Thursday, May 22, 2014

It's All Pants ...

Call me slow if you like (some, the charitable ones, say that my brain is running on only 24V rather than the usual 220V) but I just noticed that blogger's login page shows up as "One account. All of Google". Couldn't see the fine print about "One account to rule them all", but I'm sure it's there somewhere in the T&C. Maybe I should have read those more carefully before signing up. Hey, it's kind of grey and smoky in here, and I can't see the door marked "EXIT". Hello? Anyone?

Down at one of the local supermarkets (in fact, at all of them, but I'm thinking of Intermarché in particular for reasons which will, as Zappa remarked, become obvious later in the song) there is a rayon holding most everything required to support the lifestyle of an expatriate English-thing. Bovril, Hovis, Marmite, water crackers, Roses' marmalade and Robinson's jam, HP brown sauce and peanut butter, authentic English curry mix and digestives - you name it.

Also, right on the bottom shelf, just to the right of the tins of feijão com arroz - not very English I know, but there are lots of Spaniards people of Catalan origin around here too, we're only a couple of hours from Barcelona - there is a stack of dusty bottles marked Montilla-Moriles, which those of you who are obsessed by drink or know about such things will recognise as being the next best thing to a decent dry fino sherry. At 5€ the bottle, I might just buy the entire stock. If I had somewhere to stick it, given that not even I am going to drink the lot in one fell swoop.

Amongst other things, our mission statement here at The Shamblings has a paragraph stuck away somewhere in an appendix which says (and I quote) "Try to be more helpful". I cannot for the life of me think how that got in there but never mind: in an effort to live up to our lofty ideals I can only say that if you're looking for the present for the significant other in your life I don't think you could do much better than this.

I've been busy working away, trying to meet deadlines that get changed every other day (or if it's not the delivery date that advances, it's the specification that changes) and was reminded of the old charter or something in which it is said (in a pompous tone), "Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they is subtle and quick to anger". It should also be said, "Do not even try to be humerous with clients, for they have no sense of fun and when a message box pops up saying 'I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that', they do not get the joke". Good thing really that I coded that only once as a resource, and don't have to check every single frikkin' dialog box for the offending text.

Been having fun recently as I have my first coffee of the day, out in the sun on the terrace, for at the southern corner of our little place, where rue Ferdinand Théron meets rue de la Liberté as they both arrive, there stood a pretty, innocent, doubtless happy if somewhat rustic benitier - a font, to you.

It must have been a right bitch for the people whose little holiday home on that corner has only one window which opens - or rather, does not open - onto it, and I guess noises must have been made for at one point during the last week the entire municipal workforce (that would be two burly young men, a truck, a back-hoe digger "borrowed" from the grape vines and the mayor's idiot nephew) turned up to remove it. Passers-by stopped to enjoy the spectacle, and of course the situation had to be explained in broad Provençal to each and every one of them.

Which does take a while, especially as the work has to be inspected every time, and comments must be made as to the magnitude of the task ahead ... two days later the idiot nephew, staggering under the weight, heaved the thing into the back of the truck and I, innocently, assumed that that was the end of the entertainment.

Naturally I had not reckoned on the fact that a) the benitier was destined to be installed in the church and b) Nature abhorring, as it does, a vacuum, the place it had vacated was to be filled.

The truck in which the thing had been carted away turned up again two days later at the door of the church, and with much heaving and groaning it (not the truck, just to be quite clear) was installed and cemented into place - although godnose where they thought it might run to. And the next morning the same dream team turned up at the corner, again, with a huge block of stone about a metre high and 50cm on a side, and proceeded to wrestle that into the spot where the font had previously stood.

Work went quicker that day, for it was not as fine and sunny and the passing citizenry of Moux seemed less inclined to stop and chat, and by the evening the deed was done, and the monolith was firmly and rather definitively in place, secured by lashings of concrete just in case someone took it into their head to steal the thing. And I note that once again, the neighbours cannot open their window.

At any rate, that's one less fruit I am going to have to buy at the market. I took the time to look up as I was bringing STD back from his morning Evacuation Exercise (this is not some sort of Civil Defense thing), and I was struck - literally, by a falling fruit -  by the fact that the tree nesting behind old Régis (saint, statue of) is heavy with small yellow fruit about the size of a golf-ball and is, in fact a nèfle, or medlar. Which is kind of convenient, because I rather like them. I'm not sure if it actually belongs to anyone: I rather think not, but perhaps, just to be on the safe side, I should go gather them at night.

