Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Last day of November

Well, here we are and I've managed to come up with something for every day of November.  It's been good to see a number of other bloggers who have drifted off a bit of recent times coming back and warming up to it again.

I thought I'd be raiding the external hard drive for old pictures but in fact I haven't, and have found that I'm thinking about photography again and picking the camera up more often, which can't be bad.  I don't feel that I've had a great deal of consequence to say for myself, but then when I'm asking people to look in every day it's probably just as well not to be blathering on too much. 

The less said the better, sometimes, more and more I feel.  I've found myself much more inclined to read blogs without an obligation to comment than I used to. Yet I sometimes also fear that I take few risks, put myself out very little, that my blogging is safe, bland and anodyne.  But I also know my limits, and they are legion.

Very saddening in the last couple of days to see the departure of someone who I hope has genuinely become a friend in the world as well as in the blogging spirit, and who, however quirky, eccentric, occasionally abrasive or truculent, has enriched my life and my comments threads with  extraordinary wit, humour, imagination ( a lot of that!) compassion, kindness, compliments and affection. He says he has taken a risk too many, not played safe enough, and rues the consequences.  This feels all wrong, but brings home once again the sense that our on-line lives are rather vulnerable and precarious.  Yet I still value this way of making a window into our lives, however small, selective and infrequently opened; it has brought new friends in and brought old ones closer, and strengthened ans stimulated more private conversation. But when the window closes, there's a danger we'll disappear to one another. I don't know whether this is something to worry about or not.

Ah well.  So then we here at home ended up having a ... discussion,  about what I rather antagonistically and pejoratively called the doctrine of detachment, and which I equally antagonistically and pejoratively attacked as being potentially glib and disingenuous.  (I can be an argumentative cuss).  About how much responsibility we need to take for the effect our words and/or actions have on others, the role of intention in the matter, and ultimately the nature of the self that acts or is acted on.  These things happen round here. We didn't exactly reach any conclusions but we didn't end up divorcing either.  And it made me think I'd go and look up Marcus Aurelius.

I found him on Tom's shelf because I'd passed him on to him.  And it really must be a long time since I read any, since I found this marking a page:

It's a label from the 1992 vintage of Burrow Hill's Somerset Cider Brandy (what it says on the tin, really).  I think they sent this, just the label, to me with an offer because I'd bought half a bottle of the first year ever.  If I'd kept it it might be worth a bit now, but I finished it one night with one of my nieces after she'd just finished a boyfriend.

Marcus Aurelius was just too dense to plunder for a quick soundbite about detachment, and even the dictionary of quotations didn't yield too much, except that he was to be found between St Augustine who said

To Carthage I came and there sang all around me a cauldron of unholy loves

and Jane Austen who had Emma's dad saying

The sooner every party breaks up the better.

So on that note, and because if I don't stop soon it will no longer be November and my pledge will be broken, I will close here.  With some random pictures.   

This is the sign for our village.  It means 'The Holly', and I'm quite sure that old Marcel, whose house and holly tree this is, the first house in the village, insisted that they put the sign there.

More holly,

and mistletoe.  Very festive.

She's probably hoping she's not going to be festive,

and she's getting out of here in case.

Bunnies and pumpkins,


and don't forget the vegetables.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cider apples and more fungal fun

This pile of apples for cider appears at the roadside on one of my regular routes every year, this is the first time I've remembered the camera and made the time to stop for it.  The morbidly picturesque levels of decay of the apples will not put me off the next coruscating glass of the delectable beverage I enjoy; I trust to the time-honoured practice of fermentation to render all things pure to the pure.  And I notice that some willow leaves have also made their way into the mix, thereby perhaps supplying some useful salicylic acid to offset the headache-provoking properties of the final product.  Yum.

And further to this paean to the season of mist and mellow fruitfulness, rot, fungus and decay, a collection of mushrooms and toadstools.  My friend E found a real cep today in the woods near her house, though not a very large one, I have never been so lucky.   She was going to take it to the pharmacy to be sure, and a field mouse or some such had had a little go at it first, but she was looking forward to eating it later.  Never such a year for fungi, so late.

