Summer has arrived here in the Lot et Garonne.
I packed away my sweatshirts and winter jacket – for the third, and I hope last time until next winter.
It was hot yesterday.
So we hauled firewood.
It's a hard dirty job anytime but in hot, humid weather – well, it's good exercise…..
It took us 3 trips with the trailer to get it all; loading, hauling, unloading and stacking. But we now have half the wood we'll need for winter neatly stacked out by my potager (vegetable garden). It's split but a meter long so each piece will have to be cut in thirds to fit into our stove.
Gives mon mari some quality time with his chain saw.
Now our snakes will have a proper wood pile to live in….. and raise all their little snakes happily ever after.
We saw them mating on Saturday.They look something like this.
They're about 3 feet long and a mottled gray/green. They wrapped tightly around each other and came straight up off the ground, perfectly vertical, about 18 inches.
It was absolutely fascinating, and, no, I did not run back to the house to get my camera. I would have missed the fun.
Sometimes one must just be there.
I also didn't have my camera last night.
After we finished hauling and stacking firewood we joined our French conversation class for dinner (after a seriously long shower).
Art fairs are very popular in the US in summer: artisans set up booths where they demonstrate their work and sell their wares.
In France the summer is filled with music, dancing and theatre. Every little village and grand city has an arts festival of some sort. Often there's a market as well, selling food, drink and a featuring some of the local artisans, but the thrust is the entertainment, not the shopping.
In our region of France, night markets are very popular in July and August. Think of the local farmer's market, at night, with the addition of an equal number of food purveyors. All the restaurants move their tables into the streets and there are more set up randomly for those who want to eat 'a la carte'.
One can pick up a plate of fresh oysters here, a slab of rare beef there, a baguette (bien sûr), a bit of cheese, a carafe of chilled rosé and wander off to a table.
No onion blossoms or mini-donuts…. sorry.
We opted for table service at one of the restaurants on the square.
We didn't know that entertainment was included.
The people watching was excellent, of course, from the old men, smoking cigars, drinking dark red wine and arguing politics (or, more likely, 'futbol', aka World Cup) to the teenagers frantically texting and tweeting on their iPhones.
But every 15 minutes or so there was a parade of tiny tots on even tinier ponies (I've never seen them so small!) being led past our table, parents straggling behind, struggling to balance their cameras and their glass of wine.
We didn't know that the village is hosting it's 20th Jazz Festival this weekend.
There was a Jazz Quartet, looking like they just arrived from Bourbon Street, New Orleans, wandering the square, with tuba, banjo, trombone and saxophone.
They were very good – and they loved entertaining the 'Yanks'.
Embarrassing to say, some of our French classmates were true aficionados and knew much more about 'American Jazz' than we did.
After dinner we strolled the market, eying the booths and enjoying the balmy air.
Not a bad end to hauling wood.
Big picnic weekend coming up in the US… In honor, let me share our very favorite way of preparing potatoes on the barbecue. It's not a recipe so much as a method. We just call them Potato Packets.
For 2 servings:
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2oz Gruyère cheese, thinly sliced
Easy way: layer the potatoes, onions, cheese in an aluminum baking dish, cover with foil and cook on the barbecue for 30 minutes.
Better way: Oil a sturdy square of foil. make an oblong in the center of overlapping layers of potato, onion and cheese. Sprinkle with lots of fresh rosemary, seal the packet and cook on barbecue for 25 minutes.
Why, you ask is this better but not easy?
It's easy enough to make.
But the cheese seeps to the bottom making a crisp, crunchy brown, cheesy crust… Which is wonderful, but a nightmare to get off the foil intact. It's not often a pretty result – but always a delicious one.
Mon mari's hint to making perfect 'Potato Packets': Listen to them – when they stop sizzling, they're done. Remove immeditatly