Archive for the ‘other sides to this life’ Category

When’s lunch?

Left-over lentils aka Puy–too good to waste! What to do? How to employ?

Salad!  Served with broccoli frittata (with leftover broccoli) for lunch today.

These beautiful little grey-green lentils are already dressed with olive oil and red wine vinegar from dinner Saturday–and tasty as is–but might welcome additions.

Cucumber, red onion and avocado beckon.

The mint is showing–and I’ve some already chopped parsley.


Left-over Puy lentils with Cucumber, Avocado and Red Onion Salad

  • left-over (cooked!) lentils
  • 1 small red onion–finely sliced
  • 1 ripe avocado–diced
  • 1 small cucumber–peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeds removed and diced
  • parsley and mint–chopped
  • salt (to taste)

Pick a pretty bowl and park the lentils.

Add the onion, cucumber and avocado and herbs. Carefully turn everything over.

Sprinkle over a little more red-wine vinegar lentils, olive oil and salt before turning it all over one more time.

It got a firm M.A.Meredith Approved!






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The tomb of St. Martin in Tours was rediscovered on December 14, 1860–which encouraged a revival of popular devotion to St. Martin.

Our church–named for St. Martin–was built at this time.

Jean-Luc and his son Gregor are here to complete the first tranche of work on “our” church—the cleaning out and making safe–after it had been abandoned for over 15 years.

Seems a good moment for a spring cleaning, with Spring bursting out everywhere.

The work on the overgrown trees and hedge surrounding the church is beginning to pay off.

The hawthorns or “May Trees”–carefully planted with ten meters gaps long ago–are breathing easier than they have for years.

I’m waiting for the pretty white blossoms of the hawthorn to show. Not a pleasant fragrance, as I recall from childhood, but a beautiful sight–and sure sign that the seasons have changed.

Ne’er cast a clout ‘til May be out”–a trope oft-repeated in our household when I was growing up in the ‘fifties.

Never knew whether it meant–Don’t leave off warm winter clothes until June OR keep wrapped up until the May trees/hawthorns are blooming.

Jean-Luc and Gregor are an impressive team.

Spot Jean-Luc and Gregor high up on the scaffolding!

They carry an air of competence and savoir-faire–they what they’re doing.

It’s reassuring.

Today they are removing the bulbous excretions of plastic filling that oozed from the large cracks inside and outside the walls of the eastern side chapel as they were treated.

I’m reminded of the cake fillings my mother used to bind her sponge layers.

She’d spread the gorgeous coffee-flavored cream on the bottom sponge–thick–and press down the second layer on top.

Then run the spreading knife ’round the circumference–collecting a good dollop of the crunchy, sugary mix for a patient “sous chef” beside her to relish.

The plastic is not so tempting.

Left to dry out thoroughly it’s judged ready to be prettied up.

The chapel in question was in a perilous state and looked as though it could collapse in a trice.

Here it is in the BEFORE state:

The confessional stall on the right was set into the wall–surely a factor in the weakening it.

The men gingerly removed it.

The ground was settling there–making sense as the leaning wall–but why is still unclear.

Jean-Luc went to work–tying in the three walls and filling in the gaps.


The sandstone used in the 1860s to construct the church was hacked from the cliffs nearby–an inexpensive option.

The church is built on rock (appropriate!)–but with scant foundations.

A miracule it has stayed standing!

Saint Martin himself may have had a hand in it–legend has him as a worker of miracles.

Here is one of the best-preserved murals in the church. St. Martin is tied to a post in winter, giving his executioners pause by summoning Spring!

Another mural depicts him standing in the path of a tree being felled–and legend has it that the tree miraculously missed him.

Keeping his church from toppling seems small beer in comparison.

The remedial work involved removing the heavy plaster vaulted ceiling in the transept where it was pulling away from its wooden roof. Had it fallen it might have brought “all the king’s men” down with it.

A shame to lose the stunning blue ceiling in the side chapel, but an unavoidable step.

The roof is the next step–and for that we wait for more reliable weather.

Meanwhile our head cat, Beau, is supervising the works:








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Summer shot of Castres market

Our parking fairy is feeling generous this morning.

I am handed poll position–a hop and a skip from the fountain at the interesting end of Castres Market–to start my marketing.

The vent d’autan is strong–this is the warm wind from the east that can drive you mad when it lasts for days.

The stalls look strangely impermanent without their parasoles and the stallholders, embattled–showing a dogged determination to be of good cheer.

In fact the shoppers are compliant–keen not to robbed of the chance to celebrate a good week or put a less good one behind you with friends at one of the five cafés surrounding Place Jean Jaures.

It is 10:15am and the market has been up and running since 7am.

In the summer I’m here by 7:30 to grab the choicest tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and other summer delights brought in by local growers and picked just the night before.

I’m slower at the moment–finding it hard to get motivated when the changing season–winter to spring–is not showing on the vegetable stands.

A couple of sparsely stocked stalls selling asparagus–white and green–are the only sign that the year is on the move.

A weariness with winter vegetables is affecting me–same old cabbages, same old broccoli.

Much as I love them–love eating and cooking them, I’m ready for a change of color.

I wasn’t proud of myself yesterday buying eight tomatoes “on the vine” ho! ho!–but red, red, red.

(Halved, seasoned, dribbled with olive oil and a little balsamic  vinegar, oven at 200c for 45 minutes and hey presto, it’s summer!)

Green to red please and get a move on.

I rest my case!








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Birds to the right and birds to the left; birds behind and birds at the front.

Birds in the attic–our hawks are back, preparing the nest for youngsters.

So many birds–hurrying, hurrying, this way and that, mostly in search of food.

Meredith keeps the bird table full and the window sills stocked with sunflower seeds and crushed madeleines.