Just one more blogging day to go!

Monday, November 28, 2011


A big parcel arrived this morning, as is often the case it came from my sister.  It occurred to me that the whole business of  monetary exchange and consumption, of acquiring stuff in general, is possibly a manipulated surrogate for the giving and receiving of gifts; we seek to achieve the same warmth we feel when we give or receive with love by exchanging money and giving to ourselves, feeding a craving which can only remain unsatisfied.

On the other hand it can be very nice to treat yourself, and the wrong present given in a spirit of dull obligation without love or discernment is a sorry thing, so perhaps I'm talking bollocks.

To return to the parcel; it contained, among other things: a white elephant tea cosy and two black bird coffee cosies; saffron, argan oil, nigella seeds and almond skin cream that smells of marzipan from Morocco; and a CD of just short of 200 photos of that country and a request that if I could manage it, could I edit them and get them printed as Moo postcards.   I've done this before for my sister's holiday photos; she was a bit apologetic this time, fearing that, she felt, the photos weren't very good and perhaps I couldn't make much of them ... She has quite an old and simple compact, and was not, I got the feeling, as stimulated and relaxed on this trip as on others, so the photos were quite patchy, but well worth sifting, cleaning up and trimming.

And it just so happened that Moo had sent out an e-mail that their 30% off everything sale was closing at midnight tonight, so the job was on to get sixty images sorted out in the space of today.

Bliss and joy.  I love editing photos, and consequently feel it's an unjustifiable self-indulgence that I don't deserve to spend too much time on.  However, doing it for love for someone else, who has made and done endless lovely things for us, with a serious money-saving deadline to boot, allowed me to spend every available moment on it today.

I'm sure this ought to be something one could do for money.  People have taken on board the idea that digital photography allows them to snap away with total abandon in pursuit of one good shot out of many, but often underestimate the time and effort this scattergun approach requires in editing.  How often have you heard people groan about being subjected to other people's endless unedited holiday photos?

But going through them and sorting out the better ones, touching out the odd unwanted lamp post or electricity cable and cropping off the fat bald strangers wandering through the shot, brightening the pictures up, and snipping bits and pieces out of even the least interesting of them to make into patchwork collages, makes this potentially frustrating and passive experience a satisfying one.  I started off finding this rather muddled welter of images of Morocco quite off-putting, but by the end I felt I had shared something of it and enjoyed it.

However, I know my sister's eye and understand a little of what matters to her, and I don't mind taking a lot of time and trouble over it. I'm not sure I could do the same for strangers' snaps of themselves getting drunk and sunburned on beaches on the Maldives.  Sorry, I know that sounds horribly judgemental.

Anyway, here's a handful of them.  Not my photos, just my editing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Haiku, some orange things I made, looking up in St Brieuc...

Tending to curse darkness,
it takes two matches, then
the beeswax kindles.

The clementine marmalade potted up last night still looked runny, but when I opened a jar, it had a reasonable soft set on it. No need to pour it all back into the pan.

And to match the marmalade, I finally sewed all the corners and the ends in on this rather quaint garment, knitted in one piece on a circular needle from a pack of yarn from a cheap supermarket of German origin which will remain nameless.

Not the most elegant or flattering item of clothing, but I worked the pattern out myself on squared paper, and it is very chunky yarn, so that's hardly surprising.  The big old Bakelite buttons which I found in the button tin, came, I think, from an old coat of my mum's.  I do like wearing warm sleeveless things in winter, down the back seems to be the coldest part.


First Sunday in Advent, time for the first mince pie of the season and to listening to the Advent service on Radio 3, perhaps the moment I feel happiest about Christmas. 

I went into St Brieuc the other day where they were putting the Christmas lights in the trees with a crane vehicle thing.  

A number of people, like the woman on the bike with the child on the back, and me, stopped to watch and remark on this, which may indicate a lack of sophistication or much else going on, but I prefer to think it shows a curiosity and pleasure in life.


