Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Oh, what a pain flu' is...but Malaria is so much worse.

It makes even posting memorable photos a pain in the butt... now, a week or so later having had confirmed that I am not suffering from malaria, I can rest assured it is nothing worse than a debilitating dose of grippe...

Some of the earlier fevers were particularly nasty and had been accompanied by weird, and some quite horrible, dreams. I thought I was delirious as I burned up with skin hot to the touch. Once, the disturbing sound of my telephone broke through my painful sleep only for me to be caught by a cold sales call from a charity whose complaints were falling upon my deaf ears. It was not their time.

I determined this year I should support some of those children in a part of Africa recently visited, where malaria is still a major threat and where small African children die needlessly.

Despite malnutrition, dirty water, HIV/AIDS, general disease and wars and other tribal and territorial strife, malaria succeeds in killing an African child every 45 seconds.

Yet, £3 will buy a new mosquito net impregnated with an insecticide that will give a child a fighting chance.

All I have to do really is to buy more than a few, and to maybe pass around that knowledge and ask others to try and do the same.

So, anyone passing here, if you like these photos of a beautiful, strong winged, majestic eagle and you have a mind to help, please send some money to a charity that helps provide mosquito nets for those underprivileged kids that might die without them.

You may not be a Christian, I'm not but they'll accept my money and so I'm sure they'll accept yours too...


African Fish Eagle on a small island in the Chobe river which separates the two beautiful countries of Botswana from Namibia.

Monday, 6 December 2010

memories of chobe safari

This is the elephant in the room.

This wonderful animal plodded gently through the brush of what is part of Botswana's Chobe National Park. It quietly approached our vehicle with outstretched trunk sensing the air, sniffing for smell of threat. Our driver and guide, Lucky, had told us not to speak, not to make a sound or sudden movement. We could easily scare this elephant although we were all petrified in any case and it may well feel threatened and therefore charge. It's eyesight being bad as with all elephants it had to come close to investigate and once it was positioned in front of us, I felt able to take this shot of the right eye.

Look deep within it. Such a lovely brown. Soft and almost welcoming perhaps. Trusting.

She stood close and still for a few moments and then slowly moved off. All the while several other elephants had passed by, on both sides of our vehicle. Some ignoring us, some stopping momentarily and sniffing for scent, others to pull vegetation with a trunk's end and a snap of the root. Others had no sense of concern and crashed noisily through the trees and brush, and in between the legs of some the smallest and less sure footed babies stumbled, vainly making a grab for mum's tail.

I didn't time how long we sat there quietly watching as elephants from several matriarchal groups passed us by, but as we independently counted in small groups we agreed between us that we had been passed by a few thousand. A small fraction of the 140,000 odd that live in Botswana.

A most beautiful country and long may it be so.
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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Hadouk Trio Hi Jazz Hijaz

Yaron Herman performs at CosmoJazz Festival Chamonix, 28 July 2010

Back in July, I felt like I needed a day off... shoulders were hurting from strimming steep slopes and holding hedge cutters higher than I should have. It had been quite hot and I hadn't been down to the lake for a swim and I was becoming frustrated...

Mrs, P said to me as she walked out the door at 6am to catch the 6.15 train to work... "go on, go, enjoy it...sod it...take the day off"

And so an hour later I was speeding along the autoroute A40 towards Chamonix with the mountain top of Mont Blanc shining in the summer sunshine down the valley. Once I had arrived and parked up by the téléphérique for the Aiguille du Midi, slung my pack over my arm and walked towards the lift station ticket desk, I saw an enormous snaking queue around the forecourt and tail back towards the tunnel I had just walked through. A couple of people clothed in T-shirts proclaiming CosmoJazz Festival Chamonix told me I might just make the concert en haut, but it was as likely as not that I wouldn't. However, across the valley on the other side, other concerts were about to take place and I could easily get there in time; besides, the Brévent lift was under far less pressure of people wanting to ride up and so thanking them I walked across town, buying a couple of croissants on the way and soon found myself, lift ticket in hand, at the head of the line for the télécabine to Belvédère Planpraz.

