Thursday, December 15, 2011

Things That Make Me Happy

I had Jean and Ankie for lunch yesterday as a thank you for all their help when I bought my car. Jean transported me back and forth to Cajarc several times and Ankie translated Stephane, the garage guy's rapid-fire French, so I could actually evaluate the car and negotiate the deal. Chicken with apples, Calvados and creme fraiche was on the menu along with potato-leek soup and an apple crisp for dessert. Vegetables, though, were a dilemma. It's a bit tricky to decide which ones to serve as a lot of people never venture beyond potatoes and green beans. I took a chance and did a platter of roasted winter vegetables....carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and turnips. Roasting is my favorite way to fix veggies, and it's so easy. When I went into market last Saturday, I stopped by our local farmer's booth first. Jackie is famous for her veggies, and there's always a long line at her stand. What could be better than locally grown vegetables? And when I say local, I mean really local. The dogs and I walk past one of Jackie's fields every morning. Most days she's out before we even get there tending her rows. She picks and plucks, trims and packs them up for market. She covers and uncovers the more delicate greens and hand-weeds and cultivates.

As I moved up the line to pay Jackie, I saw a big basket of the most beautiful brussel sprouts by her scales. I immediately added them to the luncheon menu. I know... I used to feel the same way about brussel sprouts. Then I found a recipe that totally changed my mind. You braise the tenderest, youngest brussel sprouts you can find in butter and bits of sauted bacon. By blanching the sprouts before you cook them and finishing the dish with a squeeze of lemon or vinegar, the bitterness is completely gone. All the veggies for lunch except the sweet potatoes came from Jackie grown right here in Cadrieu. They were absolutely yummy. That makes me happy!

Dessert was apple crisp, but I decided to take a pastis out of the freezer as a second choice. We were too full to eat any of it. So, I had a piece this morning for breakfast. You might remember a couple of blog posts from last winter about making this local specialty. The women of Cadrieu make several every year to sell at the annual Telethon--a fund-raiser for neuromusccular disease. I bought one this year, and as I savored each bite this morning, I smiled. I know the hands that peeled the apples and kneaded the dough. I know the hands that pulled and stretched, folded and layered it with sugar, apples and a sprinkling of marc. I know whose arms gathered it up to place it in its baking dish. And it makes me happy to know I'm eating something made by my village friends.

Things that make me happy...friends, yummy local vegetables, and pastry made by the hands of village friends.


  1. Well done, Evelyn. Your meal sounds perfect. I agree, there's nothing like eating local. In the Luberon, they grow a lot of carrots and I vow I have never tasted anything as sweet. It sounds as if you are settling in nicely to life in France. Enjoy!

  2. Those vegetables were absolutely wonderful et très bien cuisiné!!! Thanks again for a lovely lunch, you are a very good cook. See you soon. Ankie