, others were still pitifully whizzing about like dying dung beetles: I recalled all the advice I have ever been given, stuck the car into second and very slowly, without ever applying too much power to the wheels, ground on up.

There is always that temptation to rev just a bit, because you feel that otherwise you're going to stall and indeed one thing you don't want to do, going uphill, is to actually stop, but the thing you really do not want to do is to let the wheels spin.

Once that happens, you might as well just stop, look at the skid marks, and resign yourself to putting the chains on. And be grateful that you wore brown trousers that day.

So, the big scandal over here in Ole Yurrup is the 100% beef-burgers and ready-to-eat crap meals that turn out, after DNA testing, to be mostly 100% horse. Personally I have no problem with that, I've eaten horse: hell, I've eaten quail, frogs' legs, snails and crocodile, and other bits I never asked about. And that's not even counting the odd slug in the salad.

I can see that the mis-labelling could cause a problem: there you are, thinking you're chowing down on old Buttercup the cow, who until fairly recently was gambolling in the paddock (or doing whatever it is cows do, I'm not an expert on that sort of thing), and then you discover that instead you're chewing away on bits of Black Beauty.

Could be distressing. So now the makers of these dreadful meals (whose consumers, in my opinion, deserve whatever they get) are seriously investigating how the ponies got into the food chain, as it were.

And in the same week, the Pope resigns. Coincidence? I think not. More on that in the fullness of time, once I've done some serious investigative journalism looked up some rumours on the innertubes.

Anyway, I got back from Lyon about 9pm last night and, having started the beans soaking that morning got to work on that cassoulet, which lead me naturally enough to thinking about what should go into one. Which leads, as it will, to a bit of looking into cookbooks and then, when you can't find the right page because the favourite ones are kind of of stuck together with what I can only call "blodges of stuff", a quick google.

Now as far as I'm concerned the essentials are - apart from the trinity* of beans, onions, garlic and tomato purée, of course - duck legs, lard paysan (preferably smoked), smoked sausages and garlic sausage. The first three of this second trinity** should be fried in the fat that the duck will render and go in with everything else, and the garlic sausage gets added in thick slices towards the end, along with heaps of chopped parsley.

I am apparently a heretic, because according to others nothing should be smoked, the sausages must be veritable saucisses de Toulouse, and chunks of fried lamb shoulder appear to be mandatory. Also, I slosh in a good half-bottle of white wine instead of water, which is apparently a major sin.

But I do find that the saucisses de Toulouse have a lamentable tendency to explode or auto-destruct after an hour or so in there, so personally I prefer something with a bit more strength of character. And a skin like a hernia girdle, to keep everything in. A diot, for instance, is perfect.

And I must admit to sometimes passing on the whole crust-of-persillade thing. Still, at least we're all in agreement that you should never under any circumstances chuck prawns in there, although I have read of that happening. Luckily, nowhere near me, or Things Would Have Been Said.

But it being Saturday now, and the cassoulet well and truly cooked, the entire famille Bimler arose at the crack of dawn (which sounds ruder than, in fact, it is) and we drove down into a sea of featureless white (for it was foggy) and the car danced and pranced a bit on the black ice on the road and then chucked Jerry out at the rond-point in front of the hotel where he is, it seems, in charge of entrées and desserts, before I unloaded Margo - rather more civilly - at the club room before heading off into Chambery.

Avoiding, needless to say, the autoroute like bubonic plague, for this is the first weekend of the February school holidays. 'Nuff said, squire. So I chuggered peacefully and, I admit, rather smugly along the back roads until I made it in to the market. Where, if I may say so, my delicate shell-like ears started fairly quickly to freeze, because apparently the news that things are starting to warm up has not yet made it to the metropolis.

Whatever, I got the usual suspects - clementines, blettes, apples (for Jeremy wishes to make a crumble), blood oranges and assorted greenery - and was headed back to the car with my arms getting longer when I happened to stop at a stall that does, I'm afraid to say, "bio" products: partly because the woman who runs it seems to think I'm an old friend and I have to admit she does seem familiar from somewhere, but mainly because when you leave the place du Marché by the rue du Sénat it's just there on your left, before you get to chez Liddy for a glass of white ... but I digress.

So we conversed, and against my better judgement I picked up a small potimarron which'll probably wind up stuffed with peas and bacon and onion and cream before being roasted, and some dark, almost purple, broccoli (I thought that had to be a healthy sign, I could be wrong, could just be necrosis) and then as I was rummaging around I came across some bergamot, which is not something you see every day.

