I think it’s fair to say that we haven’t had a winter this year – well not yet, anyway. Loads of rain and floods, yes, but apart from a couple of nights’ frost in November, it hasn’t been cold. The plum and cherry trees are all covered in blossom and there’s even a magnolia in full bloom in Nogaro! But I don’t think I’ll ever get used to days like today in February; deep blue sky and warm enough to work outside in a tee-shirt. Not that I’m complaining, mind; we’ve started clearing the potager of weeds and planted loads of tomatoes, lettuce, roquette and chillies under glass, as well as spinach in the potager, to join the mangetout and broad beans that have over-wintered there. We’re looking forward to eating well on the proceeds of our labours.
This area is well known for the quality of its food; there’s always lots of local produce on the markets, from large and small producers alike. And people take a keen interest in the quality of their food; usually when we’re invited to dinner, always at least four courses, the meat is from a local producer, known personally to our hosts and the fruit and veg are often home grown.
But last Friday didn’t follow the normal pattern. Thierry, who’d cycled Mont Ventoux with Nick last year, invited the other cyclists from that trip round to dinner, which he would prepare with the help of another of the group, Philippe, giving Thierry’s wife an evening off. The aperitifs were fairly standard, while we watched a slide show of photos taken on the trip. Then we moved straight on to the main course; a bowl of pasta, a jar of carbonara sauce, a jar of tomato and basil sauce, a plastic packet of grated cheese and a bag of mixed salad (though this they had managed to put into a bowl). We’d taken a pudding, so everyone tucked into that, and we had a brilliant evening, but it just goes to show that not all French are great cooks, especially the blokes!