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Armchair Uzès

la Vie Quotidienne

le 31 janvier  2003

Going to the dogs?
Allez aux chiens…

This year’s 10th annual Truffle Market came in with a splash, but trufficulture in the region is dogged by controversy as major swindles on the truffle front somewhat dampened this year's celebration.
    But first, a first... Despite the cold drizzle, a group of hearty souls pulled off a feat never before seen here: une omelette gigantesque in the middle of the Place aux Herbes in Uzès. Several dozen chefs, 3,000 eggs, and 5 kilos of black truffles came together this rainy morning to create a huge truffle omelet in a 12-foot pan. The wood fire was stoked early, but more soaked than stoked as the morning progressed. Nevertheless, many hundreds lined up to buy a portion of omelette, bread, and wine (7 euros), then scurried off under the arches to feast on this simple but traditional truffle concoction. Truffle-hunting dog and pig demonstrations were postponed because of the weather. Everyday dogs on wet leashes sulked as their owners strolled about under umbrellas. Speaking of dogs…


This year's Journée de la Truffe in Uzès brought rain and...

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...une omelette énorme in the Place aux Herbes.

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Step right up for your portion!



WANTED: This dog's owner, for truffle thieving!

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A miserably wet dog sulks under the arches
as his owners partake of truffle omelette...

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NOT a truffle dog, NOT this year
(notice both fine grooming and sun shining)

 

     All over the Uzès region are wanted posters of a cute black dog, with the words  “Do You Know This Dog’s Master?” One night last week the dog and his owner were surprised in the midst of stealing truffles from someone’s private field. The man escaped, the dog did not. And the region’s trufficulteurs want revenge!
     This year’s truffles, those pungent, highly prized mushroom-y pieces of what look like clumps of dirt, are bringing about 500-600 euros per kilo. They’re not called black diamonds for nothing…and their reputation includes strong aphrodisiacal qualities. The culture of the truffle has always swirled with much secrecy about where they are growing wild, how they’re being cultivated, which animals have the best noses, etc. Highly-trained truffle dogs are being stolen from their kennels; illegal forays into private terrain are the rule rather than the exception; and poor quality, low priced Asian truffles are being passed off as authentic French ones.
     Meanwhile the poor dog who was caught red-handed (or should we say, black-nosed?) has become the poster child for truffle crime. We’re waiting to see if the human culprit turns up. We’ll let you know. While we’re waiting, we’ll probably share a feuilleté de truffes, a delicious pastry tart filled with fresh goat cheese and sliced truffles. Why not wait in style?

Check out more on Truffle Fests...
Truffle Photo Gallery
2002
2001


Lunch on the road…
Un repas routier

Excuse our gourmand ways, but just two weeks into this year’s visit and we’re racking up the lunch expeditions. Montpellier, Saint-Victor-la-Coste, Fontvieille, and of course Uzès…they’ve all been great, but may we quickly share one of them with you, at least in words?
     On a Thursday afternoon, after the obligatory run to the cave coopérative just up the road in Laudun, we stopped in at the Café de l’Industrie in the town square of Saint-Victor-la-Coste, where last spring we had a long and lovely lunch with Michael and Heidi Lynn. This round we sat at the community table with the locals, all of us sharing le menu routier, a 5-course, everything-included meal for 10.5 euros each (about $11). Quel repas! After starting with a carafe of local red wine, some fresh bread, and a plate of sliced tomatoes garnished with grated hard-boiled egg and aïoli, we moved on to the charcuterie plate, a hunk of country paté, cornichons, and caillette (a sort of sausage thing). We had our sleeves rolled up as they brought us our main dish, veal stew (blanquette de veau) served over rice. More wine appeared on the table, so we helped ourselves, sharing the carafe with les homes du terre sitting next to us. A plate of cheeses followed, and we devoured our share of the funky, fragrant selection. The long list of dessert choices made our heads spin, but we landed on lemon tart and crème brulée. Coffee was welcome (you can take your coffee at the table, on the patio, or over at the bar, as you wish) and absolutely necessary for the return home with our cubies and our tummies filled.  21 euros for two, tax, tip, wine and coffee included.