At about 2000m altitude, that's 6000 feet in proper money, I settled down to watch and listen to an excellent solo piano concert by Yaron Herman who had only walked off a Marseille stage at midnight the previous night and been driven directly north to Chamonix for this free concert. After only a few hours sleep Herman climbed on stage, settled over the keys of what lloked to me like a baby grand piano and seemed lost in his solo. He played like that for over an hour and a half.

As he left the stage at the end of his concert I climbed higher above the seated audience, and found a space to picnic and lean back against a rock and wait to discover the wonderful sound of the Hadouk Trio...

This is part of what I heard...

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Working Class Hero by John Lennon

If ever there was a working class hero to me, it would have to be Lennon.

As a kid growing up in Britain in the 1960's there were not many heroes who were not musicians, singers; 'pop stars'. The youths that made up these groups were seen as rebels, they acted for some part like rebels, but unlike Lennon, they did not all know how to take on the authorities and start to assert their own authority on the next generation yet to rise.

I remember arriving at school one day with a copy of Lennon's "A Spaniard In The Works". Most of it I didn't understand at first, but with assistance from an interested and enlightened teacher, who made me stand in front of class and read some of Lennon's poems, I began to see more in what he wrote, where he was poking fun but at the same time being critical and forthright.

At the time it was probably my first exposure to satire.

So for that John Lennon, thanks. And I wish I could say, HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Venetian steps...

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High pitched stiletto click clack heels across
high pitched mosaic steps of Basilica floor...

Low pitch rumble of deep whispers of the hard of hearing
breaks the sound of the hurrying nuns
hats off,
back packs lodged,
ice cream exited,
flash prego?

The inner sanctum turnstile grinds and
greets the oohs and the aahs of the those;
without guides who know it all.

Venetian Panamas

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Saturday, 18 September 2010

Jack Daniel's... when was 'e a Scot?

Maybe I'm a perfekshunist... I dunno... but I do expect major supermarkets to get it right...

It ain't Scotch, and it is a whiskEy - wiv a Eeeee.........

Friday, 17 September 2010

PhotoShop - eat yer heart out !!

Driving home on Wednesday I turned up towards the mountains and as I got closer to home I saw the most magnificent pink coloured clouds lit by the sun setting behind the Jura... I grabbed my camera, went out onto the balcony and shot off a few pictures... here they are...

A few seconds later, and just altering the light meter reading,

Then, I ran out of the house and leaving my wife and son to wait for me to return and cook dinner, I drove further up the road to an empty chalet I know, and from their garden I took the following two...

Looking westward towards the Jura and

another a few seconds later...

None of these have been altered by using a darkroom software... what you see, is what I saw... just read the light meter reading and worked accordingly...

Let me know what you think...

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Saturday lunch... Black Noodles with Shrimp and Saffron.

Tagliolini neri con Scampi e Zafferano

Despite the influence of the French on my taste buds after living here for 15 years, I simply adore Italian food; the way they think about it, they way they cook and the way they eat it and how they do so. Living in France I am constantly reminded of how they consider themselves to be superior in matters culinary. This is no bad thing because different people around the world think themselves superior over others in a great many ways and for the French, food, cooking and eating and as importantly, drinking wine to accompany it is as good a way as any to express one's superiority.

The Italians of course are no different. They are merely convinced.

Despite living so close to Italy I do not get the chance to travel there as much as I would like, and so in many ways the only opportunity for me to eat real Italian is to make an occasional forage into nearby Geneva, in Switzerland, and find a restaurant owned, run and staffed by Italians; although strictly they may have only been so two or three generations ago who also cook and not only know about Italian wines but import and serve them along with some memorable Swiss wines. Memorable for all the right reasons.

The other alternative is to cook it. But then I ain't Italian.

This is where Elisabeth David's books come in handy as do those of Antonio Carluccio and Jamie Oliver's jamies' italy which I have used often and I am getting flavour and sense enough of the recipes to recognise them in Italian restaurants although admittedly, I have to allow for regional variations...