I'd taken the camera because of late I've got out of the habit rather, and then now and then I see something I'd like to snap and regret not having it, and there are also certain things I've meant to record for a long time.  One of them is this frieze on the pediment of the post office in St Brieuc.  It features a topless classical kind of god and goddess, of benign rather than fearsome aspect, but the god has a quill pen in one hand and an old-fashioned telegraph machine, like the one in 'Lark Rise to Candleford', in the other, and the goddess, naked breasts akimbo, is chatting on the phone and leaning on a mail box, with a telegraph pole and wires in the background.  I've long loved this bit of municipal sculpture, which I now notice is signed 'Le Goff'  and probably I ought to find out more about it; I can't quite work out how much conscious humour it contains.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fly agaric

Just a quick collage for a Saturday night.

Friday, November 25, 2011

All done up like a dog's dinner - but is it good enough for Molly Roux Jr?

'I had a lovely dream,' said Tom, unusually seraphic for that time of the morning 'it was a cooking dream.  I was cooking.'
Sounds like a good dream to me too.
'Really well, much better than I ever cook in real life.'
'Were you cooking for Michel Roux jr?'
'I was, I was cooking with him!'
'What did you make?'
'I can't remember, but I was wearing a mask of Monica Galetti.  It was only a joke, I took it off and everyone laughed.'

Molly, who watches Masterchef Pro with us, was distressed to learn that according to cheffy wisdom, it is really impossible to achieve truly effective, beautiful presentation with food served in a bowl, since, being a dog, that's what she gets to eat out of.  She is undoubtedly being short-changed.  So we decided  to remedy this, and that evening plated her dinner up (for that is the term one uses) on a flat plate.  (Yes, OK, it's a paper one but, easy-going as we are in such matters we didn't really fancy her eating off one of ours):

For Molly's main course, we have prepared a duo of croquettes - Royal Canin's Hypoallergenic and Specific's Food Allergy Management - topped with some doggy puffed rice and a bit of beaten egg out of the fridge scrambled in the microwave.  This is served with rondelles of carrot and fannied up with some shreds of duck leg meat (yes, she really does get to eat this, in small quantities), brought together with an arrosage of jus and surmounted with a raw broccoli floret.

Molly is an internationally renowned dog-food critic and gastronome whose opinion can make or break a chef's reputation, but she scoffed it down quite happily so I guess I'm OK to go on working here.  In fact she is totally incapable of eating off a plate without scooting it all aver the floor so we had to empty it into her melamine bowl anyway, presentation notwithstanding, but she carefully picked the broccoli floret off and ate it first, so I that must mean the thumbs up for that element of the meal. 


Ok, its Friday night and the 25th of the month, you want something sensible?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Galling things

Some nerdy nature-table entomological material now.  

Galls are a fascinating subject (to me anyway). They are the kind of growths and excrescences on plants, especially trees and other woody ones usually caused by parasitical insects, though they can also come about through fungi or bacteria or occasionally other plants like mistletoe. Wiki describes how 

they are plant tissue which is controlled by the insect. Galls act as both the habitat and food source for the maker of the gall

Perhaps one of the best known is the oak apple. For a long time I only remember seeing these as the near-perfect woody spheres the size of large marbles with the tiny hole in one end, like the ones above - these are quite old, this tree had a number of them on its lower twigs at one time, now there are fewer. Calling them apples seemed rather strange, but later I discovered them as they are in spring, larger, spongy textured greenish and rosy, and they really do look quite like apples. They are caused by chemicals injected by the larva of certain kinds of wasp in the family Cynipidae, it seems.

Lately though I've noticed what I thought at first were some odd-shaped acorns on the ground where Molly and I walk on the avenue approaching the Château de Bogard.  Then there were some rather unusual large acorns in shaggy cups.

