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Archive for August, 2009

Verrines

The Aperitif, or « apero » as its so lovingly called within my circle of friends is an important part of life in France –  here are some websites where you can get some ideas from.

To find out how to serve a French Aperitif and get some basic ideas have a look here – this website will give you ideas on drinks and what to serve as nibbles – BEWARE no peanuts or crisps!!
Verrines: turns out there isn’t an English word for this at least as far as I’ve been able to tell so far. The Serious Eats website explains quite well that Verrines are Luxury in a Glass…  It also looks as if there’s not many websites with recipes for savoury verrines in English yet. Lots of sweet ones but few suitable for the “apero”.
If you read French try looking at this website for lots of delicious recipe ideas or consider buying a book such as this one. Books on Verrines & Cuilleres are all the craze in the French bookshops and supermarkets right now and there are oodles of yummy recipes out there!

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Food!

Its now been three weeks since I’ve really been anywhere or done anything. I’ve had so much work on I’ve hardly left the house and after a day of continuous rain yesterday I feel as if summer has slipped through my hands.

Time to remind myself that I live in France and recall the reasons why I love being here:

1. Food
French food is so yummy and varied compared to what I used to eat back in the UK. There’s so much passion surrounding food here, it really is part of life.

Families sit down for meals together with everyone from the youngest child to the grandparents including the surly teenagers all enjoying a meal together. Yes, food is also eaten in front of the TV but families do still make time to eat together on a regular basis.

Getting together with friends also takes place around a meal and an aperitif here often means wonderful home made nibbles rather than a packet of walkers and peanuts! The art of preparing an aperitif is complex and there are so many things to choose from, I don’t even know how to say some of the things in English – Verrines (small glasses filled with delicious edibles normally with different layers of food or in the form of a mousse) and cuillères (spoons of course, but you can’t say you’re having a spoon to nibble on so there must be another word in English).

Preparation of these nibbles can take hours and everything should always be beautifully presented. My Mother in Law is the absolutely brilliant with these fiddly things, so after buying a magazine for inspiration I ended up giving it to her as the recipes looked so tedious. I’ll wait until she does them and then ask for the recipe!

Choosing where to buy your food takes on an art form. Everyone knows a little producer for this, a farmer for that, a vigneron for that wine and a cheese shop for a specific cheese. So much care and pride is taken in the selection of food, people here like to know the foods heritage, how it is made or cared for, how best to enjoy it.

I always delight in visiting a food market (and there are so many!), in tasting the local farmers produce, in knowing where the food I am eating has come from and how best to prepare it.

Don’t even get me started on pastries and chocolates!

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Urge to Shop

I feel like doing some clothes shopping now that I’ve dropped a few kilos. Yes, I have loads of too small clothes already but feel like spending some hard earned Euros after a frightfully busy work week. Where to start? My favourite site Vente Privée is closed for summer, Achat VIP has nothing left of interest and I haven’t a clue what size I am on the other sites. Next deliver to France now, so maybe worth flashing the cash there?

Maybe I’ll hit the local shops tomorrow, will have to convince Hubby to come with me as really don’t fancy going it alone – we’ve hardly seen each other all week. Hmmm, if only I knew when my trip to England was going to be and I could get rid of this urge knowing that I’ll spend spend spend whilst I’m there! Why England? Well, French shoe shops don’t seem to stock many size 7 shoes!!!!!

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I’ve woken up in a stinking mood this morning. An absolutely stinking mood. It’s as if I want to bite someone’s head off just for the sake of it. I guess this is what happens when you do an extreme diet – my blood sugar levels must be all over the place.

I am not one to advocate extreme dieting; in fact I think it’s stupid because all you do is put back on the weight and more, as soon as you start eating normally again.

But this type of diet seems to be all the craze in France, so maybe it’s not considered extreme, maybe I think it is because I love food so much? Basically, it consists of a protein shake at lunch and very little for dinner with some fruit in the day. I’ve been doing it for 10 days now and have already lost 3.5 kilos, so only another 2.5 kilos to go before heating the beach in a few weeks time… There are so many skinnies here surely you don’t but the weight back on once you eat normally?

Anyway, back to what I was originally going to write. Stinking mood.

Someone once told me that to be happy you have to think of a good thing that happened to you the day before.

So, I think back to yesterday and a huge smile comes to my face when I remember the beautiful Pandora bracelet that a customer sent me as a thank you gift. I remember how touched I was when I opened the delicately wrapped box. How grateful I was as I carefully removed the tissue paper to reveal the teeny tiny charms, and how surprised I was when I saw that one of them was a little house charm.

One gesture, one act of generosity has brightened not just one day, but two and no doubt more in the future. I am no longer in a stinking mood. I will remember this and next time someone goes out of their way for me, I will send a gift or if my budget does not permit, a thank you card.

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Mr Postman

I’m especially pleased today as our postman is back from his holidays so this should mean the end of having to collect post from the post office because the stand in postman is too lazy to ring the doorbell.

This comes as excellent news the day I am hoping to receive my passport back through the post. I was really worried that I was going to go and have to sign for it at the post office and show my ID to get it, all whilst explaining that my passport and drivers license are in the packet so therefore I’m currently without ID.

Better not project myself too far ahead though, I haven’t actually received it yet so fingers crossed that the postman rings!

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Summer in the City

Yesterday was a bank holiday in France and supposedly there were some 650 km’s of traffic jams on the French motorways. Whilst this figure sounds horrendous this is actually less than the two previous Saturdays, including the day I went on holiday 2 weeks ago when there were over 850 km’s (apparently a record!).

Desperately needing to do some food shopping in order to feed La Belle Famille, I ventured out into the 36 degree heat and was welcomed by a ghost town. Lyon is a large city, either France’s second or third largest city (this is a hotly debated topic) with some 608 000 people living in Lyon Intra-Muros which combines Lyon and Villeurbanne. Yet yesterday one had to wonder where everyone had gone! Probably stuck in a traffic jam somewhere…

Not a soul in the street, all of our local shops except Carrefour and Monoprix were closed (most are closed for all of August) and I counted just 5 cars in the 10 minute walk to the shops. Unbelievable, I wonder if it is the same in other countries and how small businesses manage when they are closed for a month each year especially in these hard times? How can everyone afford to go on holiday all at the same time and where do they all go?

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Holiday Time

I had a very frustrating experience with the international courier company Fedex yesterday. They had tried to deliver last Friday but I only found out by accident as my client asked me whether I’d received the paperwork they’d sent me…

Turns out they used Fedex and delivery was attempted last Friday but the delivery driver neglected to leave a calling card when he tried to deliver and no-one was in.

A look at the tracking number on their website gave me the information that we were closed: “Entreprise fermée” it stated. That was last Friday.

On Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday of this week, the status of the letter they were to deliver was the same : “Entreprise fermée, pas de tentative de livraison » Business closed, no attempt to deliver.

Furious as we have been open all week, and I hadn’t even left the building for lunch, I rang Fedex to find out what was going on and why they hadn’t even tried to deliver.

The answer I received just about summarises August in France: “Well Madame, it is holiday season and lots of businesses are closed so we wait for you to call us to arrange delivery”

Need I say anymore?

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