So as they were selling them at four for the euro it's not as though I was risking a lot, anyway they were small, bright yellow and, I felt, my friends, so they went into the shopping basket as well before I went on my way to commiserate with Bryan at the Beer Tree.

Now the only thing I know about bergamot (not to be confused with the similar-smelling herb, for one is a citrus fruit and the other is not) is that its rind is used to flavour Earl Grey tea, but the invaluable David Lebovitz suggested making marmalade with the things, so even as we speak the little suckers have been sliced, blanched and are simmering away in the kitchen, before I add a capful of rum and a dose of cinnamon and stick them in jars to await Jeremy's depredations.

I have to admit that I've always been rather suspicious of jams and such, on the grounds that you can't really fry the ingredients - not in duck fat, anyway - but I guess we'll see how it goes.

And whilst I'm more or less on the topic, did you realise that there is - for such is the richness of the French language - a specific word for those small fish-bones that get stuck in the top of your mouth? It is, should you wish to know that, "une arête". (Which can also mean a mountain ridge, but that's hardly the point.)

On the other hand, there is no simple French word, nor phrase, for "self-righteous bombastic pretentious twat". I had always assumed that this was the case on the grounds that there is no way such people could be French - they'd have to be lords of finance from London or something - but Bryan assured me that he and Beckham had the dubious pleasure of dining in the vicinity of just such a person the other night, and he was definitely a Frog.

Perhaps, when he texted me in desperation the other night, I should have suggested that he just call the guy "a banker", and left it at that. It feels right, somehow.

* It's holy, alright? It doesn't have to add up. Or even make sense.

** See above. Try to read the bigger words without moving your lips.

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.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Pig and Chicken ...

So, do you recall a couple of weeks back, I told you about that slowly braised foreleg of pork, in a bath of soy sauce and wine and spices? I was actually quite pleased with that, so imagine my disappointment when I found this. Thought I'd had an original idea, kind of sad to find out that I was just anticipating someone else's blog.

Some sort of temporal loop, I suppose, such as happens all-too frequently around here. Bummer. Must shout at Jeremy about leaving crumbs in the control panel of the time machine, again. Also, I did not think to put cinnamon in there, nor the fennel seeds (and Margo would have gagged on them anyway) but let the five-spice powder be counted as a mitigating circumstance.

Hoping that I won't see this one come up in a few weeks (or that I am not channeling someone's future inspiration), I shall tell you about last night's dinner, which turned out to be an Italian-inspired job, creamy lemony chicken. (Twas a tossup between that and the old favourite honey chili chicken, but I had no fresh ginger. Inexcusable, I know, but what can I say?)

You start off by slowly sweating a large sliced onion in butter, and when I say slowly I mean about fifteen minutes, till soft and golden but not, please, brown. If you like that sort of thing - and I do - you could add some sliced poivron rouge, for the colour if nothing else. When that's ready you need to add as many chicken thighs - skin off, de préference - as you think you're likely to need, and add a few extra for the yoof, then turn the heat up a bit and let them brown on all sides, heaping the onions on top so they don't burn.

That should take another ten minutes: profit from that time to open a bottle of white (because you will need it for the cooking, you understand) and chop four cloves of garlic, more if you prefer, and a tbsp of rosemary. And have a drink. Or two, it's not as if you're going anywhere. Now when the chicken is looking nicely browned you need to strew the chopped stuff on top and sprinkle with pepper, then roll it all around a bit before sploshing in a glass of white and letting it reduce a bit, at least until the alcohol has burnt off.

At which point you should pour on the juice of a lemon, cover the pan, and let it simmer for a while, turning occasionally and, if it looks like drying out, adding water - or more wine, your choice. After half an hour of that the chicken should be tender: add more lemon juice if you like but you definitely need to add a good dose of cream and stir that in, incorporating any nice brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Heat until thickened, as they say.

Serving it with salad and buttered pasta is a Good Idea: personally I feel there's no need to salt it as the lemon juice adds quite enough tang but do feel free if that floats yer boat, also a bit of chopped parsley on top would not go amiss. Or chives.

And whilst we're on the subject of food, I made those croustades florentines again the other day, for Jeremy and I - Margo being off on the other side of France, eating pizza. He looked at it dubiously, and finally forked a mouthful in before making a noise, which sounded like "mmmm". Falling slowly on the last syllable, this is a Good Sign. Then the rest disappeared, in fairly quick order.

From which I deduce that he actually rather liked it.

