le 17 octobre 2000
Pas de station météo? Sacré bleu!
Reports are coming in of a superb leaf season in the
Northeast, some say one of the best ever in New England, with additional
news of a few visits from Jack Frost already. Sorry to miss it this year
Here, in the
legendary south of France, the weather has been…well... miserable! Actually we had a week
of gorgeous sun and low 70s, but with a nasty mistral
(wind) for several of those days. Since then, for the past week, we’ve seen nothing but gloomy clouds and
periods of intense rain. Fortunately we're not getting the disastrous
floods that they're having in the alpine areas of France, Italy, Switzerland, and
in Great Britain.
Sunrise (whether we can see it or not) is around
8AM…and sets around 7PM. No sign of frost or freeze, mostly in the 50s
at night, low 60s during the day, and we’re trying to find out the
expected first frost date here. Turns out we're a bit further north here
(nearly 44 degrees latitude) than in Peterborough, NH. In fact we're
further north than Toronto!
We're surfing the
channels madly on a continual hunt for le météo, the weather
report. Haven't seen a weather radar in weeks, much less figured out how
to understand what the very charming weatherwomen are saying. But we get a
kick out of their outfits! We do now know orageux (stormy) and
vent violent (heavy wind).
Meantime, if you want to see what the weather's
doing here, there's a box at the bottom of the home page that can fill
you in, with a link for more details. Check it out!
roasting on an open fire
A venir...châtaignes rôties en brasier...
Chestnuts for 20FF
per kilo (~$1.50 per pound)
Fall is a special time here, especially with the vendage (wine harvest)
just completed, but there are
all sorts of other specialties being harvested and celebrated.
Figs, pears, and apples are ripe, delicious, as are leeks and sweet
onions. They can be found in markets and on
menus everywhere. And it's also the beginning of the best mushrooming
season, as well as la grande chasse (hunting), the passion of many
For many villages in the area, this coming
weekend marks the Fête de Châtaignes. Chestnuts rule right now,
in markets, on the ground where you walk, cooked over an open fire, on
menus as desserts and stuffing in special dishes, and more. In fact, this coming
week there is a regional cooking contest judging perfection in recipes for
chestnuts (the wild nuts are called châtaignes, the cultivated
ones are marrons, with apparently little difference in taste). Eleven prominent chefs from
the Languedoc-Rousillon region (where we live) will each present two
original creations using chestnuts: they have to prepare an entrée (an
appetizer in the US) and plat principal (an entree in the
US), or a plat and dessert. Two winning recipes (one based on
Innovativeness and one on Tradition) will be chosen by a jury and their
creators get to go to
Rome in November to continue the chestnut competition there. We'll see
what wonderful things they come up with, as the results with recipes will
be published next week in the Midi-Libre, one of the area daily
newspapers. If something looks good, we'll put it on the Food & Wine
Shoppers looking over
the olive oil and herbs at the Uzès market
To market, to market to buy a fat leek...
pour acheter un gros poireau...
The Saturday market in Uzès is a free-for-all and loads
of fun. Hundreds of vendors set up in the Place aux Herbes in
the center of town, and spill out into the outside streets and plazas.
They sell it all, from fruits, vegetables, meat, cheese, and wine, to
clothing, linens, pots and pans, and more. There is a limited market on
as well that’s
less crazy, but Saturday is the day to get out in Uzès. People come from miles around to get their goods and
to nose around for bargains. Great people watching and stall shopping! For
a Saturday market photo gallery, click
Joe avec son panier
du marché remplit des poireaux
Paella by the pound...
Paella en kilos...
A Sunday lunch in the country is a great way
to explore and enjoy, so we spent our first official Sunday in the little
town of St-Siffret, just 5 km from Uzès.
On the recommendation of Earl, our landlord, we went to a farmhouse
just outside that village where they serve paella on Sunday afternoons.
And what a feast it was! All you can eat, but I challenge anyone (except
Taylor) to eat more than one serving. Along with salad, wine, a cheese
course, dessert and coffee, we spent less than $15 each on a three-hour
lunch that was satisfying and delicious. The patron, a sheep raiser
originally from the south coast of Spain, prepares the paella outdoors on a
wood-fired grill, using his mother’s recipe. According to him, the
Spanish version includes only fish, shellfish, and chicken…no
sausage. Other than that, I don’t think he wants to share the
Le clocher sonne...
in town, church bells sound on the hour, from 7AM to midnight, with a
single chime on the half hour. What a soothing way to mark time during the
The bells ring twice, slightly out of
synch by about a minute, so that if you miss the first one, you hear the
you get to hear them twice). Interestingly, at 12:30, 1PM, and 1:30, the
chime is the same, (single on the half hours, single for 1
o’clock)…good thing everyone is at lunch then so it doesn’t matter
if you get confused about what time it is!
Wine by the cubie...
Du vin en cubie...
found a local wine cooperative in the nearby town of Bordic that sells direct to the public. Our goal has been to find a place to buy wine
in quantity rather than just by the bottle, and this is one place we can.
The ’99 vendage can be bought directly from large vats. Choices of red
were an 11% alcohol mix of grapes, a 12% cabernet, and a 13% merlot. We had a
taste of each, decided on the cabernet, bought a 5-liter “cubie” (a
plastic can) and a robinet (spigot), had them fill it from the
large vat, and off we went!
We can now return to this vineyard or any other with our 5-liter
cubie and just say “fill’er up!” (Remplissez-le!)
At around a $1 a liter (a bottle is .75 liters), it’s a definite
bargain for everyday wine.
Take me out to a ballgame...
Amène-moi au jeu de baseball...
Any baseball is better than no baseball, and in
France you take what you find. On Sunday, October 15, we found the French
championship for 15-year-olds at Le Vigan, up in the Cevennes about an
hour and a half from Uzès. The Barracudas from Montpellier won a close
and exciting 8-7 victory over the arrogant "Pukes" from Paris,
the PUC or Paris University Club.
The field at Le Vigan features one
of the few actual monticules de lanceur (pitcher's mounds) in
France. Normally they just pitch off flat ground, lighting up the hitters'
eyes while terrorizing the thus afflicted lanceur, the pitcher. Quality of
play was, well, ragged. But spirited.
A young man from Toronto, name of Osborne, heads
up the coaching for the Montpellier Baseball Club, a group of adult
players. This past year he also coached the French national team, who were
eliminated in an Olympic qualifying round by the powerful Dutch and
Italian teams. We'll go down to Montpellier in February when play resumes
to see his team. Apparently their ballpark has an Astroturf infield.
As for the boys, Montpellier celebrated the final
out with a classic thrashing human dogpile near the monticule.
Afterwards trophies were presented. Each player also received the gift of
an onion. It's a local specialty. Well, as we
were saying, any baseball is better than no baseball.
More news soon. We're hoping to have updates at least once every few weeks, if not more often. Let us know what you think and what you want to