I don't often go buying clothes for pleasure, but when one's last-but-one pair of jeans rips across the crotch (don't ask) and the remaining pair is looking kind of strained across one buttock then someone around here makes Pointed Comments (I was spared the Meaningful Looks) along the lines that another pair or two would perhaps be a welcome addition to my wardrobe (aka where the cats sleep). Also, it starts to get breezy down below. So I made an effort, going so far as to trek from one side of Carcassonne to the other in search of a denim emporium with something in my size.

Having been blessed, for my sins, with a 28" waist, this is not an easy task. To start with, if you're looking for jeans that have not been distressed, "pre-worn", or had designer holes cut in them, your waistline is going to have to be about twice mine. Once you get up to size 45 - for respectable middle-aged businessmen - happiness can be yours. But me? Christ almighty, I swear that the designers are of the opinion that the waistline actually goes through the crotch. Also, the fly is all of about three centimetres long: which, given that the actual waist button is just about a tad above your scrotum, is perhaps not unreasonable. Who could need more?

The third pair seemed fine until I tried them on,  only to find that they had an elasticized waistband, and I am not yet ready for that. I have enough problems already with the yoof sniggering at my zimmer frame. And it was during six abortive visits to the changing cubicle (that's cabine d'essayage in Frog by the way, should ever you find it necessary to ask) that I discovered that the French (or European) size 36 is actually used for two US sizes: 28" and 30". What's a couple of inches between friends?

I finally found some Lee Coopers with a cut that does not make me look too much like a gigolo, something that's always appreciated. Still a bit too big about the waist but hell, maybe I should just eat more and exercise less. Also, they seem to feel that anyone with a relatively trim waist is some sort of Barbie, with improbably long legs - and to judge by the room they leave in the crotch for you to stow it, rather impressive wedding tackle.

Just to give you an idea of the moral bankruptcy of these times, or perhaps of the particularly degenerate - even for France - culture in which we now find ourselves immersed, even the cave cooperative at Lézignan offers a fidelity card to its customers. It seems an unnecessary incitement to drink,  if you ask me, but I suppose that competition is rife these days.

Could I just say that if you've nothing better to do, are planning a dinner for four, and can acquire 600gm of beef fillet without taking out a second mortgage, you could do worse than follow that which I am about to recount. But do try to get the fillet cut from the centre: the tail is too thin, and at the head you will spend some time removing the silvery sinewy bits, which the butcher will not do for you because there goes his profit margin.

Once tidied up you should wrap it in some slices of fatty bacon (poitrine is ideal, but you don't get that) and tie it neatly before sticking it in the oven, about 240° for twenty minutes. Whilst it's cooking, make the duxelles you will need later on: finely chop some ham and mushrooms and fry them up in butter with some chopped tomato until they're nicely dry and aromatic. You should still have five minutes left: have a glass of white (you won't need any for the recipe, so feel free) and cut eight slices of foie gras from the tin in the fridge. Do what you wish with the leftovers - I would not recommend giving them to the cats, it's not really appreciated.

When the meat's cooked take it out of the oven and put it under tinfoil to rest for five more minutes to settle: this gives you just the time required to make up a bastard sauce béarnaise to which you could usefully add a glop of tomato purée, or a tsp of concentrate (but please, not ketchup!) to turn it into a sauce aurore. (Named after rosy-fingered Dawn, I guess. Rather than light-fingered Edith, the pick-pocket. And no, it was never named after some famous nineteenth-century prostitute renowned for her hand-jobs. Some recipes, yes, but not this one.)

Now would be a good time to remove the string with which you tied the fillet and cut it into eight slices: you are now going to reconstitute the fillet by laying a slice of meat on a hot serving dish, putting a wodge of duxelles on top (see, I hadn't forgotten about them) and then topping that with a slice of foie gras. Overlap with another slice of fillet, and repeat ...

Then pour the béarnaise over the top and stick under a very hot grill for five minutes or so (the time to get a salad ready) until the sauce is browned and blistery: serve and enjoy. This is a bastard dish: without the duxelles it would be a simple filet de boeuf Rossini, with them, but sans the foie gras, it is filet de boeuf Charlemagne. Whatever. It's kind of delicious, and it's been a while since I made it.


  1. "Still a bit too big about the waist"

    (cough) sewing machine (cough) Margo (cough) asking nicely (cough)...

  2. Ask her to take in jeans? That is one bitch of a job. More than my life's worth.

  3. see I've trained him well. It's bad enough having to take up the hems.