Sunday, May 11, 2014

But It Was Going Cheap ...

Another herb that grows around these parts in abundance is dill, or aneth as a Frog-thing would say. I cannot see why it should do so, for wild salmon do not, as a general rule, roam the garrigue, and the only reason for dill is making gravlax. It is a mystery, at least to my poor tired brain.

May 8 was of course a public holiday over here, celebrating la victoire glorieuse de la France in WWII. We very reasonably skipped the apéro at the mairie, and went off instead to the foire de printemps at Narbonne. Think of it as a sort of half-assed A&P show, only without the combine harvesters, and you'll get the idea. In any case, it all just goes to show that I really should not be let out on my own.

Because, you see, it was bright and sunny, and there was a leg of lamb sitting mournfully in the fridge, as these things tend to do, and in an excess of enthusiasm I had promised the neighbours a barbecue that very night - so despite the fact that we already had a barbecue we came back with two more. A little black Weber kettle job, just the right size for two or three people, and another one that is ... somewhat bigger.

Somewhat to my surprise the montage was relatively fool-proof, for I got it all together without losing any skin or, indeed, my temper, and there were no parts left over when that was done. Quite providentially Richard came past at that moment with a sack of fresh mussels, as he'd been out in the kayak at Gruissans, and couldn't help himself. So Margo very generously accepted a bucket-load, which cooked up - apparently - very nicely. (I wouldn't know. Given my history with the little rodents - I'm thinking oysters here - I do tend to avoid shellfish unless I absolutely know that I can eat them without, um, side-effects. It may be paranoia, but at least I'm not squatting the toilet all night.)

But I can see that I shall have to learn the fine art of dosing the charbon de bois for a kettle barbecue, as I had to finish off my boned-out butterflied leg in the oven. Never mind. And it's a good thing that Cash'n'Carry* are old enough to remember the time when garlic bread was considered pretty cool.

I hear the collective intake of breath as I tell you that, not content with that, we headed off to Montpellier the very next day, to take a look around Ikea and see what they had that we liked. You'll be relieved to hear that we left, a number of hours later, arms unencumbered, having bought nothing. (Apart from lunch, that is, which was when I discovered to my horror that they would not permit me to have a glass of wine with my salad. Only with a hot meal - must be healthier or something.)

However, as we were unladen and had the time, we had the bad idea to look around the rest of the huge mall, and came across a branch of Du Bruit Dans La Cuisine. I do not need any more de Buyer saucepans - and in any case I can get them just as cheaply online should I feel some sort of moral imperative coming over me - but they did have one KitchenAid stand mixer - in gloss black, admittedly - left in stock, at the ridiculous price of 500€ instead of 630€. Hell, 20% off? What was I supposed to do, under the circumstances?

I know what I did do, which was help them pack it into its carton, flash the plastic and walk off with it. So OK, neither of us should be allowed to go out without adult supervision. And of course once I got it home I was confronted with the existential question that hangs over all those of us with small kitchens - where to put the damn thing? Good one, Bruce: as it happens the faithful old Kenwood doesn't see that much use, so it's been banished to the pantry and the KitchenAid has taken its place right next to the imposing black German multi-function microwave.

Now I can see that I shall be forced to dig out Ruhlman's book Charcuterie and go online to search for things like the sausage-making attachment, and just possibly the pasta roller too, why not?

So just for a change I headed off to Narbonne on Saturday, hoping that just maybe after the market I would be able to find the Arab bazaar that I vaguely recalled was over by the gare, and that perhaps they would have some of life's necessities like sweet chili sauce and oyster sauce - oddly enough, these are things that are not easy to find in these parts.

I managed to pick up some cherries, first of the season, some of the adorable little pêches plates about which I have written before, spare ribs and tomatoes with taste and, just because I can, a couple of daurade royale (which I learn are bream) destined for the evening barbecue accompanied by some skewered vegetable chunks - courgette, kumara and onion, I thought.

And with that lot safely stowed away in little Suzy I ambled vaguely off in the general direction of the train station, studiously ignoring the blandishments of those that would have sold me all sorts of things going cheap because really, I think I've bought enough stuff for one week.

Although I am still on the lookout for some decent oven gloves: the pair I have are on their last legs but I will not be having with those damn silicone ones that make me feel as though my hands are encased in an over-sized football. So if any of you are wondering what exactly to buy me as a spur-of-the-moment present just because, now you know.

Sadly I was stiff out of luck: they stock many spices - I even recognise some of them - but the shelves were destitute of what I crave. Maybe I'll have no choice but to stock up next time I head off to Chambéry.

And on the way back life continued to spite me. When this place got done up some time ago, not only did the guy that did it have a penchant for holding things together with vast quantities of 7cm screws, but he was also only an approximative electrician. Case in point, the neon under the cupboards over the sink in the kitchen. The tube started to die and the actual fitting was sufficiently delicate that it took two of us to get a tube in and then you had to twist it just right to get it to actually work, and god help you if it got so much as a dirty look afterwards ... it seemed like a no-brainer to just replace the whole damn thing.

So cue a quick trip on Friday night to pick up a new fitting and a spare tube, head back home and start to take the old one down. Somewhat to my surprise, when I exposed the wires that lead from the switch to the old fitting I discovered that all three were red, which is not really what one expects. I guess that the guy ran out of wire.

He had thought to wrap some blue insulating tape around the neutral, and the earth was more or less recognisable because it was just screwed straight into the metal of the fitting, but he still managed to surprise me again when I found out the hard way that he'd put the neutral through the switch, rather than the phase, as would be normal. I know, I know, I should have pulled fuses one by one and used a multimeter to check that power was off to the lights (and I've no excuse because I actually own a decent multimeter), but I'd still have had to go and reset all the clocks in things like the microwave, and the UPS would've screamed at me ...

Whatever, the tingling stopped after a while, and I cursed a bit and decided that I was doing no more till I'd got some more reels of cable and rewired the damn thing comme il faut.

Also, add to the exhaustive compendium of the guy's sins the fact that half the power points downstairs, in what is currently my office, do not actually have an earth - something that became obvious the day I plugged an old desktop PC in down there and touched the case whilst barefooted.

Hence, if you like, my feeling that life is conspiring against me because when I came back from Narbonne past Bricomarché with the idea of at least getting the cable, I was reminded of the fact that they close at lunch-time.

Sad, too bad. It all got done anyway, just a bit later than I had planned. And it's not as though I'd counted on getting any work done that day.

And now, children, I'd better drag myself inside from the bright sun and start planning dinner, for I have a large hunk of pork with the ribs still in and not much of an idea as to what I shall do with it, nor what to do on the side. Decisions to be made.

* Actually that's Cash - for Catherine - and Terry, but I can't help myself.

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