“Bonjour Madame, Monsieur!” The raspy voice can only be Guillaume our bearded neighbour.
“Ça va?” I look around from my book of French recipes, that I have been engrossed in whilst enjoying the glorious sunshine on our balcony with Mrs Dookes. “Oui, ça va bien merci,” Yes, I’m good thanks.
Guillaume drops his load of fishing gear on the ground in the courtyard below me with an aplomb earned from a successful trip. He is itching for me to ask…
“As-tu attrapé quelque poisson?” “Did you catch any fish?”
It’s a bit of a staged question really, as he would have slipped quietly by had he not caught anything!
“Mais oui, un bon brochet!” He has caught a pike, a fish largely ignored by British chefs, but prized throughout the Northern half of France and this one is heading straight for G’s kitchen! But first the ritual of cleaning his gear and then gutting the fish.
As he busy’s himself and the sweet aroma of his French cigarette wafts through the air I savour the further richness of this lovely country and yes sometimes it is often all about the food. Not just about the eating, though that is pretty important, but more about the provenance, where it comes from and how it has been grown.
Seasonality is very important in French food and as we head into Autumn the richness of the game season is all around us, not least Guillaume’s pike. In the market yesterday were stalls creaking under the weight of fresh wild mushrooms; girolles, ceps, chanterelles to mention just a few. The butchers have pheasant, partridge and quail on offer, not forgetting wild boar, sanglier in French, It would be very rude not to at least try some of the seasons wonderful offerings.
Thinking again of my mate Floyd, he once said that to truly know a country, one must eat a country! I can’t say that I’ve tried everything that France has to offer yet, but I’m well on my way!
After a morning perambulation around Sainte Suzanne, just to work up an appetite, today’s lunch was a light prawn and crab salad, accompanied by a rather fine white burgundy.
Guillaume has now finished his cleaning, the pike traps are drying in the late afternoon sun and the brochet itself is safely in the refrigerator. “Maintenent, un petit bu?” Guillaume asks. Now a little drink? Well, it would be rude to decline, for if one has to eat a country one might as well try to drink it as well, though please not all in one go!
“Oui, mon ami, un petit kir serait bon!”
Then I have to cook again, we bought a lovely piece of veal yesterday….!
“Non, je ne regrette rien.”