Thank Goodness for Friends and Neighbours

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The weather is revolting. When it’s not raining, it’s grey and overcast and I can’t remember the last time we saw any sun.  The adjustment to retirement is proving far more difficult than anyone imagined so I am truly grateful for any distraction that will take us out the house and into the company of others.

Dull grey weather typical at the moment

Dull grey weather typical at the moment

The first distraction on the programme is a gougères and mini-croissants workshop at Martine’s in preparation for Christmas. We tasted both these goodies at her place recently when she held a book signing.

Martine, Jean Michel and Françoise

Martine, Jean Michel and Françoise

The gougères are a speciality from Burgundy, where Martine hails from. They are little puffy cheese things, light as a feather, delicious and surprisingly easy to make. You can also freeze them for later use (as in Christmas).

Mini-croissants, ready to be rolled up

Mini-croissants, ready to be rolled up

Next come the mini-croissants filled with ham and cheese, salmon, goat cheese or whatever else you think will taste good. You start with store-bought flaky pastry and use a little cutting wheel to make sixteen wedges. You cut the filling to size, roll up the wedges and pop them in the oven. Hey presto! Perfect as an apéritif with vouvray sparkling wine.

Gougères and mini-croissants beside the fire

Gougères and mini-croissants beside the fire

The second distraction is lunch with the girls from Françoise’s gym. I’m not really into gym but I like meeting all the participants. Sixteen of us, including one game husband and the gym teacher, have a most enjoyable lunch in the Initiation dining room of the local catering school, where we’ve already eaten a couple of times in the Brasserie.

A little help from the supervisor in getting the flambeed bananas right

A little help from the supervisor in getting the flambeed bananas right

For 14.50 euro, we have an apéritif, eggs Benedictine, poulet chasseur and flambéed bananas which are prepared at the end of the table, together with a local red and coffee. As usual, good value for money. The young apprentices are very serious and do a good job under the attentive eye of their supervisor.

The view from the dining room - grey as usual

The view from the dining room – grey as usual

On Saturday, a local caterer, Eric Bacon, is holding an open day where you can taste and buy various Christmas foods, such as foie gras, salmon, snails and a selection of tarts. Around six, we walk up the hill with our four neighbours from Les Grouets to Eric’s place where a large tent is keeping everyone nice and warm to the sound of the accordéon. Our local biscuit maker, Damien, is also there as well as a representative of Daridan vineyard near Cheverny.

Sharing an appetizer platter inside Eric Bacon's tent

Sharing an appetizer platter inside Eric Bacon’s tent

We taste their cheverny, cour cheverny, sauvignon and « fines bulles » (natural sparkling wine with fine bubbles) and choose the sauvignon to go with the appetizer platter we’ve decided to share : shrimp, whelks with herb mayonnaise, foie gras and wild boar pâté.

Chanterelles mushrooms in their natural habitat

Chanterelles mushrooms in their natural habitat

Going down the hill is much easier particularly as Liliane has invited us all to share a duckling that has been simmering on the side of the wood burner all day accompanied by chanterelle mushrooms that Jean Michel and Alain went picking the day before while Françoise and I were enjoying our lunch!

The Mikiphone, the smallest talking machine ever made

The Mikiphone, the smallest talking machine ever made

Halfway through dinner, Alain brings out a surprise. It looks like a large tobacco tin and turns out to a Mikiphone pocket phonograph patented by a Swiss firm in the Jura mountains in 1924, the smallest talking machine on the market. We watch as Alain puts it together, then gets out an old vinyl record. The sound isn’t brilliant because the stabiliser is missing but the songs are still recognisable!

We walk home feeling warm and fuzzy at the thought of having such wonderful friends and neighbours to help us through this period of adjustment to togetherness as one of our Australian friends so aptly described it.

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