On the last Friday of each month the cycle club has a dinner at the club house; it’s always fairly well attended, but the June dinner is paella and is very popular. Each month one or more of the club members prepares the aperitifs, often in the month of their birthday; so since it was mine in June, I offered to do the aperos. I didn’t really have a clue what was expected, but my good friend Maithée offered to help me, so I arrived at her house on Friday morning, ready to shop and cook, only to find that she’d already done the majority of the work, having made pizzas and ham and cheese rolls.
When I arrived, an old friend of Maithée’s husband Pierre was visiting to look through some old photos that Pierre is researching. This gentleman (also known as Jacky) used to play rugby with the Nogaro team in 1953, when they won the French Rugby championship. Amazing to think that a small community like Nogaro, which even today is only home to around 2000 people, could produce a rugby team of such calibre.
Once we’d chatted to Jacky about some of the photos, Maithée and I shopped for melons, cherry tomatoes and the makings of pousse rapière, a powerful local concoction of orange flavoured armagnac and sparkling wine, and prepared the remaining aperos.
It’s impossible around here to reciprocate for the kindness of the people; I took a jar of lemon marmalade and one of chutney, but came home laden with three jars of various jams and a large bundle of rhubarb (part of a bagful given to Maithée by another Jacquie who arrived during the morning).
The evening was great, the paella superb and the aperos well received by all 46 diners. We were exhausted by the time we got home after midnight as we were the only English speakers there this time and although it’s becoming easier, 5 hours of neat French is still quite taxing on the grey matter.