The oaks with the shaggy-cupped acorns turned out to be turkey oaks.  They're called this, it seems, not because they originated in Turkey but because turkeys liked to eat the acorns.  The weirdly shaped things were galls on regular, quercus robur pedunculate  'English' oak acorns.  They turned out to be the delightfully named Knopper galls; Wiki says

The word 'knopper' derives from the German word 'knoppe' meaning a kind of felt cap or helmet worn during the 17th-century; also a small rounded protuberance, often decorative, such as a stud, a tassel or a knob

These are an extraordinary phenomenon, the product of a small wasp, andricus quercuscalicis, which needs two generations to breed, during one of which it is all female and parthenogenetic, and during the other two-sexed.  But it also needs two breeds of oak, the turkey and the robur one, to complete this cycle.  It only parasitises the turkey oak catkins lightly in the first stage, but by attacking the acorns of the robur in the second it can threaten the fertility of that tree, so in some parts of the UK it's been mooted that the turkey oaks (introduced in the 18th century, the gall wasps appeared in the last 50 years) should be eradicated to benefit the indigenous species.  I don't know what the policy on them is here, this is the only place I've noticed turkey oaks growing in any numbers, or seen the galls, and the regular robur-type oaks around here don't seem to have any problems setting seedlings, we find them growing like weeds all over the garden, planted by field mice and voles, I assume.

The wasp lives the season inside the gall, then makes its way out through a hole it makes at the end, as you can see in the one above.  Apparently, the galls can also be a home to other fellow-traveller insects which also benefit from the micro-habitat they create, these kind of housemate creatures are known as inquilines, another new word I've learned.

The other gall-producing insect I've learned about I noticed the evidence of while foraging for beech mast, these tiny, pip-shaped growths on the fallen beech leaves:

They are made by a gall midge, mikiola fagi. This leaf had an unusually large collection of four galls, mostly there was just one, on very few leaves.  I thought they'd they'd be juicy and quite tender, and was slightly squeamish about squeezing one, in case the insect should pop out!  But in fact they were very hard, as hard as wood, which shows how successfully the insect is at converting and controlling the plant tissue for its own use.

Surprising what you can find kicking through the leaf litter, and kicking about on the internet too.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

23 bullets

Someone suggested bullet points, there are numbers too, I notice, so I'll try to get 23 done for the 23rd of the month. ( I've got other stuff, really I have, it's just not edited properly...)

  1. Hanging out a small load of washing, I understand I've become fond and possess quite a number of clothes of a slate blue colour.  Though mostly winter ones.
  2. Cleaned the swatted flies off the kitchen window.
  3. Clean the dog-nose marks off the front window.
  4. Bugger it's a non-drinking night.
  5. As a youngster I wrote a list of things I hated.  I told my mum.  She said 'When you've got a piece of paper the size of a postage stamp why don't you write a list of the things you like?'  This has stayed with me.
  6. Wholegrain, Dijon or Coleman's English.
  7. My father once said 'That was nice I must have been hungry'.  This was never forgiven, or at least not forgotten.
  8. I'm wearing brown pyjamas (which I wish I could spell 'pajamas') and a blue fleece robe, not a dressing gown as it doesn't have a front opening but pulls over my head, with a hood.
  9. The British Corner Shop have just made me an offer of a Christmas pudding which I can refuse.
  10. I think perhaps when it comes to risotto I have no limit of capacity, but I haven't tested this out.
  11. Jeremiah Coleman, I've heard them repeat, made his fortune from the mustard that folks didn't eat.
  12. Today I saw a very new-looking Citroen in a deep chocolate brown colour, a true brown.  Can it be that brown cars really are making a comeback?
  13. I get caught out time and again.
  14. Constable didn't come from Dunstable.
  15. Barking mad dog.
  16. That helicopter really copped it.
  17. Jeremiah Coleman, of Norwich late and great, made his fortune from mustard that folks left on their plate.
  18. What on earth am I supposed to do with a large bottle of orange-flower water?
  19. If in doubt use the past simple.
  20. Find out more about gall wasps.
  21. No one knows where the word 'bap' for a soft round bread roll comes from, but I wonder if it is related to 'kebab'? They sell the big soft rounds of bread for those here as 'kebap'.
  22. I'm going to get myself a cherry syrup fizz.
  23. A dear little blue silicone spoon (shown near life-size)

which came with a twin spatula, but they had to be separated.  It shoulders its way around the awkwardest corners of jam jars, and licks the mini-blender as clean as a whistle.