When a cat starts paying attention at the back of the house, the flock of finches, tits, robins, wagtails, nuthatches and sparrows switch to the front and continue teasing our well-fed four-leggers.

I spied a cheeky red squirrel who’d got wind there were “pickin’s for all”, braving the courtyard and rummaging under window in the growing pile of sunflower seed husks.

There are occasional casualties. Not surprisingly–we have five cats.

“Gifts” are left in a regular spot in the courtyard.

This morning’s offering–a pitch black mole.

We have never seen so many finches–all sorts.

A charm of goldfinches

A new variety this year–the HAWFINCH–is not so charming.

A large beaked bruiser twice the size of the goldfinch and three times the delicate little green finch–my favorite.

These giants of the finch family see off smaller cousins and fight among themselves, creating a flutter of finches just above the table or windowsill as approaching birds are forced to hover and engage before finding space to land.

It has been a difficult winter for birds–for us too.

Dank, damp and cold.

“We haven’t eaten outside as much this winter,” Meredith said yesterday, as the guests arrived for Easter lunch.

The first of April and too cold even to have a drink in the courtyard; but the leafing out is happening and there’s a buzzing of bees in the box elder…

There’s always one! Box elder’s fine but who could resist a freshly opened Tulip.

Spring never fails to bring a thrill of anticipation–the metaphor begins.

First of all, renewal…

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When The New York Times hired me to write about science and health 52 years ago, I was 40 pounds overweight. I’d spent the previous three years watching my weight rise as I hopped from one diet to the next in a futile attempt to shed the pounds most recently gained.

No amount of exercise, and I did plenty of it, could compensate for how much I ate when I abandoned the latest weight loss scheme. I had become a living example of the adage: A diet is something one goes on to go off.

Even daylong fasting failed me. When I finally ate supper, I couldn’t stop eating until I fell asleep, and sometimes awoke the next morning with partly chewed food in my mouth. I had dieted myself into a binge-eating disorder, and that really scared me. Clearly, something had to change.

I finally regained control when I stopped dieting..……I made a plan to eat three nutritious, satisfying meals every day with one small snack, which helped me overcome the temptation to binge in response to deprivation.

Much to my surprise, a month later I had lost 10 pounds — eating! Eating good food, that is, and plenty of it. I continued the regimen without difficulty because it was not a diet. It was a way to live and a healthy one at that. And I continued to lose, about two pounds a month….

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Ben has a “spring” in his step this morning–he can’t contain it!

He’s been out in the sun and has caught the mood. There is change in the air.

A stillness that is palpable; a blue sky and birdsong.

I’d say his enthusiasm is a little premature, if he’s thinking  Spring is sprung.

Not quite, Ben–though the bird is on the wing.

The deciduous trees in the meadow behind the house are still leafless–but their branch patterns make an agreeable filigree to contemplate from the warm comfort of my snug at breakfast time.

But he’s right that it’s good to be alive, which is what he seems to be saying with his frolicking .

And there are signs….

The bitter almond tree at the end of the garden is full of blossom, as are its fellows all the way to Lautrec.

One moment they are bare; and the next, it seems, there is blossom.

Such is the miracle.

The clutch of daffodils at the entrance to the garden are in no doubt.

We spotted three heifers in the pasture yesterday, where we haven’t seen a cow for months–sent by mum, perhaps, to check the length of the grass for grazing.

No cows today–grass ain’t riz yet, Ma.

For those a bit puzzled…

Spring has sprung,
The grass has riz,
I wonder where the birdie is?
They say the bird is on the wing,
But that’s absurd.
The wing is on the bird!

Dad used to show off by speaking this with a Brooklyn accent.

…they say the “boyd” is on the wing,

But that’s “absoyd”.

The wing is on the “boyd”!




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A report came out recently–another report, I know!

It said a more effective way to keep our weight stable is by taking care with the way we eat–not be stuck counting the calories.

The recipe below is an example of how one can eat simply, healthily, deliciously and inexpensively.

Each to his/her own, of course, but for me, the dish would be COLD before I’d finished counting calories–and that’s assuming I could figure out HOW to count them.

Caulis are looking handsome at the moment with their big, open faces urging you to take them home.

When I checked the price, I didn’t need any persuading and bought a large organic one for just under three euros.

It stretched over two nights.

A simple gratin with juicy black olives one night…

Not much left!

and this equally simple soup with leeks, the next.

I had steamed the florets for the gratin–but hadn’t used them all. So I only had to soften the leeks before adding the cauliflower and the stock. (If you’re starting the soup from scratch, just add the raw cauliflower florets.)

Meredith was on a long internet conference call, so this made a perfect light supper for her in front of the computer.

She grew up thinking that cauliflower was the biggest DUD vegetable of all. Fortunately, she has had a conversion!

Cauliflower happens to be good for us–like its close relatives, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage.

According to Mr. Google, one serving contains 77 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. It’s also a good source of vitamin Kproteinthiamin, riboflavinniacin, magnesiumphosphorusfiber, vitamin B6, folatepantothenic acidpotassium and manganese.

So there!

We eat it because we LIKE it!


  • 1 cauliflower–florets separated into medium sized bits
  • 3 leeks–outer parts removed, cleared of dirt and sliced thinly
  • 1 oz butter
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 liter organic vegetable stock (I use stock cubes.)
  • salt & pepper

Melt the butter and oil in a large saucepan.

Add the leeks and sweat them gently, covered, until soft.

Add the cauliflower and bay leaves and mix well.

Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, then turn the temperature down.

Simmer until cauliflower is tender–not much more than ten minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Lift out a few small florets and liquidize the rest.

Drop a few of the whole florets in each bowl when you serve the soup.





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