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A couple of days ago I announced that I was thinking of making fennel soup for supper (we need a photograph of it for the new book).

“You should use all those veggies in the crisper,” said Meredith, in practical mood.

After years of taking a moment to understand what “crisper” meant, I now know it’s the bottom drawer of the fridge where salad and (forgotten) vegetables are stored.

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It still sounds odd to me–crisp and vegetable?

“Any road”–as Aunt Mary used to say–I found a treasure trove of useable vegetables.

MINESTRONE!

So…

I chopped into small dice:

2 carrots

2 small celery sticks

1 onion

3 garlic cloves

and sweated these over a low heat for a good half hour or longer in

3 tbsp olive oil

I then added:

2 fennel bulbs–outer casings removed and chopped into larger dice

more celery–similarly chopped

more carrots–similarly chopped

a handful of mini onions–peeled and halved

some cauliflower florets

Then I spooned in 3 tbsp cooked white beans, from a jar preferably (I prefer them to tinned/canned),

tucked in a small bouquet of parsley and bay and a piece of parmesan rind (I happened to have one to hand!)

I poured in 1 1/2 pints of stock–in this case made from organic vegetable cubes,

and seasoned well with freshly ground black pepper and a teaspoon of salt.

Brought this up to the boil, turned down the heat to low and simmered it for an hour.

Then I added a handful of green beans–escapees that were loitering in the crisper–snapped in half–and 2 medium courgettes–the last from the garden, sliced.

Cooked all this on until these last were tender.

Served it with a swirl of best olive oil and grated parmesan.

(The crisper promoter showed her approval by having thirds.)

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Recipe-sharing has been on hold for a while. This is a “relaunch”.

My excuse? I’ve been busy and distracted: putting on wigs, trying to remember my lines, running a cooking workshop, demonstrating no-potato fishcakes at a literary festival*, preparing a third cook book, worrying about the sale of the adjacent church for a private residence…

I’ve missed finding new recipes, cooking them and writing them up.

So here goes….

(Could be a hostage to fortune!)

Early Saturday morning at Castres market, I spied a pile of green beans on the small display table.

I was surprised.

These are the last,”  said the local grower, who also had some promising looking cherry tomatoes laid out.

I bought a pound of each and here they combine to make the simple vegetable dish from Delicious Dishes for Diabetics.

I’ll sprinkle over some feta and a few juicy black olives to make a light lunch.

It’s warm enough to eat al fresco in the courtyard–the SUN is refusing to retire and is out every day–a delayed summer (July and August didn’t deliver.)

Warm enough to ripen the fruit that normally we enjoy weeks earlier–even our figs are finally showing signs of ripening.

We are not complaining.

250gms/8oz green beans

250gms/8oz cherry tomatoes

2 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic–thinly sliced

2oz  feta cheese  (optional)

half a dozen juicy black olives  (optional)

First make the tomato sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a shallow pan and add the garlic slivers.

Cook for a minute or two to soften.

Add the tomatoes and cook on a low-ish heat for 15 minutes, stirring and gently squashing them occasionally.

You should end up with a viscous sauce–the tomatoes retaining some of their shape.

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Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the beans in boiling, salted water until just tender.

Drain and lay them on a pretty plate.

Spoon the sauce over the beans.

Add olives and/or feta (optional).

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*Festival Litteraire de Parisot

Parisot is a delightful, hilltop village in the Tarn-and-Garonne department, a little to the north of us.

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This was the second year of their book festival and it was a triumph.

Brilliantly organized over a three-day weekend, events ran parallel in French and English, serving the two communities simultaneously.

A grand sweep over the literary landscape included a writing Masterclass, talks by first-time and established novelists, a workshop given by an expert in Arab calligraphy, a talk on organized crime in France, a superb analysis of the causes of the first world war by Clive Ponting and much more–including a light-hearted account of my acting career, given while cooking pumpkin soup and no-potato fishcakes.

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Flying Virgin…

…which is what I did in 1986, London/ New York courting Meredith.

(Virgin Atlantic, that is!)

Yesterday that phrase took on an entirely different meaning….

We live in a rectory or presbytère, next to a disused church.

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This statue has been our neighbor for 25 years.

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Our Ladies pose for a photo!

Yesterday our Lady took FLIGHT–albeit assisted–to the cemetery hard by.

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Short flights can be stressful–even when you know you are in safe hands….

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Now she presides majestically over generations of Dauzatois–permanent residents of the graveyard.

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Occasionally a new grave is dug, a visible sign that these quiet souls will soon be joined by a new arrival; more often the newcomer finds peace in one of the many family tombs.

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After decades beside the church door, an edict was issued from on high (the Mairie–owners of the church) that she was to fly again to her new perch.

A couple of years ago the church was deconsecrated and stripped of its interior statuary.

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It was a curious site to see these iconic figures lifted off their pedestals, standing around in the middle of the empty church, like awkward guests at the start of a cocktail party–awaiting the arrival of the removal van.

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They’d known each other by sight for perhaps more than a century, shyly stealing glances from the safety of their niches–but never obliged to speak….Now they were face to face–no escape!

The wall murals tell the story of Saint Martin in primitive fashion and the vaulted ceiling is still a brilliant BLUE.

The martydom of Saint Martin

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The demur figure of Mary has led a solitary life.

For years she’d stood at the end of the Curé’s garden–looking back at the church and the presbytère.

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Parishioners with the statue in the garden about 60 years ago.

