Monday, 30 April 2012
When I was in the Netherlands, Dutch colleagues and neighbours used to frequently ask what I missed. Was it general interest, something to say or their assumption that not everyone would love all things Dutch that made them ask? I don’t know, but my answer changed over the years. When I first arrived, I had a long list of things I couldn’t buy (or couldn’t find) in the Netherlands and 15 years later when I was about to leave the list had just three things on it, English sausages, marmite and hills. I never got used to Dutch sausages (far too much meat and taste), I could not buy marmite except in very expensive ex-pat shops and I always found the excessively flat and windswept landscape depressing.
Now of course I am in France and the question is still frequently asked. Interestingly I have never been asked by a French person, only by Dutch or English visitors to our campsite or in the gîtes or indeed by fellow ex-pats. I suppose the French could not imagine that there was anything in another country that could possibly be missed by anyone. However, I do still miss things, yes still those tasteless English sausages (no self respecting Frenchman would eat one) and marmite (which is so expensive you need to re-mortgage your house to buy it locally). But now I have added to my list, I have lots of Dutch things I miss, Indonesian spices, sambal (chilli paste), ketchap manis (sweet soya sauce) and the most divine food created by mankind: kroketten.
After many, many, messy and unsuccessful attempts at making them, I have now managed to create a recipe that actually works and so we can have kroketten any time we like. My what-I-miss list now has one item less on it, just those tricky Indonesian specialities to go.
So my list is now getting even smaller, just down to sweet soy sauce, Marmite and of course we mustn't forget those tasteless English sausages.
Sunday, 22 April 2012
This particular book is about Dutch cookery, it gives many tips about how to prepare traditional Dutch specialities like meat balls, spek lapjes (1 cm thick slices of streaky bacon), touwtjesvlees (literally translated as stringy meat, which is in fact, delicious tender slices of well brazed beef) and so the list goes on, good home cooking, nothing fancy, just tasty Dutch food, eaten by millions, every day.
“Whether you cook with a gas, electric or ceramic hob or on an induction plate, the concept of high, medium and low heat is actually the same. High means the highest temperature, low means really low and medium is in-between.”
Stunned by that wonderful pearl of wisdom, I put the book back on the shelf, where it will remain for evermore.
Sunday, 15 April 2012
Our connection to New York was via a live HD video link from the Met itself, beamed into the panoramic cinema screen at Chalon-sur-Saône. While we waited for the performance to begin, the screen showed images of the inside of the opera house, looking towards the stage as if we were in one of the circles, watching the people in the stalls finding their seats. What a magnificent place the opera house it is. Then - lights down - action.
Then, after a wonderful evening in one of the world’s best opera houses, we just had to drive half an hour and we were home. This won’t be the last time we are going to New York for the evening.
Our gite Website
Monday, 9 April 2012
This year, we did go up to Taizé, but this time as tourists, to watch what goes on around and outside the church. Something you don’t see if you go to a service. We arrived “early” (9.30 for a 10.00 start) and the church was comfortably full when we walked in to look. As you can see from the photo above, there was little floor space, but it still felt safe. I moved from door to door to look inside, but when I got to the front of the church, I was
The brothers had set up a large tent near the church - with icons and candles and screens, small benches and hymn sheets and candles, just like the church itself - for the overflow. Sadly the youngsters blocking the doors to the church, were not directing people to the tent until quite late on. It was left to people like me, to tell those wandering around looking lost, where to go. There were many young people who didn’t make their way to the tent, they probably felt they could squeeze in when the door guards went in to the service, but they were to be disappointed as the doors lock shut, only allowing people to exit not enter. There were also lots of locals who arrived too late to get in and they just turned around and went home, which was sad for them. There was probably only room for about 300 in the tent, which was not really enough for the number of people we saw walking around trying to get into the church, so maybe it was better that not everyone tried to get in.
By the time we left around the start of the service, the tent had filled up, but I do wonder what the atmosphere in there would be like, I also wondered how the Easter candle would enter the tent, but we didn’t stay to watch - maybe next year. The moral of the story is, if you want to get into the church and get anywhere near the front, nine thirty is already too late.
La Tuilerie Website
Friday, 6 April 2012
In preparation, I searched the Internet to see what a feet washing service was all about. In general a Bishop (or senior church official) washes the feet of twelve parishoners. I found useful tips on how to run a feet washing service: make sure you have the bowl of water and washing and drying cloths handy - makes sense; tell women not to wear stockings or tights - also logical, you don’t want a strip show. But then I came across one comment “For the people whose feet are being washed: Instruct them to come to the service with clean feet in clean footgear”. Excuse me? Are you saying to these people "the Bishop is going to wash your feet, but you can’t expect a man of his importance to be confronted by the reality of the task"? Well if the afore-mentioned bishop is not prepared to “hold his nose and wash those toes”, he shouldn’t engage in this sort of charade. But I digress.
Having said that, going to a communion service on the evening that the Last Supper is celebrated, had a certain extra meaning that I hadn’t expected and certainly for those wanting to take part in the Easter services at Taizé, it is a much less overcrowded way to be involved than by going on Sunday.
Happy Easter everyone !
La Tuilerie Website
Monday, 2 April 2012
After breakfast on Friday, I plucked up the courage to go and what did I find when I got there? The Post Office was closed. On closer inspection it was in fact closed FOR EVER ! Oh joy, at last, the long promised Post Agency was to arrive to be manned (or womanned) by the super efficient and very, very nice Fréderique, who worked in the Town Hall when Virginie was ill. Yippee! The minor inconvenience of having to go to Saint Gengoux to get my letter or wait until Monday paled into insignificance in comparison to this news.
Pastry puffs of chicken with a mustard à l’ancinene sauce, followed by coquilles Saint Jacques with shallot cream, apple sorbet covered in Calvados, veal steaks with walnut sauce along with bundles of bacon wrapped haricot-verts and duchess potatoes, we continued with a plate of three cheeses and a light cake with cassis flavoured mousse, topped off with coffee and liqueurs. The white wine was Clos de Montrachet from the Vignerons de Buxy and the red from Domaine de Thalie in Bray (just down the road) and dessert was served with crément de Bourgogne. Not to forget the delicious nibbles Bernard made for the aperitif which was white wine with red fruit juice.
OK so maybe I am fantasising that this meal was to celebrate the closure of the Post Office, it was in fact the Old People’s annual dinner to which Cees is invited, now that he is over a “certain age” and I can go too (as a paying guest) but it did seem to be a very happy coincidence.
Monday morning came and we just had to go to visit our new Post Agency. Even though they had spent all day Friday and Saturday making alterations to the inside of the building, we didn’t notice any difference when we went in. But the smile and welcome we received were really refreshing. On top of that, Fréderique did her utmost to help us and everyone else that we saw in there. Even though she couldn’t help everyone to their satisfaction (the main computer had locked out and she was waiting for a new code to get access) she did it all with charm and friendliness. What a breath of fresh air. This will certainly save me some petrol, because I will be doing all my transactions in Cormatin from now on.
La Tuilerie Website