Tuesday, September 27, 2011

More IS Better

This is a peanut butter stupor. Okay, 2 people know this is not true so I have to be honest. It's an alcohol induced stupor brought on by a night on the terrace with my girls. Wine, trash talk, more wine, not enough food, more trash talk (I truly hope the neighbors near the mansion can't speak English).....and then came the peanut butter. But all the same, I'm blaming it all on my girls. 

Jeanmarie and Victoria, my two fine friends who I met while we were all living in a convent in London in 1980, came to visit once again. They knew that they would each be taking a suitcase full of contraband back to the states for me, so they both arrived with said suitcase filled with goodies for me. In keeping with the American tradition of 'if one is good, more must be better', their extra suitcases resembled Mary Poppins' magic bag.

And as a result I now have 7 rolls of Press-n-Seal, 22 pounds (yes, pounds!) of Skippy Extra Chunk, 3 cans of Spam, 7 pounds of brown sugar, 3 boxes of Nilla Wafers (I can now make my friend Susan's banana pudding recipe), 1 bag of marshmallows, 1 box of graham crackers, 5 extra-large boxes of Ziploc bags, 2 bottles of Tero ant killer, 2 bottles of my favorite contact lens solution, and other assorted stuff. I’m delighted with all my treasures, except for the major problem of having to find a place in this apartment to store everything. I mean, really! Even I can’t go through 22 pounds of peanut butter…um…can I? But I do know I can kill every single sweet-eating ant in the south of France with 2 bottles of Tero.

And please note the 2...yes 2...cake carriers. These were a present from Victoria who had read about my cake carrying troubles and wanted to surprise me. One is even collapsable and when fully opened, will carry two layers of cupcakes. I guess now I'll have to make cupcakes. In the meantime however, I'll store my ziploc bags in them. 

The girls are gone now and I miss them. I miss their grief and their support, their insecurities and their strength, their humor and their tears, their chastising and their acceptance. 

Here's to fine and lasting friendships. In this case it is true... if one is good...more is ALWAYS better. 


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Last Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

I've been zigging and zagging around France these last couple of weeks and thought I'd share a few photos. All of these places I've been before, but each was so beautiful and a the trips were lovely way to end the summer travel season.

I went camping....yes camping. This is camping like I've never done before and I'll write more about it later. Suffice it to say that it wasn't the wild, private camping I'm used to, although we did have a tent! But take note of the roof of the house just over the hedge. Nope...no bear here! But the view of the Iles de Hyères made it well worth the lack of wildlife and privacy. And the sea was silky and warm.

The village of Cavalaire sur Mer is situated on the south side of the Presqu'îsle de St. Tropez and only 5 miles from the village of St. Tropez. Of course, a visit to the village is obligatory where we watched yacht after yacht, each larger and more glam than the other, make their way into port...to do whatever it is they do in St. Tropez. I guess to be gawked at...like I and these other poor sods were doing at the House of Chanel-St. Tropez.

A little touring in the Var region...which is absolutely beautiful by the way. So green and mountainous...not at all the terrain we have here near Aix en Provence.

We discovered the medieval village of Grimaud after following a few mountain roads that scared the bejeezuz out of me. For some reason I really like this photo.

This one not so much. Remind me not to wear that dress again! My hips look larger than the village of St. Tropez which you can see behind me from the ruins of Chateau Grimaud. Horizontal stripes...what was I thinking???

The camping trip was immediately followed by a quick trip to the Haute-Savoie region of France and a pop into Switzerland.

If you've never visited Yvoire, France which sits on the south end of Lac Lemond (Lake Geneva), put it on your list. It's enchanting.

As is the village of Annecy.

And now I'm settled back into the mansion in Aix en Provence and the month of visitors begins....starting tomorrow. There isn't much to do...except defrost my freezer. I'm doing this because my girls and I are going to NEED ice cubes....and because Keith, over at A Taste of Garlic, hasn't stopped razzing me about it's previous sorry state. Keith, we'll drink a cold one...or two... for you!


Monday, September 5, 2011

Feet and Packages

I know nobody has slept a wink since I promised an article on meat last week. Nothing better than good  old, Monday morning meat read. And now, so that all the world can finally get a little rest, I will fulfill my promise....

During one of my investigative trips to the big supermarkets here in southern France, and after I’d managed to extract myself from the cheese aisle, I did an exploration of the meat aisle. I first hit the cooler that bore a striking resemblance to the cooler in my old biology lab.  I mean, what are these things before me that look so much like body parts and innards? After writing down the names and doing a translation I discovered that they were….indeed... body parts and pieces!

Here’s a sample of the sizeable selection of delicacies that somebody must be eating. We’ve got Tête de Veau, Pieds de Veau, Langue de Veau, and Cervelle de Veau, which translate to head of veal, feet of veal, tongue of veal, and brains of veal. Poor little baby cows.

Then there’s Rognon de Boeuf  (as in beef kidneys) and Rognon Cubes (it’s nice to know you can buy these little waste processing factories pre-cut, don’t you think?) Then we move on to Cours d’Agneau (heart of lamb) and Crépine de Porc (the casing of pig intestines).  Followed by Pieds et Paquets Marseillais, a gross looking pile of flesh that translates to “feet and packages”. But packages of what? I finally just found a definition today. It’s little packages of chopped ham, garlic and herbs all wrapped in the pretty paper of…. sheep’s stomach lining. And a particularly Provençal specialty. Oh goody!  AND to top it all off, you can get the feet and packages in a value pack…enough for all your friends and family.

I realize that people in all countries eat these unusual things. And probably more so in certain ethnic groups or in particular regions of a country. When I was a bush cook in British Columbia, I prepared moose heart, elk liver, caribou tongue, mountain sheep brains and goat testicles. But we didn’t have anything else to eat! (I did. I had peanut butter. Which I lived on and which is where my whole peanut butter sickness began) I have asked my French friends explain to me... who eats this stuff? Many don’t, of course. But last time I inquired about brains at a dinner party, a grand argument began about the best way to prepare this delicious delicacy. I pretended to write down the recipes...but I had absolutely no intention of testing them in order to form my own opinion.

Okay, so on to the regular meats. Yep, we’ve got it all. We’ve got chicken and turkey and, of course, duck and rabbit which are both often eaten here. So we’re sure what we’re eating, there’s usually a little picture of the animal somewhere on the label. Then we move on to pork, beef and lamb (which is also a staple).  So, I’m moving down the meat case, checking it all out and I land on Cheval Haché. Of course, that’s horsemeat and, yes, it’s eaten in France. Judging from the selection, it’s not eaten all that much, but it’s there and I’ve seen it on menus at a couple of restaurants. And a friend of mine told me it makes the very best tartare. 

And finally, I arrive at the last meat case. Five shelves high and stacked with all sorts of packages of meat bearing the picture of…a dog! NO! No...no...NO!

Please say it isn’t true. Not dog! This is terrible… more terrible than horse hamburger and pig intestines.

On closer inspection, I realized this was meat FOR dogs, not meat OF dogs.  The French do love their dogs after all, and I was able to let out the breath that I’d been holding in horror.

I’m a reasonably adventurous soul but I’m not sure I’ll be eating sheep kidneys anytime soon. I’ll leave that to Chef Andrew Zimmer who, long ago,  taught me to make a mean crème brulée and now makes a REALLY good living traveling the world for The Travel Channel and eating all sorts of disgusting things. Me, I think I’ll stick to writing. But I’d settle for making a REALLY good living traveling  the world and writing about all the bizarre stuff that Andrew Zimmer is willing to eat.

Bon Appétit!