Cherries part deux

We picked one huge batch of cherries and have been eating them madly ever since. I can’t remember the last time I made a cherry pie, if ever, baking mostly apple pies or peach cobblers, so I looked at several recipes and most called for tapioca which they not only have in France, but call it by the same name. I’m not sure what happened but the tapioca remained rather chewy instead of those usual soft little globules found in the pudding. The pie tasted good except for that.
I have a little cookbook with recipes for confiture, or jam, and when Maurice went to the nearest village for his daily bread, I asked him to pick up some pectin which the recipe calls for. He came back and said the lady at the store told him pectin wasn’t necessary, and, in fact, made the jam too thick and jelly like. We should just cook the cherries with sugar and it would be thick enough. I’m not so sure. The last time I tried to make some with peaches, it came out rather runny-Mauric said I didn’t boil it long enough. He also said that our neighbor said we should bottle the cherries in jars but I am not up to the task of all of those jars and the sterilization. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I am going to try a more difficult cherry tart from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I’m sure that will be tasty. Maurice went over yesterday and picked another huge basket of cherries so, unless we can eat them all-not a bad thing-I will have to use them in something. Maybe Cherries Jubilee or Duck with CherrySauce. Too bad all of the recipes are so fattening.

Cuckcoo

The first time I heard a cuckoo bird, an actual live one, was in front of the Chambord Chateau in the Loire Valley of France. The evening had just begun and the whole area looked a little ghostly and haunted, when the bird started its song. I was very enchanted as I think, having only heard the clock, that they weren’t real, or at least I had forgotten they were. Another assumption I made, was that they were only in that part of France in that type of deep forest. Last night as Maurice and I sat on our terrace, me with my glass of wine, he with his pastisse, I heard a cuckoo again. It is a fairy tale kind of feeling for me to hear that sound echoing across our nearby forest. It only seems to sing as the sun is setting and I never hear it during the day. At first I thought I was hearing someone’s clock going off in a neighbor’s house but was delighted to realize that this is something I will probably hear every evening and I plan to be outside as often as possible when the sun is setting.

Cherries!

It is finally cherry season here in France. Cherries are my favorite fruit. I only wish they came in the size of plums or peaches. I always eagarly await the arrival of the season. When I first spot them in a market in Paris they are at the awful price of 24 Euros a kilogram. I wait a few weeks and they are then sold at 14 Euros a kilo. Finally, they have reached prices of 6 or 7 Euros a kilo, and I start buying. They are very small at first, but still pretty tasty. In a month or so, they will be at perfection.
Our great neighbor, Octave, arrived at our door today inviting us over to pick as many cherries from his tree as we can. He says they have 200 Kilos of cherries, at least. We went over and the boughs of the trees are heavy with the fruit. Maurice and I are going over this evening to pick a big basket full.
I find cherry trees to be particularly ugly, even though ruby red fruit hangs among the leaves. It doesn’t have a pretty shape and the boughs grow too long. We have one new little cherry tree that we planted. It does have cherries in its first growing season but they are really tiny, smaller than a marble. We are thinking that maybe we should plant a few more.

Brochantes

Whenever I am driving around the countryside, I always keep my eyes open for signs advertising either brochantes or vide greniers. Vide greniers are like flea markets with people selling contents of attics or basements, trying to raise a little money. It can be real hit and miss but I have found a few treasures. A brochant is an antique market with the sellers always being professional. I always find things I would love to buy but the prices are usually too high.
Yesterday, we stopped at a vide grenier in Pertuis that was full of things I didn’t want-I didn’t see one thing I would buy. It would have been great if I had been on the outlook for used baby clothes or toys. This morning, bright and early, I set off for a brochant in Meyrauges trying to beat the heat. I also beat many of the sellers as, at 8:30 AM they were either just setting up or hadn’t even arrived yet. I always have my eye out for enamelware and have what I think is a cute collection. I saw a coffepot beautifully painted that I really wanted but no way am I paying 300 Euros for it.


This is a view of what I think is a chateau overlooking Meyrauges


A look at a typical brochante set up outside.


I love to have this copper bathtub although I don’t have a place for it in my house.


This is a field of poppies near our house that we pass everyday. There seem to be more poppies than usual this spring.

Summer is here!

We have had a rather strange Spring here in Provence with lots of the dreaded mistral blowing, not enough rain according to the locals, and cool temperatures, but yesterday it got up to 90 degrees out there and it feels like summer is here, if you can go by such a thing. We have been busy out in the yard pulling weeds and getting a little plot ready for vegetables. It may be a little too late to plant anything but we are going to give it a try. Octave, our neighbor and resident vegetable grower, says he is planting right now and he should know.


Another neighbor is busy moving the sheep to various fields for grazing. In this case, he just moves them across the road from his farm and walks them back at night to a barn. Later they are taken quite a ways from here to Sisteron, famous for their lamb and mutton, a distinction among sheep farmers. Yes, these poor sheep are not being raised for their wool, but for food.

Stes Maries de la Mer


A banner of Sara at the festival in Stes Maries de la Mer

One thing that makes Provence so special is its many festivals. They are especially numerous during the summer and I could probably find at least one a week to attend if I wanted. One very interesting festival is the one that takes place over three days in May in the little town on the sea called Saintes Maries de la Mer. According to legend it is here that two Marys landed-Mary Jacobe and Mary Salome, relatives of Jesus and Mary, along with a couple of others, to escape persecution in Palestine. It is even said that Mary Magdelene did the same and lived and died in Provence in the town of Bormes le Momosa. They all of course proceeded to spread Christianity and Sara, the family chief of the gypsies who lived in the region converted. Through the centuries many pilgrimages were made to the little town.
We were hoping to get into the church which is supposed to be very interesting but it was full of people and the entrance was blocked while a mass went on inside. We went down to the beach to wait for the procession to begin which, on this day, was a statue of Sara whom the gypsies especially worship. First come men on horses, the guardians of Sara, then some colorful banners with paintings of Sara who, by the way, is believed to have been from Egypt and is black, then finally the statue of Sara, carried on a little bark arrives surrounded by huge crowds of the faithful, or just the curious. For some reason, she is dressed in a cloak and it is never removed, so the statue can hardly be seen as she is wearing what looks like a layer of 100 cloakes. She is carried to the edge of the sea to symbolize Sara, the gypsies’ patron staint, joyfully awaiting the arrival of the Saints’.
I had hoped to see the procession of the 2 Marys’ on the following day where a priest is in a painted boat and blesses the statues but this was a good one. Very simple, very unorganized, very sweet, it was fun to be a part of the celebration. The whole little town and the surrounding area is full of gypsies who come for the 3 days of celebration. Due to the reputation the gypsies have, I was a little apprehensive about getting something stolen, so I didn’t carry a purse. Some of the town was closed up, including a few shops. It is not an elegant town, by any means, but rather plain with a few cheap souviniers for sale and some unappealing things, to me, offered in a gypsy market.
In retrospect, we realized that, instead of waiting in the sun on the beach for over an hour, we could have spent the day in a bar having a cool drink in the shade, then followed the procession down to the beach where it is most interesting. It was a fun festival-very different-and we are glad we went.

Guardien at the front of the procession. Sara is in the back.


Close-up of Sara’s gown. Her face cannot be seen.


Look at this darling baby dressed up as a sparkly gypsy. Many little girls wore fancy dresses like those flamengo dancers wear in Spain. Didn’t see any little boys in costume for some reason.