Monday, 30 December 2013
Bingo, house, lotto, carte en pleine, mad waving and jumping up and down! Who's listening.......... We've won...................... Making yourself heard over a throng of locals in the village hall which is just a five minute stroll from our humble abode here at Le Farat on a Friday evening is not as easy as it sounds, and woe betide me if I get it wrong and call out if I have made a mistake with my translation of numbers from English into French! (I still have a bit of a problem with the 70's and 90's but generally not too bad and actually bingo helps!)
This year we have been active at the local Lotto evenings to help with fund raising for local groups and associations.
Our first outing this year was to the primary school lotto evening at the end of November. Proceedings start late here, and as it was for the school, all kids were invited. To sit down for the first call at 9pm is not unusual and to find you are still there at 1am with kids falling asleep on the floor seems to be the rule rather than the exception!
There were hundreds of donations from local businesses and all packaged beautifully. The school governors presided over the event, with the bingo calling at a reasonable pace on the stage and there were occasional issues with a squealing microphone, so concentration was a must if we were to stand a chance of a prize.
After a few "kigne" and "carte en plein" a break was hailed and a mad dash to the canteen window in the Salle des Fetes for pancakes, cakes and drinks ensued. Suitably refreshed we continued. After two games we won! First it was our daughter who was sitting with a friend, she won local fruit juice, an entrance to a local museum, a discount of a takeaway pizza and 6 glasses. Then it was my husbands turn for a win, however, he was not concentrating and half asleep, so therefore missed calling at the right time and lost out! Then just as the penultimate game was drawing to a close, I won too! Yippee! Added to our haul was a t shirt, cap, more fruit juice, discount off a new tyre and discount at a local restaurant. We were more than happy!
On a roll, we turned up the following week at the local "Chasse" fundraising lotto. Unsurprisingly, the prizes were mostly meat based! The same order of proceedings ensued and after 10 games I was resigning myself that our winning streak was over. However, our daughter, who had abandoned us for the second time in two weeks at a social event to sit with friends came up trumps and presented me with a prize of half a venison and a shoulder of sanglier (wild boar)!
Although I was over the moon to have won something, I was a little perturbed to say the least, that I was going to have to skin and butcher the meat and was secretly hoping that if I had won anything at all it would be sausages! On joining the queue to collect our prize I was relieved to see that all was pre-butchered and frozen and being handed out from two enormous shopping trolleys ready to take home.
Now what.................! do I make sausages, or something more exotic, and if so how should I cook it?? May be as burgers on our lovely BBQ!
I do not feel I can be cheeky and ask the hunt, as last time I saw them I had to rather forcefully ask them to kindly remove their many dogs from the front lawn as they were using it as a loo!
Tuesday, 19 November 2013
For our first Christmas en France we were invited to a neighbours on Christmas Eve. After "Aperos" we went to mass at the local village church and returned an hour later to start our festivities. We ate and talked, ate and drank, and ate again. A wide selection of local produce including some things we had never tried before, boudin blanc, jeruselem artichokes and wild boar, was on offer but no center piece of a large golden turkey for the meal.
The following Christmas we reverted back to a traditional English Christmas meal on the 25th to please all our visitors. I tried to find a plump turkey big enough, but struggled to find anything appropriate or at a realistic price. We therefore ended up with a capon, but despite the trimmings being prepared, a homemade Christmas pud and mince pies at the ready the bird failed to deliver. We were all hankering after a nice roast slice of turkey breast!
So last year I decided to go in hunt of a locally produced fresh bird! First ports of call were local butchers of which there were a couple of recommendations, however any items of interest found were on sale at a considerable cost per kilo and a second mortgage would have been required for 8kg of meat! I checked out the freezers at the local supermarket but no frozen birds or prepared turkey crowns in sight.
By 19th Dec I was getting desperate. On my way back to the car after another fruitless search on market day, I put my head inside a large makeshift marquee that had appeared near the church at the weekly farmers market. There, inside, were farmers wrapped in thick coats sitting on wooden benches puffing on cigarettes deep in conversation, but most importantly an array of birds on straw with their legs tied together. Chicken, duck, capon, guinea fowl and the all important turkey, but all in fine fettle and certainly not oven ready!
With no choice I took the plunge and haggled with a farmer who had a very nice big black Norfolk type turkey. After completing the purchase he handed over the bird. I politely asked if he could do "the deed" for me as I was not experienced in such matters. Rather horrifically for me he said he could not kill it as it was not allowed at the market. I would have to take the bird home and do it myself! Rather red faced (and no doubt with a lot of sniggering, by the locals) I left the market carrying the bird upside down whilst it flapped and squalked its way with me back to the car. I could not look it in the eye for I knew what its fate would be. I was terrified I would get attached and it would become another member of the growing menagerie!
The road trip of 10 minutes home was traumatic to say the least, and by the time I was within site of the house I could no longer cope with the noise or smell coming from the back of the car. I took a short detour to the local farm and knocked at the door asking for help. In true neighbourly style my lovely neighbours took the matter in hand. All was dealt with very quickly and in no time at all I was back in the car with an oven ready bird for Christmas feeling very proud, if a little sad.
After careful preparation the beautiful bird was placed centre stage on the dining table on 25th Dec for all to see. It truly was wonderful and really tasty. From now on its fresh all the way for me, despite the effort needed. I may need to bribe the neighbours to enlist their help again with a couple of turkey and stuffing sandwiches though!
Thursday, 13 June 2013
Très bonne ta confiture de fraise!High praise indeed, so thank you to my dear friend Alexandra. However, when you are surrounded by such an abundance of fresh fruit and produce it would be an absolute travesty not to make the most of it and indulge in a little jam making which calls for more than the standard size of cooking pot!
I say a little jam making: strawberry and black cherry jams plus three litres of elderflower cordial in the bag, with plums, apricots and greengages coming up in a few months Oh, and that’s before we even start to discuss the pâtés and chutneys again.
So why so busy with all this? Well, it just seems to be as much a way of life down here as anything, etched into the culture in much the same way as the other stereotypes from France like Petanque and Pastis in Marseilles or Café Culture in Paris. Our little corner of the Tarn et Garonne on the edge of Gascony and the Gers, feels very much like the beating heart of France when it comes to gastronomy. I know many others like to stake that claim but there really is a culinary vein that runs throughout.
Of course there is one other reason for all these preserves: they are much appreciated by guests here at our Chambre d’Hôtes and Gîtes at Le Farat (www.lefarat.com), which means so long as we keep receiving the compliments then the jam factory will remain fully operational!