Who pulled the plug out?

 

These are the photos I took before returning to the UK earlier in December. Not particularly Christmassy but very surprising… to me. It’s a bit of a joke but I always like to check that the Canal du Midi is still at the end of our garden, particularly if we have been away. Imagine my surprise when I looked over the garden gate to see that most of the Canal water had disappeared!

I know that the Canal is closed from about the first week in November until March, so that routine maintenance and cleaning can be carried out. This is the first time I’ve seen evidence of this happening. We decided to walk into Castelnaudary, along the tow path, to give us a clearer understanding of what happens to the Canal in winter. We were pleased to see that the ducks were unperturbed and actually seemed delighted by the delicacies they were finding on the Canal bed. We were less pleased to see a mud covered moped that had found its way into the Canal.

We just missed seeing Castelnaudary illuminated for Christmas. I would have liked to catch a glimpse of all the boats, in the port, lit up – perhaps another time.

I hope you all have a wonderful, happy, Christmas.

Joyeux Noël!

A quiche by any other name

At this time of year, a lot of people are thinking about food. Not necessarily quiche . But what makes the ideal quiche? Perhaps you make your own. Nowadays quiches are everywhere. They can be bought and prepared with every imaginable filling. I’ve even made a crustless quiche. Nevertheless, I am a quiche ‘purist’. I am talking about the original Quiche Lorraine.

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Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

I spent a year in Metz, a city originally in the administrative region of Lorraine. (Can you see where I’m going with this?) Although quiche is considered a classic French recipe, it originated in Germany, in the medieval kingdom of Lothringen, under German rule, and which the French later renamed Lorraine. The word ‘quiche’ is from the German ‘Kuchen’, meaning cake.

The original ‘quiche Lorraine’ was an open tart with a filling of egg, cream and smoked bacon. It was only later that cheese was added. This addition has not been welcomed by everyone and I discovered that there is even a (rather small) Facebook group called “Défense et Promotion de l’Authentique Quiche Lorraine”.  This group defends (although I’m not sure if it’s still active) the name and reputation of the Quiche Lorraine, confirming that the original Quiche Lorraine DOES NOT contain CHEESE…

I’d love to know your position on quiche. Are you also a traditionalist and a lover of ‘quiche Lorraine’ or are you a fan of other fillings?

Here’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek (!) clip showing how to make a quiche, although this French cook does add cheese…

Doors and more

I was having a look through my photos, especially those taken since we bought our house in France. I have quite a collection of photos of doors and door knockers. Why you might ask?  I think it is probably because when I am here, I take more time to look at my surroundings and appreciate the smaller details.

 

This is one of the first photos I took in Castelnaudary.  

We were staying in a rented house and getting to know the area.

I was fascinated by this old house, the imposing front door and the amazing statues.

 

This door is less ancient and not as visually striking as the previous front door …

 

…but it’s ours!

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This is the door to the local lock-keepers house, on the Canal du Midi.

Another ancient and imposing door in the old town in Castelnaudary.

Take a look at the door knocker!

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This door belongs to another old house in Castelnaudary. It stands alongside the Canal du Midi port.

You may have noticed a similarity among the door knockers. The first one, in the photo below, was taken in Barcelona, the rest in France. They all represent ‘la main de Fatima’ or ‘Fatima’s hand’. Fatima was the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed. Door knockers shaped like her hand were believed to protect the inhabitants from the ‘Evil Eye’. Originally, they also indicated that someone of the Muslim faith lived in the house. The traditional design of the Fatima’s hand door knocker may have the added detail of a a ring, lace cuff or a bracelet. I really like them!

With thanks to one of my favourite bloggers: francetaste who inspired this post!

Bohemian Rhapsody

Last week I went, with Mr FF, to see the Queen biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. We are currently in the UK and as it’s quite unusual to find a film that we both want to see, we thought we would seize the moment! I must confess this is mainly down to me, as I have quite a specific taste in films, whereas the other half is much more open minded. 

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I was a student in the 70s and Queen’s music was a backdrop to my studies. I must confess that originally I wasn’t a huge fan of their music. I preferred Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, to name a few, but I soon began to appreciate Queen’s music a lot more.

When my sons were young, Queen was the background music on long car journeys, particularly when we drove to France. To this day, they still remember most of the lyrics to Queen’s greatest hits! 

I already knew that the film had been years in the making and that there had been lots of production problems. The original actor selected to play Freddie Mercury, Sacha Baron Cohen, left the film after ‘creative differences’ with Brian May – allegedly. 

