Bruno and I spent a delightful morning with Bordeaux’s best Boulanger, Jan Demaitre and his wife Niki Vermassen.
After seeing a little note in Helen Wood’s blog http://notjustfortheholidays.blogspot.fr I called the listed number and was ever so surprised to find that I was talking to Jan, Bordeaux first and best organic bread baker. When ever I went into the city I’d stop by his wonderful boulangerie but I’d never met him.
We spent the morning talking about bread: flour, salt, water and a bit of Jan’s 35 year old starter, levain, sometimes called “wild yeast”. After making and kneading our own bread we left with Jans early morning bread hot from the oven and a jar of “levain” that we’re going to continue to look after and feed (it’s sort of like taking home a baby kitten). I’m already looking forward to making english crumpets with the levain as well…that sounds like a good “entente cordial”.
I’m looking forward to add their association, La Femme du Boulanger, to the propositions for my guests. Their idea of sharing a bit of their professional “savoir faire” in the intimacy of their home is exactly what I try to find for you when you visit us in France. Let me know if you would like to sign up. By the way, Jan and Niki both speak very good english.
Look up “La Femme du Boulanger Asso 1901″ on Facebook !!
After visiting with Dominique Chaigne to talk about her excellent website http://www.coeurdecampagne.fr (in french) where she helps promote our region of Entre Deux Mers she suggested joining one of the visits she had put together for a group of local french visitors. Between two March showers I joined a friendly and well informed guide, Marie Catherine, to rediscover the banks of the Dordogne river, 10 minutes only from home. A place I know well in the summer as I organise boat trips and walks for my guests there…but rarely walk its banks this time of year. It was interesting to hear someone else talk about places where I usually do the talking…I knew about the Roman roadway that went through Entre Deux Mers but I learned that it’s noted on an ancient Roman road map dating from 300AD called the “Map of Peutinger”, now in the Austrian National Archives that you can see only a bit of in my photo…. but I found the whole long role on Youtube !
Happy New Year to each of you ! Merci to all of you who have followed the activities here at La Forge this past year. I haven’t been very good at keeping you up on what’s been going on…maybe it’s just that we’re too busy with our everyday lives to sit down and record all of those special moments that we’d love to share with you.
For all of those who have been here once or twice of many time we’d love to see you again this year…and for all of those who have only had a taste of What’s Cooking in France please come for a visit and experience it for yourselves !
Still today, even more than a Christmas tree, many French families set up a crèche. More or less elaborate, most often with small ceramic “santons” depicting the usual Mary, Joseph and baby jesus…who is always hidden away and taken out to the delight of the little children on christmas eve. The best part of the traditional “crèche provencale” is that it includes not only shepherds guarding their flocks but all the different tradesmen and characters from life the villages of Provence in the early 1800 when the first “santons” where made in Marseille.
Every year now I take out my collection of antique religious books and use them as the decor to suggest the landscape and grotto for my crèche that grows with added “santons” each year. Over the years our grandchildren gave us a santons representing two grandparents sitting on a little bench and a blacksmith at his forge and a friend gave us a wonderful “paysan” and his wife pulling guiding their horse and a cart of hay….
There are of course the three wise men and their camel that arrive on the 6th of January when everyone share the “galette des rois”: depending on what area you live in, it is either a sugar sprinkeled brioche or an “pate feuilleté” filled with almond paste and pastry cream…and always a small favor hidden inside that proclames the finder ROI or REINE for the day…and that goes on all throughout the month of January.
A wonderful day trip from La Forge or an overnight escapade Michel Guérard’s restaurants, hotels and spa at Eugenie les Bain should be on your schedule while you’re visiting us. His famous “cuisine minceur”…or “slim cuisine” is just as tasty and beautiful as it was when he was the first French chef to really become interested and creative with healthy gourmet fare. He has both a 3 star gastronomical restaurant and a just as wonderful country auberge. We went for the weekend for Bruno’s birthday and tried both restaurants as well as a room at the Couvent des Herbs. Everything is perfection…and can’t say more than that to encourage you to visit yourselves.
St Lucie’s Day…what better way to invite friends and other B&B colleagues to taste my grandmothers swedish cookies and cakes and to show off Janine’s beautiful antique linens. The linens where all shown “in situe”: bed linens in the Chambre Terrasse, bath linens in the Gironde tile bathroom and the table linens in the dining room…of course. It was a good way to share the beginning of my Swedish family’s holiday traditions. Normally all the Christmas baking should be finished by Dec 13th but I think this is the first year that it’s every happened at La Forge ! There was no young St Lucie with a crown of candles on her head as we’d always done in my childhood, but there were lots of candles everywhere and the smell of holiday spices and pine wreaths. Perhaps next year you can plan to be here on December 13th to enjoy this with us.