But then the previous owner of the house–feeling perhaps uncomfortable under the constant gaze of the Virgin Mary–decided it was more appropriate that she should stand vigil at the church door, welcoming the worshippers.

So Monday wasn’t her virgin flight–pardon me–but maybe it was her last.

She has, in turn, modestly presided over:

  • a garden around which the live-in priest would walk while transposing his thoughts into sermons.
  • a church to which a loyal, but dwindling group of adherents would come to worship.
  • and a cemetery in which many of those worshippers are resting.

Now she has time to reflect on all that and one might guess she’d be happy to be left in peace.

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We had the best of times!

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Washington DC; Philadelphia; Naples, Florida; North East, Maryland and Whitstable, England

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East Coast folk from both sides of the “Pond” came together in South West France, where the sun shone for us every day.

It even managed a mackerel sky to match Friday lunch–spanking fresh fillets of this tasty fish.

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We peeled and chopped–worked hard and chuckled a lot.

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We made chickpea pancakes to stuff…

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French omelettes….

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Italian frittatas too, to compare….

I  forgot the grated parmesan for the frittatas–had to retrieve them from the stove and mix again!

Julia Child and her inspirational insouciance was kindly invoked by the Bravehearts: “Never mind, nobody knows but us!”

Over coffee, we talked of Cabbages and Kings and the Mediterranean way of cooking.

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All our lunches taken al fresco, with a backdrop Leonardo would have been tempted to paint between mouthfuls.

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Our neighbor Celine even taught us how to clean and braid garlic. Some, like Leslie, were naturals….

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Others, try as they may…

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will never master it…

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What a lovely lot!

(Even the gatecrashers!)

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(Shows it was just picked from the garden!)

Here’s to us!

Who’s like us?

Damned few!

…Well roughly 29 (Bravehearts!) at the latest count!

 

 


 

 

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How good it is to be ALIVE!

 

We had a visitor night before last–towards midnight, scarcely visible in the dark but crying a pitiable cry.

She was small and furry black with a kink in the tail.

She was distressed and hungry, a exhausted refugee searching for sanctuary.

Meredith was immediately on hand with a plate of food and some water.

“Don’t feed it,” I heard myself saying.

“I definitely am feeding it!” retorted an indignant wife.

In a flash, I had run through all the drawbacks that might occur in the coming days and weeks. (There were precedents.) The effect on the resident cats; the fact that maybe we had enough cats (three indoor and three outdoor) to be going on with etc…I quickly came to the conclusion that the mite was more a problem than a gift.

Then I saw the little black bundle and backed off knowing it was a done deal–we were a four” indoor “cat family!

The following day the vet said HE–for she is another he–is about three-and-half months (milk teeth still in place), of good character and in sound shape–and gave him his first vaccination.

Lundi? Sidney? Gaston?–names on the list of possibles.

Pippa does her usual hissy fit and we’ve seen little of Ben.

Beau is wary but tolerant from the comfort of a strategic chair.

The little mite–not a bad name–slept through his first full day in the wicker basket Meredith had “made nice” for him.

“What-a-ya-gunna-do?”! ? Here I am! Nice lady! Comfy basket. Food in the dish–go for it! “

There’s a lesson for us worry guts…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*french for monday)

 

 

 

 

 

 The polling booths are open and the show is on the road.

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From the Highlands to the Lowlands from the east coast to the west coast, over 90% of the population is expected to vote–unprecedented in a western democratic referendum.

It’s a game changer, they are saying; even if it’s “NO”, nothing will ever be the same again.

Watching the NO campaign in panic mode, desperately playing catch-up when the polls started shifting–promising the kitchen sink to save the Union, has been entertaining.

But now, there’s nothing left to do but vote–if you live in Scotland–or twiddle your thumbs, if you don’t, awaiting the results tomorrow morning.

I fell to a spot of speculation while my thumbs were twiddling.

Just supposing the vote today was taking place in the far west of ENGLAND.

The Cornish were deciding whether to cut loose from Albion (“emmet land” to the Cornish) and go it alone! (There have been rumblings!)

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And just supposing Ross Poldark had the gift of eternal life (well, Mammoth TV Productions are doing a convincing job reviving him!), how would he VOTE?

Trotting down the lane to the polling station in Pendeen, where would his cross go?

YES or NO??

Any clues?

He’s a free spirit, independent, anti-establishment, a risk taker, a convention flaunter, out of his time even.

He’s been “elsewhere”, albeit to fight for the “oppressor” in America. He has seen another side of things.

He’s a landowner, mine boss, member of the privileged class, yes–but…

Unlike the denizens of Downton Abbey, upstairs at least–safe to bet on a “no” there–Ross is less easy to predict.

(Though I felt disappointed to read that later in life he’d accepted a knighthood and become a Tory MP and best friends with Foreign Secretary George Canning! Ross Poldark!? Scourge of the local gentry, defender of the poor, natural leftie?!  Oh dear…!

So voting “NO”, Ross?

I’ll answer for him. (Well we were quite close for a while!) Begging Winston Graham’s pardon for the presumption of course….

 I’d wager that he’d not be able to resist the call.

Cornwall for the Cornish! Clear out the cupboard and start over–a new order!

“We’ve tin and copper–well, we’ll find it and china clay too.”

The old radical Ross would awake and be leading the charge–to the cliffs’ edge some would be saying.

“You know me well,” says Ross. “Did you see Andy Murray’s tweet this morning?”

“Let’s do this!”

 

 

 

 

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