I was also aware that the film had been panned by the critics, although loved by film audiences. It is a two hour celebration of Queen, their music and the phenomenon known as Freddie Mercury. I cannot put into words how much I enjoyed this film. Rami Malek who plays Freddie was amazing in capturing the essence of Freddie. I was also blown away by Gwilym Lee who plays Brian May. I would never have guessed that he had played John Barnaby’s sidekick in Midsomer Murders.

My one recommendation would be to take some tissues! I wasn’t expecting to feel as moved as I did, on many different levels.

I don’t have many regrets but I do have one in relation to Queen. I was invited to see Queen perform at Wembley. I said ‘no’. What could I have been thinking?!

Have you seen Bohemian Rhapsody? What did you think? Are you a Queen fan? I’d love to know…

And here’s the original Bohemian Rhapsody video; so original and mind blowing…

Food waste: UK versus France

The short video below caught my eye. It worries me how much food is wasted, in the UK and elsewhere, of course. I try to ensure that at home, we waste as little food as possible. I also try to be mindful when I shop and in the way I cook.

I find it shocking that surplus food is destroyed by supermarkets, rather than being donated.

France was the first country to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Instead, they must donate it to charities or food banks. A ‘no brainer’ in my opinion.

It is the western world that wastes the most food. Unsurprisingly, as they are perishable, fruit and vegetables are the most likely to be wasted. However, there is plenty of help out there if searching for ideas for avoiding food waste, including recipes: https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com

Here’s the link to the video just in case there is any problem with playing the one above:

https://youtu.be/78SKLw9KaB0

How do you deal with food waste? Do you have any useful tips to share? I’d love to know.

God save the Cakes!

This is the intriguing title of Episode 4, Season 7, of ‘Le Meilleur Pâtissier’. This is the French version of the ‘Great British Bake-off’.

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Although I have watched and blogged about ‘Le Meilleur Pâtissier’ before, I haven’t been watching this current series. It was the title and the trailer for this particular episode that caught my eye. If you have been watching this year’s Great British Bake Off, you may remember pâtisserie week. I guess ‘God Save the Cakes’ is the French equivalent.

The format is much the same, as in the UK, with a signature bake, a technical challenge and a showstopper. The French bakers had to make apple pies, a royal trifle and a cake that represented one of the Queen’s hats.

The French version of apple pie was unlike any apple pie I have ever seen and was designed by Cyril Lignac. Unfortunately, I have been unable to download a picture of Cyril’s apple pies, although you could always Google them. Instead, here’s a photo of Cyril! 35B8DCDB-F542-4691-806E-1DC86C8239F5
The technical challenge was to make a ‘Royal Trifle’. I enjoy a traditional trifle but a royal trifle was new to me. The challenge was set by Mercotte, a French version of Mary Berry, and a food blogger, critic and cook, in her own right. Her website has some lovely recipes. It is ‘La cuisine de Mercotte’ at Mercotte.fr  

Below is Mercotte’s Royal Trifle. Mnnnnn… Someone on the programme did liken it to a jellyfish! The recipe is available on her website.

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The final challenge was to make a cake to represent one of the Queen’s hats. Here are some examples of the finished cakes which were baked by the contestants. They look pretty impressive.

Are you a Bake Off fan? Perhaps you’ve seen a different version? I’d love to know!

10 ways to be (really??) elegant…

As some of you know, I am always interested in the notion of elegance, style and ‘chicness!’ The most popular post, on my blog, ‘C’est chic?‘explored the stereotype of the typical, chic French woman.

I have also written, in more detail, about elegance.

You can imagine, therefore, how my attention was caught by this:

‘100 ways to be elegant’

I  was glancing at Pinterest when I first came across this list. If you put the heading into any search engine it should take you to the original post, if you have time/can be bothered to/would like to read all 100 ways! As I scanned this list, I selected ten suggestions for being elegant that stood out for me. Please read with (a large pinch of salt) a smile…

1. Learn French

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2. Wear a trench coat

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3. Learn how to wear a scarf

4. Have one signature perfume

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5. Wear pearls

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6. Be well travelled

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7. Wear lovely hats

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8. Don’t ever lose your ‘joie de vivre’

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9. Learn how to open a bottle of champagne

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10. Say please and thank you

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What do you think of my list? If you have looked at the 100 suggestions, I’d love to know what you think of those, too!