Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pop! Goes The Pigeon ...

For our neighbour Piratical Phillippe has a very small-gauge shotgun which he uses as an argument to convince the sky-rats not to crap all over the cuisine d'été adjoining the swimming pool at the chateau. According to him, it is remarkably effective, and I'm quite willing to believe him.

In unrelated news, after three years I have finally started to put up a small barrier on the wall around the terrace, so that the dogs can't jump off (both Indra and Jara have already tried that, and whilst no permanent damage was done it's not really something you want happening on a regular basis as plummeting dogs tend to alarm the neighbours) and to act as an impediment to those of our guests who may have drunken somewhat too liberally, and I spent an afternoon with a weed-whacker out at Old Hélène's pinède.

And here is the result (not of the weed-whacker, you fools): the bar-terrasse at The Shamblings™ in all its glory. There is not, as yet, a bubbling horde of eager clients bringing animation to our quiet village square, but that may be simply because we have not yet uncorked the rosé.

Nor, come to that, have we yet started to play with my new toy, which arrived a few weeks ago, as I have had to reorganise the kitchen somewhat to accommodate it: I have moaned before, Need Moah Bench Space and this is true. So I actually went and made some moah bench space by the simple expedient of sticking up a few second-hand girders from the Firth of Forth bridge (a very nice man sold them to me, guaranteed hardly used and certainly no-one's going to notice a couple missing) to support a slab of oiled pine over some otherwise unused space.

Saint Jude Regis The Obscured
My caution when constructing things is perhaps excessive, but I do not like to hear loud bangs in the middle of the night, such as might be caused by the shelf supporting a large (and heavy) microwave oven falling spontaneously to the ground, so I tend to favour the Colditz school of building. Which is kind of ironic given that I regularly take the piss out of the previous owners here, who used the quantities of bolts and rivets that one normally associates with the building of a battleship, but there you go.

All this so that the microwave can go live next to the 8l deep-fryer and I can stick the turbine à glace in the corner next to the fridge, push the big KitchenAid stand mixer a few inches off to the left and put the Kenwood next to that, and I still get an extra six inches on either side of my marble slab, which is admittedly a small gain but still not to be sniffed at.

And that thing what I mentioned is, quite simply, an ice-cream maker. On the principle that paying for quality works out cheaper in the long run I actually put out good money for a semi-pro stainless steel job that has its own freezer unit built-in: they are eye-wateringly expensive but on the other hand there's none of this business of running power cords into the freezer compartment or sticking tubs in there for twelve hours or so ahead of time: just stick the mess in, push the go-tit and in thirty minutes you have a litre of ice-cream. Or so it says on the blurb - shall let you know. But first, we have to devour the rest of the ice-cream (from Pôle Sud in Lézignan, and very good it is too) to a) get some tubs and b) make some room in the freezer for our own production.

Old Hélène learns to drive
It is not good to be boastful, and I do not wish to denigrate your beautiful climate, but I think today was the first true day of summer down here. Still and baking under the sun in the bright blue sky, so that all those with any sense retreat into the cool of the house some time before midday, only coming out onto the terrace with the chilled rosé in the early evening.

And even though the asparagus season is well and truly over (I am speaking here of les asperges vertes, not those gross fat white things that look like some sort of vegetable sex toy) a middle-aged man's fancy still turns idly to thoughts of salads, and strawberries and cherries and melons (all of which are in season) and pleasant combinations of such things to be taken orally at lunchtime under the parasol, such as it might be garlicky buttered prawns with snow peas with fresh bread, maybe followed by a few slices of melon ... melon canari maybe, electric yellow with a squeeze of lemon juice and a bit of sugar ...

But for tonight there is just a thai-style beef salad, with the thin slices of rare roast côte de boeuf marinating even as I write in a mix of nuoc mam and lime juice and sambal oelek and garlic and brown sugar with a few spring onions, to be dressed on a crisp salade with a few tomatoes and chives just for fun - I really should have bought some mint at the market this moaning.

And this will go on for the next three months, I think, until the temperatures descend to a somewhat more reasonable mid-twenties - sometime in September, I guess. Even the dogs prefer to spend their time spread out on the cool tiles in the living room, and much prefer not to go out during the day.

And it is true that even I have taken to dropping a few ice cubes into my rosé. It's too hot not to drink, but more than 2 litres of fruit juice (unfermented) per day is probably a bit too much to be entirely healthy. (Which goes some way to explaining why I also picked up a SodaStream machine the other day, because when you're guzzling a litre of tonic a day, with or without gin, it kind of changes the economics.)

Puicheric is a little village not too far north from us, across the nationale, and there is an excellent boulangerie there: they seem to be open every day of the week (although I guess that if you turned up at 15h on a Sunday you might be lucky to find anything other than a single crusty baguette) and the bread is very good, so although the road is exceedingly narrow and there's always the risk of coming across some multi-wheeled juggernaut whose hopped-up driver has foolishly trusted the GPS, that's where I tend to go every other day to buy a boule or something.

It's a family affair, and oddly enough the family in question appears to be Portuguese, which means that if you manage to get there early enough, before all the pastries have disappeared from the shelves, you stand a chance of buying a pasteis de nata. OK, it's not yer good old NooZild custard square, but it is very good and rather addictive. Good reason for me to only go early on rare occasions.

Also, I have learnt much today. By vigorous and diligent inspection of election posters (such as one might put up were there to be, say, les élections legislatives) I have discovered that there is an Animalist Party ("Your pet is disenfranchised, vote for it. Early and often"), also a White Vote Party ("Make your spoiled ballots count!"). I have also been informed that there is a perfectly good Old English word, culf, referring to belly-button fluff.

Mind how you go, now.