That'll do for today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More grub stuff

As Nablopomo wears on I've noticed people are posting rather a lot about what they've been having to eat, and I'm afraid I'm no exception.  However, many people seem to quite like chatting about foodstuffs, so here's a generally comestible-related post.

This mild, moist late autumn has brought out an explosion of mushrooms and toadstools everywhere.  I wanted Mol to pose beside this shaggy parasol to give an impression of its impressive size, but she wasn't too keen.  I seldom bother gathering these, and they're short on flavour and can be woody, and this one was too big and wet anyway.  Tom is carrying the umbrella not because it was raining, though it did a bit, but because we use it to fend off nuisance dogs, and it also gives us an air of stereotypical eccentricity to be seen carrying a classic black town umbrella around the countryside on a sunny day without a cloud in the sky.  I gathered some good brown mushrooms the day before, and made them into duxelles, which I freeze in small portions in cake papers.  I took a photo of this in the making but it looked fairly unattractive. Tastes good though.


As did the medlar fool.  Four of the medlars were bletted enough to eat, ie on the point of going mouldy, so nothing for it but to get in there with a coffee spoon and fingers, which yielded a surprising amount of delicious deliquescing gloop, which I blended with brandy and brown and vanilla sugar, folded into lightly whipped cream and topped with a pinch of cinnamon and a crumbled amaretti biscuit.  I think I have a culinary crush on medlars.


Caught a bit of Pointless this evening, a round on foods beginning with the letter 'c'.  Apparently many more people (out of a sample of 100, anyway) in the UK know that ciabatta is bread than know that Caerphilly is cheese.  I could come on all Food-Programme judgemental and sanctimonious about what that says about people's ignorance of indigenous food traditions and the power of the supermarkets, but I've ranted enough and I'm not sure it wouldn't be glib and unjustified; food practices, styles and terms have always been mobile and migratory anyway, perhaps.


Also watched professional Masterchef, the only version of the programme I will watch.  Michel Roux Jr is rather wonderful, we think, a bon vivant with the mien of a fanatical Cistercian friar, but a very kind heart.  Still, it was unfair of them to make them pluck and draw that woodpigeon, really.

Dinner: chicken with chopped pistachios, toasted beech nuts, preserved lemons and honey, served with chickpeas dresses with basil, mint and chopped tomato. The preserved lemons - citrons confits - were in a pretty, expensive jar from an gift shop in Lamballe where I had a credit note.  You can get them cheaply enough in plastic or not very pretty glass jars in any supermarket but somehow they're much more tempting to use from an expensive pretty ones.

Pistachios remind me of the island of Aegina in the Saronic Gulf, where they seem to be the staple crop - I think in Greek they're called something like fistakkia Aegina whereas fistakkia are just peanuts (as I remember, but anyone can put me straight on that). The island was covered in orchards of them, and the shells seemed to cover the ground everywhere like shingle, and everything possible to eat seemed to contain them.

Chickpeas are one of the oldest things people ever cultivated, which I think is rather amazing.

I imagine I might be the only person ever to combine beech nuts with preserved lemon in a dish.   


I promise to post about something other than food tomorrow!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just a couple of lifted things

When a previously unfamiliar poem evokes a feeling of 'belonging' or coming home, it is exceptionally affecting. Our bridges are relatively few between the outer world and our inner world. Increasingly we need those bridges and those mythical horses - and the gods they carry.

( Stephanie Dowrick - In the company of Rilke.  A shot in the dark this book, and not too sure about it, fearing a bit of a woolly New Age spiritual take on RMR, but I think I quite like where it's going, a kind of extended reader's response, with a smorgasbord of interesting references.

Picture - Circus Horse, Pierre Bonnard, c.1936) 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Anyone for kig ha farz ?