France has now started to import and sell in it's supermarkets, produce from around the world. This is limited and has to be and needs to be. I bought some Coco Rose the other day imported not from Italy, its nearest E.U. member but from Morocco, a former French colony.

It is not unreasonable. Friends from Britain have often complained they cannot find the Italian or Spanish wines they know so well in French supermarkets, but on the other hand I have not seen French wines in supermarkets in either Spain or Italy. All three countries produce enough of their own wine so why bother transporting them by polluting truckloads to neighbouring states?

An example which springs to mind of recent supermarket finds is that of black pasta, or pasta made using ink from cuttlefish. More a tagliatelle than a tagliolini I have found it mixes beautifully with seared scallops, some small tomatoes, some garlic & chopped parsley and little white wine...

Or, just go to Murano, a small glass making island in the lagoon a short boat ride from Venice and seek out a little restaurant by the canal side called A Pianta Leoni, and there they will serve you the best black pasta dish you ever tasted... that is the photo above... Tagliolini Neri con Scampi e Zafferano... it was simply the best pasta dish I have ever eaten...

Monday, 13 September 2010

Venice - a glorious weekend...

If Palladio's San Giorgio allows advertising; why not elsewhere...

Venice's Rialto Bridge ...?

Having spent a few days in Venice after taking the 07h40 train last Thursday morning from Geneva and arriving 30 minutes or so late, after 7 or 8 hours rocking through the Alps and across the flat Po valley followed by a full three days rocking about in various vaporetti around the Grand Canal and across the Lagoon to other islands, only to return on the 16h20 train yesterday to Geneva which arrived just before midnight - again, late by 35 minutes, I sit here editing photos and putting a few words onto this keyboard feeling like a cork in a bath...

(aagh! Swiss Rail... don't you believe it works like clockwork...)

The whole room seems to be rising like the choppy waters off the Piazza di San Marco...

All I can say is... I must go back but I might just fly.

And I miss my little Leica so...
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Monday, 6 September 2010

Yesterday's Hike...

A cloudless sky welcomed us at about 7.30am when the first needs of tea pierced dreamland.

Tea, shower, toast and home made confiture; followed by the assembly of gear. A favourite pastime. Deuter packs, fleece, boots, socks, legs to zip onto already worn shorts, walking poles, camera, energy bars (not for the energy but they taste nice and I believe they are not fattening - not that I'd care if they were), a banana or two which may well be brought back home bruised from rubbing metaphorical shoulders with a cumbersome camera.

And the inevitable selection of t-shirts. Finally, a Panama hat. Not the ideal head gear for a mountain walk perhaps but it will protect against high altitude sun and the tiny spaces in the weave should allow a little breeze to pass through, so I shall be content as long as I am unaware that everyone else on the mountain is laughing at me.

An hour and a half later and we are walking across the springy grass covered peat above Les Houches and gazing at the Bionnassay glacier not far above us. We cannot help but disturb the many birds eating myrtille berries from the surrounding ground covering bushes and they fly off in that low swooping flight like woodpeckers.

As we near the slope above St Gervais for a view back down the valley towards Pointe Piercé, Geneva and the Jura beyond we are approached by a little old lady walking on her own and as she gets closer to us she asks if the mountain behind us is Mont-Blanc. The massif behind us is indeed the Massif du Mont-Blanc but from where we are standing at that point the summit of Mont-Blanc itself cannot be seen. She asks us the way towards Le Prarion which is at 1967m altitude and as we chat, she by now recognising our English accents and breaking into heavily accented English herself, we learn that she is convalescing on the advice of her daughter, following an eye operation.

Lunch: Croute au fromage et champignons at Chalet Courant d'Air - just delicious

It occurs to us as we talk later having seen her on her way on a more gently path that maybe this is not the best place to be wandering alone if you cannot see too well. She is heading nevertheless in the direction of Col de Voza at 1653m where she can easily get refreshment and rest at the little chalet Courant d'Air and wait for the Tramway du Mont-Blanc to take her back to St Gervais. Elderly people like she certainly have my respect. They just get on with doing what they have always done. I hope I can still do that at the same age...