 


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Saint-Victor-la-Coste has a castle with a view, 
and a restaurant with a great menu routier!



FRENCH NOTEBOOK
Spectators at France’s Favorite Sport:
The International Politics of Lunch

Uzès, January 31, 2003
It’s infuriating more than amusing, yet you can hardly take your eyes off it. Day after day, world event after world event, France sings the same little tune, dances the same few steps. France is justly scorned by the rest of the world for the banality of its popular music and dance, and its diplomatic performance is no prettier to the eye or ear. “No,” the lyric begins, “we don’t agree.” Two sharp toe taps to the heads of the Americans begins the choreography, followed by a coy and awkward swirl in the direction of the befuddled dance partner, often Germany. “No action may be taken,” continues the silly song, “discussion and compromise is the only way!” Happily, the blowsy tune can’t go on too long because, given the grave international situation at hand, France needs to continue deliberations…over lunch…preferably a good, long lunch…paid for by someone else…
     France won’t do, France will talk. France reflexively abhors taking decisive action. She will compromise anything that doesn’t belong to her. Two recent examples of the cynicism and futility of France’s diplomatic style wrap ominously around a better known example currently in the news:  France’s insistence that UN arms inspectors in Iraq be given more time…and still more time…before the Security Council takes any against the world-criminal Sadaam Hussein. Here are the examples... (Click here for the rest of the story...)



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"We don't agree..."
"Nous ne sommes pas d'accord..."


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Dead grapes on the vine since last fall,
near Montfrin (Gard)

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The Gardon flows gently outside Remoulin,
but the debris is still piled up

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A sandswept cherry orchard near Remoulin

 


Flood effects still being felt
Les effets des inondations

The effects of last September’s floods are still being felt all across the Gard, with individuals and businesses reeling with reconstruction, insurance and governmental challenges that won’t be going away any time soon. Torrential rains, in excess of 40 inches in a two-day period, flooded the Gardon and other area rivers, killing more than two dozen people and causing millions of dollars in damage (see our Fall 2002 report). And just last week an overnight rain caused additional flooding because the ground is now so saturated that anything above a shower causes rivers to rise and roads to wash out.
     Many of Remoulin’s cherry orchards were swept away or severely damaged, with predictions of a smaller cherry harvest this May, and most likely higher prices as well. The wine harvest of last fall was severely affected, with many of the Côtes du Rhône vines left unattended for many weeks just at the height of harvest season, or vendage.  The 16th century Pont St-Nicholas, the stalwart bridge on the road connecting Uzès and Nîmes, was washed away but is being repaired slowly but surely, with a March re-opening now on the horizon. The Pont du Gard itself was not damaged, but the left bank has been closed since September and may not open again until late spring because of washouts under that side of the bridge. We’re putting together a collection of photos as we go along for those interested in following this devastating event. And we’ll keep you posted on progress.

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Homes, goods, and lives were lost in 
the raging waters near Collias


Time for feasting...
Beaucoup de fêtes...

Once again it's that time of year for celebrating with my favorite sweets. January's Fêtes des Rois lasts all month long, starting on the Epiphany (Jan 6). The traditional cake hides a tiny prize, and one lucky winner will be crowned king or queen (or both!). Our Super Bowl galette des rois crowned Gary and Anne-Marie. Want a galette recipe and more details? Click here...
     The feast of le Chandeleur (click here for more info), starting 40 days after Christmas and lasting throughout the month of February and up until Ash Wednesday, requires a crepe celebration, sucrées ou salées, ou tous les deux. It's said that eating crepes will bring good luck in the coming year. So round up the eggs, butter, milk and whatever else you want to add for this annual French ritual. Bon appetit...et bonne chance!

 

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Reine et Roi du Super Bowl
Anne-Marie and Gary


The wind howls and a bit of snow flies in the south of France on this last day of January,
but we'll be back with more news and tidbits in the coming weeks.
Stay tuned, stay warm. A bientôt!

Want to see previous editions of Armchair Uzès? Click here for a directory...
For the Armchair Photo Gallery, click here...

 

 

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