Salicorne

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I mentioned this plant in a previous post (Sept 2015). At the time I’d picked some and bitten into it and had found it very unpalatable.  It is a marine plant which grows in swampy areas (which are common in this particular area on the west coast of France) and it is usually preserved in brine and served with pork terrines and the like. The other day I found it being sold fresh (apparently salicorne is best eaten in the springtime as tends to be tough and fibrous the rest of the year) and I couldn’t resist finding out, first of all, what it is called in English, and secondly, how I might prepare it to make it palatable.

  1. glasswort or pickleweed
  2. after soaking it in water and rinsing it well, I blanched it very quickly then tossed it into the wok with some chopped garlic – which incidentally makes anything and everything, including snails, taste great.  I ate the remaining raw weed another day as a salad with a bit of vinaigrette, a totally different experience but potentially repeatable – although I doubt I’ll find it in our new location down south due to the relatively hot and dry climate there.

I was actually near Toulouse last week for 24 hours to check-out some potential homes. Although the housing visits were fruitless, I happily stumbled across the weekly open-air market in the village where we will be based and was delighted to see all of the usual suspects displayed along the Esplanade: good quality cheese, fish, bread, fruit, and vegetable stands overflowing with fresh produce. There were piles of plump, red, juicy cherries for under €4.00 a kilogram! I was also pleased to learn that the locals enjoy food so much that they hold an annual festival (Le marché Gourmand of Pibrac) for those who enjoy eating (…that would have to be the majority of French folk) which is happening on the 24th of this month. I won’t be able to go but I’ll be sure to be there in 2018.

Official moving date = 3rd week of July. Between now and then is typically a busy time of the year: there are school evaluations, field trips, school fairs, end of year performances (music concerts, sports tournaments), birthday parties for children born in summer (for fear of their guests being unavailable during the summer vacation), late dinner parties and bbq’s which take advantage of the extended daylight, town festivals of all sorts (such as the Marché Gourmand), tying up loose ends at work, vacation planning,  spring cleaning and gardening, and this year, even more political elections (by the end of the month there will have been 6 for the year!). Everything stops in France in the month of August so it’s a scramble to stuff as much in before then. However, In my experience, it’s nothing compared with the intensity of September when EVERYTHING starts up again with great fervor.

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On a recent long weekend, we went to the Château de Tiffauges which at one time belonged to a rather sinister fellow called Gilles de Rais better known as Bluebeard. There were numerous things to do including archery, crossbow, riding ‘horses’ and watching demonstrations of medieval weaponry

I  just have to mention the fleeting but thoroughly enjoyable visit from our mélomane friend Fabrice – whom I hadn’t seen for over 9 years. Recently he has been living between Brittany and Saint Pierre and Miquelon – now that’s a part of France that you may not have (like me) known about! Merci Fabrice et à bientôt.

AND hot off the press I’m excited to announce that my big sister and ‘big’ nephew (at 13 years of age he’s taller than her) will be arriving for a visit in a few weeks!

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We set-out one morning recently to introduce ourselves to our new neighbors….but we didn’t get past the first house: there, a lovely elderly couple invited us in for a chat/drink, and after tasting but a small selection of his- 40liters of home-made aperitifs (using 40degree alcohol from a ‘secret source’): which is then macerated with fresh quince, raspberry, walnut…   we stumbled back home. The next day a second couple – equally lovely –  sent us home, after a chat, with a delicious homemade flan and the following neighbor insisted that we join her for an aperitif. Several days later we have finally introduced ourselves to our immediate (and very nice) community – none of whom failed to mention ‘c’est calme ici’ 🙂 Indeed it is calm, which is a nice change from Shanghai.

Last week we went to the local amusement park ‘Puy du Fou (which) is a bizarre phenomenon: a rural theme park without any rides. It’s trademark is spectacular history extravaganza shows – where thousands of actors and animals recreate high drama, from Roman gladiators to King Arthur, with mind-blowing special effects’. (The Guardian May 6th 2015)

DSC_0160Our 5yr old was thrilled to see plenty of ‘real’ Knights in shining armor and plenty of sword fights. Many locals had told me that it was voted the ‘Best Theme Park’ in the world, but upon a little investigation I discovered that it was actually given one of the ‘Worlds Best Park’ award…..not quite the same thing. 

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And so the summer vacation has come to an end… an end to knights in shining armour, to ‘Perrier tranche’ (Perrier with a slice of lemon) on the beach, oysters  eaten at the oyster farmer’s cabin and an end to the walks around the ‘marais salant’ (salt marshes) which connect our town and the beach.

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Below: very dry ‘marais’ and some salicorne which is a plant that grows on the banks of the salt water and which is preserved in vinegar (not very edible raw as I discovered) and typically used in place of the more well-known cornichons to accompany charcuterie (pork products).

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The first of September is ‘La Rentree’ – when everything in France moves into action ….including school. I was surprised to find that our children’s school week consists of 4 very long days (8:45-16:45 Mon,Tues,Thurs and Fri) despite the government ‘imposing’ 4.5-days since 2013: Actually in the not so distant past all French schools had one school-free weekday (the Wednesday) – opting to add classes on Saturday mornings instead. In 2008 the schools abolished Saturday morning classes and squeezed the curriculum into 4 days (not daring to change a tradition of a ‘free’ day which dates back to the 1800’s). In 2013 the government re-introduced the 4.5-day week (principally because kids are able to concentrate better in the morning….and because the standards in French schools appeared to be dropping) – but this time they included….(gasp!) the sacred Wednesday. Apparently the move was met with much opposition (probably because there is a general resistance to change and because many extra-curricular activities benefited from it) and as I discover, has not taken effect in all schools.

Anyway, the kids slipped into their new classrooms happily and it was nice to see Antoine’s teacher give him a nice kiss hello (which sadly would have probably ended her up in trouble in any anglophone country…….no physical contact allowed!).

Now the serious stuff starts….such as having a routine, working my way through paperwork and making professional-type telephone calls, which is something I dread…especially the inevitable little pause that the person on the other end of the phone makes after hearing my request (I always hope that this pause is simply an adjustment period to my accent and not shock/disgust at my destruction the French language nor complete incomprehension).