The weather being glorious we continue up to Mont Lachat at 2115m just to take in the view and the enormity; the beauty of the surrounding mountains.

This is not so much a decent hike this weekend as a decent taking of the view, and I am reminded that if I want to hike higher and further I should do so during the week by managing my time better.

I remind myself of a Zen koan... On the day you were born, you begin to die. Do not waste a single moment more. (Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche).

As we make our way down, the roar of the melting snows and ice from the glacier, as they become a descending torrent comes up to greet us along with the air much cooled by the dangerous mass of ice by the side of us.

Bionnassay Glacier descending Mont-Blanc with rock covered ice section at the bottom, and the melt water pool.

Having seen hikers walking the GR5 crossing the tramway making their way south towards the med, I can see the Col de Tricot leading onwards to the Chalets de Miage and I feel a tinge of envy... I want to be walking away down that path some hundreds of miles and towards the sea.

Do not waste a single moment more...

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Summer is over, the crowds have disappeared...

...along with the clouds; and the clear blue skies of an early autumn , are at this altitude, already here. The mornings are more cold than just cool, but the afternoons still warm enough for the lake side beaches...

Walkers on mountain paths now issue a greeting as they pass, the markets have reduced their stalls, and parking spaces can be found once more. But I like the hustle and the bustle of the holiday crowds.

How else could I manage to stay here?

Monday, 30 August 2010

Worth it in the long run...

It might seem to a sane person a long way to go to buy some cheese.

A 20 minute drive and then a walk for about 1 hour and a quarter. Uphill. A bit of a slog really.

I admit a 20 minute drive is not so long but that was to the foot of the mountain. Once the boots were on and the backpacks comfortable and tightened we started the ascent up the slippery rocky path between the pines and the raging torrent below to our left which carried the recent rainfall down toward the lake and the rivers beyond to irrigate the vineyards of the south.

Early risers were already on the descent, some having stayed in the refuge another 1000 metres above us and others in suntan and shorts poled their way past us working out; blood coursing through their bodies using the late August Sunday morning to get themselves ready for the following week, the following month and perhaps for the students and teachers amongst them; the term ahead.

Late summer here can feel almost autumnal as if early September is not even going to appear, but once out of the trees, and into the sunshine the few mountain flowers still in petal waved gently in the breeze and the warmth of the sunshine soon had us stripping off the outer shirts, and pulling sunshades down and moving onward, upward.

This was not going to be any great expedition today, and maybe the dew pit lake above would be as far as we wanted to reach; just needing to blow away the cobwebs of the mind, feel the mountain air deep in our lungs, and be above the normal Sunday hustle of families going to visit families and to spend long afternoons lunching over later summer barbecues.

The family living the summer months in the Alpages would soon be down in the valley below, their chalet shuttered against the winter's threat, but now they were inside preparing their lunch, the cheese-maker himself coming out with hands full of cleaned mushrooms to put on the rough wooden table outside to dry. A few family groups and couples passed by, single determined hikers in technical gear strode quickly onward to further cols and summits, and some stopped to buy fresh yoghurt and cream cheese; to savour just the freshness then and there.

The list of cheese included Bernex. Not a cheese name I had noted before. The breed of cattle is Abondance and although we were not in that particular valley, Bernex was below us. So, very much a local cheese. A large slice was cut from a huge raclette sized wheel of cheese and for a few cents less than €4 a good size lump went into the backpack to be carried down.

We started down and gone far when breeze from the west became a stronger wind and bringing with it a chill we pulled on fleeces, and buttoned shirt fronts and headed back down the mountain taking the trail through the woods. What mushrooms would we see below?

