Saturday, 19 October 2013

Fighting the anarchists

The biggest most onerous responsibility of being the head of the “commission des hébergeurs, commerçants et artisans d’art” committee, for the local tourist office, is running the committee meetings, which can best be described as a very French, anarchistic get-together.

My first experience of this type of approach to holding a meeting, left me shell-shocked. The noise, the chatter, the seemingly endless discussion of one subject and the dismissal of others for no apparent reason, the constant jumping from one subject to another and then back again, agenda what’s that? Sure we have a list of items to be discussed, but don’t let that confuse you or hold back the flow, it is only written for… what’s it for anyway?

Ok I’ll admit it, I didn’t really understand what job I was taking on when I started. Basically I knew we organise the yearly trip to visit various establishments of our members (B&Bs, gîtes, artisan’s studios etc), we also organise the welcome drinks for the tourists in July and August, as well as organising a show of local arts and crafts. Back in The Netherlands, I ran an engineering department of more than a hundred burly men and a budget of millions, how difficult could a little job like this be? I hadn’t bargained on the French way of doing things.

I have struggled to keep the committee meetings on track and to guide them to a meaningful conclusion. Having watched others, I notice that they cope very badly too, so at least I am not alone. But the other day I was at a meeting where one woman seemed to have her mob relatively under control. Apart from being able to speak French better than me, what did she do that was different? Here’s the secret - she bribed them all with chocolate. Brilliant! So this week, in an attempt to get things running more smoothly than usual, I baked some biscuits and do you know what? It worked! They were too busy eating to notice that I was sticking to the agenda and we were finished on time as well. It looks like that’s how it going to be from now on.

For those interested, I made some walnut and raisin cookies - using local ingredients of course - and very nice they were too.

Walnut and raisin cookies

8 oz softened butter
6oz soft brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
6.5oz flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3.5 oz raisins
2oz chopped walnuts

Pre-heat the oven to 190 Celsius.
Cream the butter and brown sugar. Then add the egg and vanilla and mix together thoroughly. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients whilst mixing. Stirred in the raisins and walnuts.

Drop teaspoon-fulls of the dough on to an oven sheet lined with baking paper, make sure the blobs are at least a couple of inches apart otherwise they will all merge into one great big blob. Bake for about 10 minutes until brown at the edges and cooked right through. Leave them on the sheet to cool for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

For holiday accommodation in walnut country click here.

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