So off we went to le Rosabelle restaurant, a rather handsome, solitary old building out on the road that leads up to Erquy etc, perhaps half an hour's drive away.  Not a particularly attractive location in itself though set well back from the road, and so not really a tourist restaurant though they may get some passing trade from people going up to the coast, and they offer plenty of seafood.  It's quite a bit cheaper than the seafront places, and we got the feeling it's a place for people who like their food and probably go back regularly.  It's very spacious and quite simple, though quite elegant, and they've a second room for functions and loads of parking space and grassy areas outside so probably do well on weddings and other big parties.  A big fluffy black cat met us outside and escorted us in.

Tom opted out of kig ha farz (thanks Setu for the note in the comments before on the correct spelling; I'm happy to say they spelled it properly on the board and menu!) in part because he couldn't resist the oysters on the other menu, and in part because he was wary of the boiled meats.

Here I am going to digress into a bit of a grouch about the things French people often say to British people about our perceived execrable eating habits.  Along with the ideas that we are bizarre in enjoying sucré-salé (sweet and savoury mixed) flavours and that we breadcrumb everything, there is the frequent accusation that we boil all our meat.

Let's address the sucré-salé question first:  yes, we like chutney with all kinds of things, redcurrant jelly with our lamb and other meats, and indeed a number of other sweet and savoury combinations.  In doing so we are expanding traditions of spicing and sweetening from afar in space and time coming out of the cuisine of the east and dating back from the mediaeval period all over Europe (admittedly that was partly because the meat was half-rotten and spicing and sweetening it to buggery was one way to make it palatable, but that wasn't exclusive to Britain).  But I would also point out that there are many very traditional sucré-salé combinations in French cooking as well: pork with apple or prunes, foie gras with cherry or fig conserves, the Provencal (I think) speciality confiture d'oignons, the absolutely delectable practice of topping beef carbonnade with a piece of gingerbread spread with mustard to make a crust, even the addition of orange to beef daube could be seen as mixing fruit and meat flavours.  The very existence of the term sucré-salé  in French has no real English equivalent. So why time and again the snooty wrinkling of the nose and the 'oh but you English like sucré-salé...' 

(Marmalade or even maple syrup on our bacon is not common British practice, but I was introduced to the latter in new Zealand and it was delicious.)

The breadcrumbed coating, well yes I suppose I probably ate my share of fishfingers as a kid, though I liked the battered ones best, but there are plenty of those to be seen in the shopping trolleys of the young French mothers I see in the queues in front of me too, and chicken nuggets.

But it's the meat-boiling thing that really bugs me.  I think I can honestly say as an English person I have never at any time boiled any meat.  Neither did my mother before me nor hers before her, I'm quite sure ( with the possible exception of boiled bacon, which has to be boiled else one dies of salt poisoning).  You, my French friends of my dear adopted land, you are the ones who boil your meat.  You boil your meat in pot au feu, you boil your meat in navarin d'agneau, you boil your meat in poule au pot (as your good king Henri-Quatre wished that you should, every Sunday) you boil your meat in daube de boeuf and in boeuf  à la ficelle, and doubtless you boil your meat in sundry other regional specialities I know not of.

 J'accuse.  You boil your meat.

We, the English, we do not boil our meat.  We roast it.  That is why when you wish to insult us mildly you call us rosbifs.  QED.

Anyway, this is going nowhere, as I don't imagine many French people read here in any depth, apart from Setu, who is Breton anyway, and apparently at home in every language, place and culture under the sun, or at least in Europe, and hopefully will forgive me the anglocentric rant.

Not that I'm saying one shouldn't ever boil, or at least simmer it (mijoter is a nice word)  meat, because the results can be excellent, which brings me back to the kig ha farz.  The two ladies who were serving, who were super and very efficient, one brisk and a bit formidable, the other prettier and more kindly (she kept bestowing special smiles on Tom, we think it was his jacket), brought me a one huge russet-coloured earthenware pot containing meats and vegetables in broth and another plate with a slightly smaller dish containing the buckwheat dumpling (the farz, I believe) also in some broth and a little pot of mustardy sauce.

'It's all for you,' the more bossy one told me 'it's very copious.'