The dank pine woods smelled and the mud of the slope showed where hikers had slipped, our way being made clear by the odd bits of string tied like a weak barrier to stop the descending cows from going off track or to show the hikers and recent runners to way to the top. Off the track we found plenty of Amanita Muscaria brightening up the brown pine needle forest floor.

We hurried down so as not to be late for our neighbour's end-of-summer 'goodbye' barbecue, and later that afternoon, with a glass of wine in hand we ate some Bernex cheese - beautiful, tasty, creamy cheese yet to harden like its sister cheeses, Abondance, Comté, Emmental et al...

It can be worth while seeking out the best cheese even if it is a decent hike away....

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Monday, 2 August 2010

Chinese barbecue anyone...???

Cote de Boeuf à Griller....

take a couple of desert spoons of Chinese dried black beans in ginger, and chop 'em up. Add to them a couple of cloves of finely sliced or chopped garlic, and either a small onion or a couple of shallots also chopped. Put them into a large jar of other utensil in which you can blitz them with one of those handy hand held processor thingys...

To the jar add a few glugs of peanut or vegetable oil and once it is all blitzed, pour it into a large bowl in order to cover a large cote de boeuf or a few steaks... make sure the meat is really well covered and stick 'em in the frigo.

You can use pork or chicken in place of the beef if you want and i found that in the fridge for a few days, the meat tenderises really well...

When you are ready to eat them, light your barbecue and get it hot. I don't bother with all that wood and charcoal and stuff, I just use a small gas jobby from Weber which is brilliant...

Stick the Beef on and seal it on both sides, turn the heat right down, close the lid and leave it to cook for 15 mins. I turned the beef once half way through, then took it off and let it rest for 10 mins...

It was fabulous, try it. Chinese barbecue sauce almost....

But don't forget to adjust the cooking time, temperature if using chicken

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The French Paradox

I am not feeling quite so favourable toward the froggies at present as we decided to go on Thursday last to Avignon & Nîmes for a long weekend and yesterday morning found our nice shiny black Haute-Savoie plated* VW Golf with windows smashed and all our mountain/randonnée gear stolen plus a Leica camera that I forgot was in a day pack in the boot, the idea of France being paradise on earth seems far away...

* Haute Savoie plates - 74, suggest to the rest of poor France, "les bastards riches"...

The previous evening we went to Nîmes. Years ago this used to be one of my favourite places in France, nay, on the planet. I had in ignorance always been under the impression that France had it's own rules for Bullfighting. What they did in Spain was not what they did in France. Only here had I seen the fantastic spectacle of the bull being the champion where the matador would run in front of the bull and with a kind of knuckle duster with hooks attached rip coloured ribbons tied between the rounded horns. The ribbons had different values and, putting it in simple terms, the bull that had the highest number or value of ribbons remaining on the horns at the end of the Corrida would be declared the winner. But in Nîmes that night the winner was going to be wearing not ribbons but a tight little matador number, a black hat and ballet pumps and the loser would be dragged across the rain and blood soaked sand, the smell of death dampened by the heavy dark clouds racing overhead.

Outside in the rain were the Spanish TV mobiles beaming by satellite the events within the Arena. Occasionally the odd sound of approval could be heard, hardly roars and shouts of glee from the crowds in their plastic give-away macs.

Though dinner was delicious, Aubergine rôtie au caillé de chèvre frais, followed by Pluma ibérique (that little piece of back of neck of pork) grilled over charcoal washed down of course with a recent Costières de Nîmes, it would have been better had the weather had that usual sense of mid-May... the promise of better to come. And so driving off through Nîmes one-way streets lacking any form of direction, we found our way back to our cheap and dirty hotel with broken electrics and bare light bulb, wardrobe with door hanging off and no rail upon which to hang the three provided coat hangers. But it was cheap. Well cheapish. Mmm, not that cheap perhaps given the events to be discovered the following day...

Hence the paradox.

