Friday, December 28, 2018

The Letter "D" ...

... is an extremely important one, as Martin never tires of reminding us, for without it the part of Callan would have been played by one Ewar Woowar. (For those of you too young to remember the eponymous TV series, forget it.)

Anyways, after five years settling in here at The Shamblings™ it seems we really will have to leave, as the place apparently does not exist. Or so I deduce, from the fact that a UPS overnight delivery took a week due to repeatedly sending my parcel back to the Narbonne distribution centre to get the address corrected because no-one could find us: it seems that a lot of GPS systems still don't have "place St-Régis, Moux" in their database. And those that do tend to misdirect people to Fontcouverte, four km to the east ... still, I would've thought that the driver might just have phoned me. I mean, I think that's the whole point of my supplying them with a contact phone number.

Also, up till now I have managed to go blissfully through life thinking that "Murkin" was a word used by people from Canuckistan to refer to their rather more boorish neighbours to the south. But my illusions have been rudely shattered, for I have just found out that a) I got the spelling wrong and b) a "merkin" is in fact a pubic wig. It's rather a shame really, I would so like to pull that one out at Scrabble.

Christmas is approaching, and the supermarket shelves are groaning under the weight of packets of Révillon chocolates - the only things worthy of gracing a French Christmas table - (there are also bloody Ferrero Rocher, and those disgusting cherry liqueur things, not to mention marrons glacés but the less said about all those the better) and the big cooler cabinets are stocked with duck thighs, duck breasts and - my favourite - raw foie gras.

I was very restrained, and only bought three: which I shall now have to devein. Not, I admit, the part I really enjoy, but it has to be done. (If you happen to have access to a supply of hypertrophied duck liver, and have no moral objections to eating the stuff, the recipe - more a technique, really - I use is here.)

(By the way, should "recidivated" be a word? As in, the act of recidivism. Because I did go back to the scene of the crime, as it were, and bought another two. Just so there's no risk of my running out. Also, I really did want to find out what would happen if I marinated one in Baileys and very strong coffee. I'll let you know how that one turns out ...)

Strangely enough, for a country that prides itself on its food, France seems to have had perhaps more than its share of food-related scandals. There was the time when literally rotting duck was sold in the supermarkets (the odd thing being that no-one actually seemed to notice, perhaps they thought that's what "gamey" is supposed to be), horse meat being passed off as beef, and of course that time when a great fuss was made when it was discovered that the pigs in the big intensive farms were being fed on dry food which involved a fair percentage of shit - both their own, and human.

So it's kind of ironic that the results of a study published the other day in le Gorafi show that there are possibly dangerous amounts of McDonalds in human faeces.

Completely unrelated is the fact that I shall be back on my usual dry-toast-and-tepid-water post-excess miracle diet, for Angela and Martin, finding themselves with a surplus-to-requirements haunch of sanglier, invited Rick and Mary and Margo and myself around to eat it last night. He'd stuck it in a bucket with a few gallons of red wine and the usual suspects in the aromates department (ie juniper berries, bay leaves, carrots and the rest) a week ago, and had hauled it out that morning to go into the oven for eight hours of slow-roasting.

And once that was in and cooking, Angela set about making gougères and baked red cabbage and concertina potatoes and cauliflower cheese ... this last being something I personally will not touch, be it with a barge-pole or any other kitchen implement, due to unfortunate memories of la grande cuisine Anglaise wherein an otherwise innocent vegetable is boiled into something that most closely resembles, in texture, colour and aroma, a half-rotting brain. Margo tells me that it was in fact absolutely delicious, and I am quite willing to believe her, but it's just one of those irrational phobias I don't seem to be able to get over.

So we started off with cheese puffs, then foie gras before attacking the pig and its trimmings, which Martin insisted on our washing down with copious quantities of a 100% syrah from the Côtes du Rhone, then after a pause for the nicotine junkies (and doing our bit for global warming), we got onto toffee pudding with caramel sauce; which is every bit as sticky as you probably think. And because, somehow, we were not totally bloated, we polished off the last bits of the foie gras along with a vendanges tardives Gewurtztraminer. Which pretty much finished me off.

Hence this morning's resolution to be rather more restrained, at least until the next time.

Which turned out, as it happened, to be some ten hours or so later, because I'm not going to skip heading off across the plain to Montbrun for drinkies of a Sunday evening.

If you ask me (that's a purely rhetorical question, I'm going to rabbit on anyway) artificial intelligence - at least the sort that gets stuck into phones and suchlike - is not yet fit for purpose. Case in point, the auto-complete feature. It's tripped me up a couple of times when writing text messages: once I had written "Enquiring minds want to" at which point the bloody thing suggested "vomit", and another time I'd got as far as "Right now, I'd really like to be eating" and the word that popped up was "you". Which, if not necessarily inaccurate, was not entirely appropriate, all things considered.

And as that has brought us back to the subject of food once again, as time goes by it seems that the Christmas-time contents of the big chest freezers in the supermarkets get more and more exotic. Used to be there was just venison and ready-marinated sanglier, set to go directly into the oven: a few years after that they were joined by kangaroo and emu steaks.

This year I couldn't help but notice the vacuum packs of zebra, llama and, of all things, crocodile steaks. I have eaten crocodile before and I can't see any point to ever doing it again: as far as I'm concerned the stuff tastes like chicken and is even more gelatinous than a lamb shank.

Speaking of which reminds me that there's a rather large (for these parts) flock of sheep and lambs pastured below us, down by the railway lines. We'll have to avoid going that way for a while: not only are they well-guarded by three or four lovely bergers des Pyrenées who take their job very seriously, but the road down there is covered in what the dogs think are exotic puppy treats. Do not want.

Christmas day was bright and sunny, so we had high hopes for the traditional Boxing Day walk oop't Alaric ... sadly, it also seems to be a tradition that the weather should turn overnight to dull, gray, cold and windy, and on top of it the bloody chasseurs were running a battue des sangliers up there, and personally I have no wish to become a statistic.

So Martin and Angela and their two dogs and I (everyone else had begged off, deciding - not unreasonably - to stay curled up inside, in the warm), thinking that discretion was the better part of valour, headed east instead, down to the Chateau La Baronne (excellent wine, by the way) and then up and over the east-west ridge that projects from the eastern end of our little mountain.

Then we found a relatively sheltered spot not too far from Martin's Chicken Bush (don't ask) and as I'd thought to bring a ham-and-egg pie and a bottle of red and three glasses and a corkscrew (somehow, you always seem to forget the little, important, things) and we had our little picnic.

Whatever, tonight it's the end-of-year bash at Ann and John's, and finding myself - beyond all understanding - with a piece of cod, and given that I always have root ginger and garlic and chilis and actually managed to get some lemongrass which doesn't look too foul at Carrefour the other day, I shall go off and turn it all into little Thai-style fish cakes to take along. Maybe some salad too, so that we can all play at hunt-the-slug ...

I missed out on the chance to wish you all a Hairy Gristlemaus, so you'll just have to make do with a Furry New Bear.

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