I looked at it.

'Can I have a takeaway container for the leftovers?'  I asked.

They happily brought me one, and brought Tom his oysters, then his monkfish, which very well cooked but the cherry sauce - hey, more sucré-salé! - was a bit strange both to look at and to taste, overall he was happy, though half wishing he'd been bolder and joined me in the kig ha farz.  They had served me very promptly, I had no starter and barely time to eat any olives and crackers with my aperitif, so my appetite, which I had been nurturing all day, was not spoiled.  I ate slowly, and my one course lasted through three of Tom's, and I just kept on and on eating it.

Among the meats there was a piece of beef, shreddingly tender and flavourful, a piece of ham hock, a good chunk of sausage and a small bit of demi-sel (salt-cured belly pork), which was the kind of thing Tom was fearful of because of fat and gristle, but which was so meltingly tender that the fat was almost rendered away.  So the meat was good but in one of the really nice things about it was the vegetables; there was a good quarter of cabbage, plenty of onion, a piece of fennel bulb, a big potato, a long baton of carrot, and several bits of cardoon.  It's quite unusual to get such a vegetable rich meal here, in fact, and because everything had cooked in and on the broth it was full of flavour and texture.  As to the buckwheat preparation, it was certainly substantial!  Not quite how I imagined, less crumbly - sometimes I gather people roll and pound the bag before they take the farz out of it, so it breaks into crumbs rather the consistency of couscous - with some sultanas in it (I'm not sure that purists go along with these, but I've seen quite a few recipes which add them) and a taste a bit like chestnuts.  I've eaten plenty of buckwheat pancakes and cooked the grain as an accompaniment, but this was different again.

As Tom was getting to the end of his cheese course ( a proper good-looking cheese board that you could have whatever you liked from) I announced that I was going to finish it all, and apart from a bit of broth and sauce and some trimmings, I did. Tom asked if I wanted any of his cheese which I declined that, but still ate some ice cream afterwards.  Ice cream can always find some gaps to slip through, I find.  The two serving ladies almost patted me on the head and said to one another

'Look, she's eaten it all, no leftovers!' and took the take away container away again.

It was just the day after the Beaujolais nouveau had arrived, and they were offering that, along with Côtes du Rhône nouveau (primeur, I think, strictly), which I'd not come across before.  I never cared much for  Beaujolais nouveau (I like the crus, don't mind the villages) but I was happy to try the other and enjoyed it.

When we got there at 8-ish there were a couple of couples already installed, but it filled up with a pleasantly mixed clientèle, a small group of oldies, a huge family group with babies and teenagers and all, all well-behaved at least while we were there, and then behind us two women, who were maybe a couple, with another elderly couple and a beautiful cream colour Alsatian-cross dog who sniffed at me politely and only got a little bit excited when the cat swept past rather teasingly.  The older lady made a very indulgent fuss of the dog who seemed to belong to the two women.  They all shared a kig ha farz and so then it came with the different elements in separate dishes which they dipped into as they wished, which would be a really nice way to eat it.  I've just got to find a few more people who'd like to join me...

( If you look at the menus on the restaurant site, the kig ha farz counts as tête de veau, which is prepared on  another Friday in the month.  We won't be heading out for that one, I'm afraid; I'm not that assimilated or adventurous.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Nothing much tonight; it is Saturday and I am going to sit down with my husband and dog and watch a film or something, and so should you, or the equivalent anyway, not sitting down with my husband and dog that is to say.

Nevertheless I found I had nine photos cropped to square of late autumnal things in the garden so that was enough for a collage, which will have to do.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Life drawing

Life drawing took place as scheduled and was wonderful.  Drawing is something which can render me completely absorbed and blissfully happy but which for long stretches of time I just don't do, and then trying to get back into it is difficult.  Most of what I produced was unmitigated rubbish; if I didn't know that I was once capable of reasonably competent figure drawing I would have been discouraged, but by the end, from about six or eight poses and drawings I did one which I was able to put aside and feel not displeased with, and C, the tutor, came by and looked at it and asked if I wanted him to fix it, so that seemed like a mark of approval anyway.  It's got a lot of faults which are evident and I don't need to catalogue, but it's got some good bits too, and I reckon at the end of ten sessions I should be turning out acceptable work. Using charcoal is a sensual delight it was great to be reacquainted with too. 