Please, Sir, I want a little Vacherin

A boy abducted from France in a custody battle has told a court his most compelling reason for wanting to go back home: he would get a better quality of cheese in a French school than he does here. This highlights a point on which we fail, largely through laziness and incipient poor taste, to match our friends over the water. There, all food is taken seriously: they do not feed their children, or their proletarians, on cheese made from rubber, as we do, but feel all have a right to the small luxury of decent food. That this child should humiliate us so serves us right. And perhaps, too, it is no coincidence that if one gives children food fit only for animals, some choose to behave like them.

The above is part of the article ....

The French Are A Law Unto Themselves

We are still battling the Tax people as they refuse, on grounds we cannot find, to accept that ITC for whom Mrs Pondlife works is a bona fide body of the UN and have slapped us with a bill for more than forty thousand euros, yes, € 40,000 and have taken a charge upon our house until it is sorted so that if ever it were not sorted we could not sell our HOME and move elsewhere.

We must battle on.

More to come. The French are a law unto themselves.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

So what happened to April 2010 then ????

Rognons de Boeuf

Immerse rapidly in boiling water. Drain. Put into a frying pan of heated olive oil. As they cook...feu vif for 2mins, add some red wine and sprinkle some flour to thicken. Season, feu doux 4 mins. let rest.

Served with risotto cooked in chicken stock...


Thursday, 25 March 2010

A blistering ski randonnée...

... up to chalets at Ardens. I left far too late in the morning to attempt this climb and only left the Lac des Plagnes at midday and reached the chalets at Ardens 2 hours, and 2 huge blisters later.

Silly me. I should have considered that a randonnée on hired skis and in hired boots might do that, but I wrongly assumed the boots would be well broken in and probably more so than my own...

It was only done so that I could test out a new pair of skis (Dynafit Seven Summits) which had different bindings.

Blistering buggering barnacles !!

The photo shows my backpack in the foreground, lying on the metal roof of a snow covered chalet next to the chimney top. In the middle distance are more snow covered chalets with roofs barely visible.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

An Omelette and a Glass of Wine


In her book "An Omelette and a Glass of Wine", Elizabeth David writes, " soupe au fromage instantanée. ( Ingredients: dehydrated Gruyère cheese, potato-starch, spices,salt.) Which would seem to reduce the whole matter of authenticity to the level of farce...which has made us such easy victims of the purveyors of the farmyard-fresh Surrey chicken from the battery house, the mountain-brook trout from the breeding tank, via the deep-freeze, the hedgerow-ripened blackberry pie-filling out of the cardboard box."

Last evening on telly I saw again the film Elizabeth David: a Life in Recipes. I love the film. It brought back memories and a reminder that her name should be shouted from the kitchens. At one point in the film she says to a friend that people wrote to her to ask 'how much is a pinch?' I don't now remember if they asked the size of an egg, but I have heard similar and it occurred to me that far too many cookery books, or rather books that have a few recipes listed, go into minute detail which if one really likes to create in a kitchen is just not necessary.

I was born in austere Britain less than seven years after the end of the 2nd World War. I have vague memories of being taken, along with my parents, my cousin and my Aunt, by my Uncle in his old Rolls Royce with running boards to the seaside on the south coast of England. I don't actually know if the Rolls was his, or not, but I have nurtured memories of a dashing former Hurricane fighter pilot so just assumed since then that it was. But no matter. The point is that along the way we stopped at a butcher's shop and I remember the butcher taking a shine to us, our young mums perhaps and giving us extra rations.

At about this time Mrs Elizabeth David was encouraging people to cook meals with ingredients from foreign lands that my dad and my uncle had until a few short years before been fighting in and over. I imagine they were not too enthusiastic to take up her suggestion to do so. I understand that.

That austerity took a long time to pass. At least the habits that accrued during those times did. I can remember my grannie, turning the remains of a pack of Anchor butter into the butter dish and scraping the last bits as if her life depended on it. That would have been as late as the 1970s and maybe into the 1980's until she grew too frail to even scrape the butter wrapper.