And there's another thing: I found myself alone the other night, with only an aubergine and a left-over half tin of chopped tomatoes for company: how to spend my solitary evening? The simple answer is, you slice your aubergine lengthwise into thin slices which, if you happen to have the time (and the oven going) you can oven-roast or, if not, fry in olive oil and butter until they're golden and soft.

Then you use each slice to line a silicone muffin tin - they should be long enough that you have a couple of cm flopping over the sides - and then you put a couple of tsp of the tomato pulp (if the tin is brown around the edges that's OK, but it should not be actually furry) in, and then a big hunk of mozzarella on top, and a bit more tomato. Fold those floppy ends over the top to cover, and into the oven with them, to keep the quiche company.

After twenty minutes or so they should be ripe and the aubergine just ever so slightly caramelised, and with any luck they'll just slide easily out of the mould (thank you, silicone!). Had I thought about it, I suppose I could have sprinkled vast quantities of grated parmesan on the base of the moulds before putting the aubergine in, and that would have glazed rather nicely I suspect, but what the hell, it didn't actually need that. Although Margo would probably beg to differ.

Still more or less on topic, have you noticed how food photography has changed over the years? And I'm not talking about Victorian food-porn lithographs here. It came to me as as I was checking out Smitten Kitchen the other day, and then a post on The Sweet Life on that very subject, just how much the photos emphasize just the single recipe, set in a very minimalist decor. And in what appears to be natural lighting.

(Confession: I will not use a flash. I'm sure that people who know how to use them get marvelous results, but I am way too tight to pay for a decent flash and I refuse to use the built-in one on the camera, on the grounds that it's crap. I may be wrong, but then I won't use the camera in my phone either, because that too is crap.)

Contrast that with my treasured copy of Pellaprat, wherein the photos are full of food on silver salvers on tables groaning under the weight, like a room full of Mr Creosotes in club armchairs, but under harsh lighting. Or back in the 80s (remember those?) when it was apparently de rigeur to shoot anything but the food: the photos were of happy laid-back people, enjoying themselves enormously around a picnic hamper in the middle of a field. Peace and love, people.

Also, I should probably stay away from supermarkets when they're having specials on pork. We whipped into Intermarché last night to pick up an emergency bottle of fresh milk (yes, that's one way we know that Jeremy is back with us, the way the milk supply takes a hit at midnight) and came home with a 9kg fresh ham. Which is, right now, sitting on the kitchen table waiting for me to remove the shoulder-blade, which will happen once I've checked out Ruhlman (Charcuterie, by Ruhlman & Poncyn, and personally recommended, by me, as more or less indispensable for anyone serious about food) and decided exactly how I want to do it.

If I happened to have some treacle it would be an easy choice, but I'm just going to have to think about substituting golden syrup and masses of brown sugar. Won't have quite the same taste, nor the same deep colour, but I think I shall try, just to see. I'll let you know how it turns out, in six months or so ...

Orbz, for SC
... well, that's out of the way. A dry rub of gros sel, saltpetre, brown sugar and golden syrup, cayenne pepper, juniper berries and a cup of rum, and now it's sitting in the cave under about 20kg of bricks, where it will stay for another two weeks before I wash it, soak it, and hang it up to dry. Ideally I should cold-smoke it, which'd cut the drying time back to eight weeks or so, but sadly I am not really equipped for that. And while I was at it I checked out the bacon, which is about ripe, and brushed all that with maple syrup again before I hang it up tomorrow to await the call of duty.

Anyway, Jerry went off and got a job. A hotel-restaurant at Montmelian had posted an ad on the ANPE website ten days ago: when he went to check it out the ad had disappeared but it seemed like a reasonable idea to get his long-suffering mother to take him through anyway, just on the off-chance, and so that's what happened. So he waltzed in, and the actual chef got called out to have a chat, and they said they'd call back ...

So he did get called, to see if he couldn't go past on Tuesday: it was not made clear to him that this was not a second interview but a meeting to sign the contract, and he started on Wednesday. A one-month trial and then, si affinité, a CDI (that's contrat durée indeterminée, ie long-term). So far he's enjoying it: there's but he, the lowly commis, and the sous-chef most days so he actually gets to do a bit of real cooking. And as he gets lunch and dinner (left-overs, I guess) there, the food bill has stayed reasonable. Apart from those midnight snacks.

Whatever, the wind is howling, the stream is roaring, and it's sleeting bitterly outside, so I for one am headed off to bed. Enjoy your summer whilst it lasts, mind how you go.