The model was lovely, about my age I guess, an artist herself and very still and strong.  She held some very interesting and difficult poses which she mostly chose herself.

Bring on the next one (who will be pregnant, they tell us).

We had a discussion as to whether posting this here was OK, and whether I shouldn't post a NSFW warning but Tom, who's not without a Puritan streak, said he's never heard of anything so silly so I hope he's right.  I brought it home and put it across an armchair to look at and the next thing I knew Molly was trying to snuggle up to it, hence the creases.

Now we're off to eat kig-ar-farz for the first time ever. This is, as far as I can gather, a version of pot-au-feu with the addition of a large buckwheat dumpling cooked in a bag in the broth.  It is a speciality of the Leon region of north Finistere but we have located a restaurant not far from here where they cook it once a month, and tonight's the night!  

Have a good Friday yourselves.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A hasty post

Because I got sidetracked looking up Psalm 15, after reading BB's post on friendship and then quoting 'I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills'.  This reminded me of how my mum liked to recite it, along with the other one said to be the definition of a gentleman, the only bit I could remember of which was about not putting his money out to usury.  So I looked it up and it turned out to be no 15   It kind of tickled me that it commends

He that backbiteth not with his tongue,       
nor doeth evil to his neighbor,
nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor

since my mother could not have been said to have been entirely free of these faults, any more than I am: she fell out with just about every neighbour we ever had and wasn't always very kind about my father's family when they weren't there.  However, I still remember with pride how she shut up our very loquacious aunt, my father's sister, a Franciscan nun and a terrible snob, by reciting all of Psalm 15 to her when said aunt was wittering on about social status and their antecedents being gentlemen farmers or something.

Whatever my mother's faults, I shall always appreciate the grounding she gave me in classics of English poetry.  Not quite enough to equip me to hold my own but gets me somewhere with Heather, who e-mailed me today thanking me for the postcard I'd sent her of the Ravilious painting of Two Women in a Garden, which she said wafted her out of constructed space, and I am delighted and somewhat amazed that I can count among my friends a formidable octogenarian grande-dame of letters who e-mails me to say something like that.

A recent friend, it's true, not of the five years standing that BB says he tends to feel is necessary for certainty of amity.  I pondered this, as I had been feeling a little melancholic about friends and friendship, but then I remembered my really old friends. Which kind of tied in with the psalm thing.  Along with them I went to a very strange educational establishment where, even in the 1970s, we all had a psalter as well as our red and blue hymn books, and we were required to know how to chant psalms, observing the single and double pauses, and sing the gloria.  I can't say this experience left as much trace as my mother's learning by heart did her, but I'm pretty sure that Fire Bird and I could get to the end of our lives and we could still make each other laugh by intoning ' his tabernacle... from one generation to another'.  And we'd probably find something new to talk about as well.


Saving seeds.   Actually got out in the garden for a bit today.


I got sidetracked too talking to my sister, who is also my friend, and who says she has blackbird coffee cosies in stock, so another newer friend can have one.  And I'm also in haste because I am hoping to get third time lucky with my life-drawing class: the first time the model failed to show so we had to draw each other - with our clothes ON, it was rescheduled so I turned up but no one else did (I hadn't left a contact no), but perhaps tonight will work out.  So I must be off.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rotten and crabby

The apples, not me.  Not always anyway.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Finch's nest

 Finch's nest, never used, blown down one stormy night.

Made with blue lichen, moss, twigs and thistledown,

stitched with bright baler twine, an arc of one horse hair,

and tiny feathers from the hens (or even the white peacock), lined

with kapok from an old quilt thrown away inside the shed,

given as treasure, and brought to show me in a plastic box.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Coming up to midway and flagging a bit, so tending to the pictorial.  Time for some multiple exposure collages.