But by then I was living in Wiltshire, not very well off and with a wife and two kids to support. Instead of going out to eat we would stay at home and cook something different, something special. Eventually as we became friends with people in our village with similarly aged kids we would have, loosely termed, dinner parties. Someone would host and cook the main course at their home. Someone else would bring a first course; someone else the cheese and Sally always did the puddings. I loved her puddings and would often tell her so to her mocked surprise. We took turns doing these foodie evenings; it was great fun, we learned about food, were introduced to different ideas but however much people said they liked what I cooked I always felt I was just a follower of recipes.

It started with Madhur Jaffrey. I always liked Indian food and this was years before it became the national dish of Britain. Watching her first television series and then receiving at Christmas the book that accompanied the series and trying one or two recipes I soon realised I was cooking food that was better than I could eat in the local curry house. My wife turned her hand to cooking from Chinese recipes and the same thoughts returned.

Freshness of ingredients especially spices was the trick.

Antonio Carluccio followed, and again recipes were followed. A measure of this, a measure of that. Saturday issues of The Times, Daily Telegraph or Guardian started to put their cookery writers in front of me. Thane Prince was one cookery writer I often looked forward to reading and copying. I still have photocopied pages from those papers of her recipes ; and then someone lent me a copy of a brown paged well thumbed edition by Elizabeth David. Was it French Country Cooking or Mediterranean? I don't recall.

But Elizabeth David taught me to cook. She wrote about experiences, thoughts and said what went into a certain dish, she just didn't seem to bother with measures too much.

I love Cassoulet. But what is Cassoulet exactly? Well for a start it isn't anything exactly. Mrs David wrote in one of her books about an elderly French woman renowned for her Cassoulet which she had kept upon the fire for 20-odd years, adding stock, beans, meat as she thought was needed.

When I moved to France I found a booked on Tians, and the recipes, such as they are, are just a smattering of ideas with the odd ingredient mentioned; some onion, a spoonful of flour. But is that a whole onion? Or a half? How big and should it be chopped up or sliced? And how big is a spoon?

As these have been tried and tried again, and refined a little here and there I am aware that Elizabeth David was ahead of her time. But at the same time she was of course of her time.

I wish some of the modern TV cooks of today; the celebrity chefs and their trendy studio kitchens and twee bits abounding could take a leaf out of her book.

Elizabeth David was a much better cook and writer than I can ever hope to be. But for anyone who might stumble across this log-blog... please seek out her books, buy them and read them.

I bet you won't be disappointed. There was quite a lot to Elizabeth David.

* photo of a dish of Pot au Feu taken at " Au Pied du Cochon" at Vongy in France.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

As I walked out one St. Patrick's day...

... or rather, with randonnée skis fixed to my boots I climbed up towards the Col de Golese and stood panting awhile as my heart rate rose and gazed across at the rock face on the other side of the GR5.

I love the way the snow has blown into the nooks and the crannies of the sheer rock face opposite.

One of my favourite places on earth just at the end of the Vallée de la Manche.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

As I walked out one St Valentine's day....

Winter isn't always drab and gray, cold creeping into bones that shiver, lips that turn blue and noses running...

There are places to hike to; raquette to, like here in a side valley off the Vallée d'Abondance in the French Alps. The only sounds are the far off voices of randonneur skiers descending from the chalets at Ardens, it is still too cold for the birds to sing; at least it was on St.Valentine's day, so we came out of our cloud covered refuge and drove up through the lower mists - just to count the diamonds in the snow...

And when we'd counted them all we retraced our raquette tracks and went home, made some lunch, poured some wine, and settled down to watch England play rugby against the Italians in Rome, and in the words of Mr Dury, "What a waste..."

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Evian, January 4th 2010

Yeah, okay, I know....

You've got snow too but not many palms....
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Monday, 4 January 2010

Is it really 10 years...?

I awake to the soft silence of the snow slippery street, Christmas past and the year still new.

Winter grips.

Is it really 10 years since we sat on the balcony awaiting the millennium; the bug that would bring down planes, the world?

We drank champagne, made love and awoke to the same world the next day... only this time with a little headache.