Sunday, June 22, 2014

Pissup In A Brewery ...

Big day in Moux this Saturday: yes folks, it will be the annual fête de la cave cooperative and I have, in common with just about everybody else, gone off and bought tickets for the affair. I'm not entirely sure why, because they only cover the meal and the wine is free to all and sundry - they just have to run a hose-pipe from the vats to the tables - but I guess that one of the delights of being down here is the chance to eat great lashings of aligot and barbecued sausages on what promises to be a stinking-hot day.

Aligot, in case you're wondering, is nowt more than the humble mashed potato of your youth raised to a sublime level: it involves potato, I admit, but also vast quantities of garlic, cheese and cream - it should be thick, glossy, served in heaping mounds and above all, it should be hot. Not a light meal, and I'm thinking about as well-adapted to summer as a tartiflette, but what the hell.

And speaking of summer, it seems to have been going on forever: the earth is baked dry by the sun, the cicadas are doing their monomaniac chirping out in the garrigue, and I'm dropping into lizard mode. Roll out of bed, slip on jandals and shorts, then out onto the terrace under the bright wide sky for fruit juice and nicotine before it gets too damn hot - like, around 9am -  and I have to retreat to the relative cool of the office.

The cats lie stretched out, draped over various boxes still awaiting unpacking in the verandah, or sprawled inelegantly upstairs in the bedroom, and STD can't be arsed going walkies during the day and flops in a shaggy heap on the cool tiles downstairs. There's not that many people out and about - not that Moux is exactly a buzzing hive of activity at the best of times - and those that absolutely have to leave the shade tend to do so in the morning, or early evening.

I know I said that these days I am beyond surprise, but it turns out that I can still be shocked. Like this morning, going around the market at Carcassonne, where I came upon some baby yellow courgettes, about the size of a finger (yeah, I know, depends on the size of your fingers. Mine were not built for playing the piano, your mileage may - as they say - vary), and was picking out the prettiest to snuggle in my basket before meeting their fate. Which I rather feel is to be lightly steamed and then marinated in olive oil with a few fresh herbs, although that may change. Hardly grounds for shocking, I agree, but I had to raise both eyebrows when the woman next to me started picking some out for herself and then asked, in all apparent sincerity, whether she should peel them. She didn't even have the excuse of being English.

I needed something to settle my jangled nerves after that, and as I was sitting in the sun nursing a glass of vitamins a cheerful lady bustled past and thrust a leaflet into my paw: a flyer for the fête de la truffe d'été in someplace vaguely south-west of here,  around Limoux.

So as I is a sucker for truffles, and they are promising not only a marché aux truffes but also dégustation des vins and ateliers de cuisine (also, I admit, pony rides and makeup for the kiddies), you can probably guess where I am going to be next Saturday. Might even take them up on the picnic lunch that's available, although I am curious as to the exact nature of the "truffle-based dessert".

Who knows, I might be pleasantly surprised. Although I'm not going to be betting on that.

At least I'll be able to get there in relative comfort, for I have been informed - after a plaintive wheedling phone call or two - that Sarah will once again be ready for action Tuesday night: always assuming that they do in fact get the parts on the Monday. Seems one of the various chips had fried, and was cutting off the injectors - hence her putt-putt progress. I will be very pleased to get her back.

As it turns out, the cave can organise an orgy in a brothel. We turned up, like the nice man had said, at 19:00 and I for one was pleasantly surprised to find two long rows of tables set out down the track that leads up to the building, barrels around the door with what looked like an adequate sufficiency of glasses in serried rows on top, and even better we were not the first to arrive. And we didn't have long to wait before they started bringing out the bottles, white and rosé glistening with condensation.

The only blot on the horizon was the sono set up at one end of the tables, for what indeed is a village fête without incredibly loud disco music (and the mandatory glittering disco mirror ball), but we managed to snag seats at the far end on the grounds that 100m distance would surely ease some of the pain.

So we milled around and mingled as best we could and drank and made serious inroads on the nibbles until about 21:00 when someone decided that it was time to eat: three bottles appeared on the table in front of us along with a huge wodge of paté and a fresh crusty baguette,  and off we set.

Once that had been washed down and another trio of bottles had transpired everyone queued up for their plateful of mashed spud and sausage: creamy, stringy and elastic, like melted mozzarella. They're used to bigger appetites than mine; no way I managed to finish it off, despite my best efforts. Memory gets a bit hazy from then on, for more wine appeared to accompany the cheese, but I vaguely recall that the "music" started up around then - probably on the grounds that there was no point bothering people with it while they were stuffing their faces.

Whatever, we acquitted ourselves honorably and made no frightful gaffes of which I am aware, but I must admit that we piked out fairly early and headed back home (it is particularly convenient that the cave is, quite literally,  but a five-minute walk away, well maybe ten if you're not in a hurry) before the dancing started in earnest.

Being the summer solstice it was also, as Jack Lang decreed all those years ago, la fête de la musique. There is some old charter or something that decrees that it should always rain that day, which means that the saxophones at least are silenced, but somehow that didn't happen this year. (Actually, the sax players are usually not that bad. It's the head-bangers that tend to make up in undirected energy for what they lack in technical competence.)

But Moux doesn't do that: I guess they decided, sensibly enough, that one festival a night was quite enough, thanks very much, and that wine was more important than song ...

Anyway, I have those courgettes of which I told you which need some attention paid to them for they are not, I suspect, going to marinate spontaneously: I also have a roti d'échine de porc from the nice butcher at les halles in Carcassonne who brines the joint for a bit which is just crying out to be roasted gently and served cold, maybe with a bean salad and baby potatoes.

And as it seems kind of silly to turn my huge oven on just for one teeny roast, and I happen to have some apples, making an apple sharlotka seems like a perfectly reasonable idea to me.

I shall worry about the kilo of chicken wings, the cote de boeuf, and the fillet steak later on. Not to mention the lamb shoulder, which still needs boning, stuffing, rolling and tying before being coated with a mixture of breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, rosemary and butter before being roasted with white wine and potatoes and olive oil. Be good, mind how you go now.


  1. marché aux truffes
    All ending with the selection of the Truffle Queen, I imagine.

  2. It wasn't mentioned, but it would seem appropriate. Do remember that truffles are black, warty, and smell of something gently decomposing. I'll let you know on the day.