Bon Annee – viva 2011

Dolls, dolls, dolls:

The main dish at a French Christmas table in Provence will usually find a chapon (a neutered rooster) being served. It’s a great delicacy and not often found in the supermarkets or local markets except at Christmas time.

Our chapon came from the Christmas market at Coustellet – a small farming village only 8km from our home in Menerbes. The farmer’s stall is called Volailles de Cure Bourse, and he is one very proud farmer.

A proud rooster

Each bird is sold with a little ‘pedigree slip; giving information about the life and times of your chapon.

In our case, the bird was born on 18th May 2010.

Our farmer takes up the narrative: ” during the first three weeks of his life, he is sheltered from the heat of summer in a shaded enclosure. At the beginning of the fourth week, he is allowed to leave the gate of his shed and enjoy the delights of the wide field near to the Lagnes prairie.”

This field has diverse food for our rooster. He is able to feed on small worms that are prolific in the summer heat, certain small insects, diverse vegetation and other small animals which may hatch from time to time over this period.

After a few weeks, the farmer then supplements the rooster with a mixed bag of cereals and untreated (meaning no chemical substitutes) feed. He is kept in optimal conditions with plenty of water as well.

“All of this results in a bird of quite exceptional quality which arrives to-day for your table!”, concludes the farmer.

Not only are we given the pre-slaughtering life, the farmer then adds in his views on how to cook and other preparation tips. In his very considered opinion, the chapon will be enjoyed at its maximum by not freezing it, no condiments or seasoning used and cooked for 3.5 hours at 160 degrees Farenheit.

However, Madame, did not buy those cooking tips. not freezing – yes! Seasoning – yes! Herbes de Provence, a stuffing of pork and truffles, two celementines up the derriere, add in a splash or three of olive oil, a few sprigs of rosemary and then 3.5 hours in the AGA.

Here’s our little pictorial essay on the fate of our chapon.

Fresh from the fridge; ready for preparation

Seasoned, dressed and ready for the oven

3.5 hours later - ready for consumption!

    Here’s a great (edited) article written on by the ‘Silverstreak’ on South Africa’s admittance to BRIC:

    South Africa has received an official invitation to join the BRIC economic development block, comprised of emerging giants Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

    In short, we’ve just been called over to the bleachers by the cool kids, and offered a cigareette.

    BRIC isn’t an economic bloc, in truth. It’s an anagram, invented in 2001 by Goldman-Sachs economist, Jim O’Neil to describe a hypothetical economic bloc of rapidly developing nations that he forecast would eclipse the US as the global economic and geopolitical  iron-man.

    It took those four countries, who have since adopted that anagram, a total of eight years before they held their first summit, in Russia.

    So why has South Africa been invited to BRIC?  Annual GDP falls woefully short of the BRIC gold standard of 10%, and SA’s labour-friendly policies hold no promise of cheap labour en masse – generally regarded as one of the sure-fire kickstarts to an industrialised developing economy (cue China).

    Malaysia, Vietnam, Nigeria or Mexico would be much more logical bets for new additions to BRIC. So the question must be begged, what are BRIC playing at by toying with BRICS?

    While South Africa is probably betting on improved trade ties and a rosier standing in global economic debate (the Rand exchange has already experienced a sharp jump since the breaking of the news), BRIC’s short term goals are not to extract the same sort of benefit from South Africa. They’re playing political, geopolitical.

    Rapidly developing nations need resources, and lots of them.

    Africa remains resource-rich, and wholly under-developed, which is why Nigeria was overlooked. West Africa’s major resource base – oil – is mired in a dirty man’s game of prospectors, tappers, multinational corporations and rotten bureaucrats. It’s not worth getting in to, the margins are too low.
    A bridge too far with the speculation? Maybe. But the cool kids were never sincere, and they’re not about to change their tack for the fresh meat in braces – us.

India is in crisis. And, it’s not the a Global Financial Crisis by any manner but it’s a crisis nevertheless. There is a theft going on at a grand scale of onions in the country and India is running out of onions!

That means, that curry is under threat – what is a curry without onions? It seems that fingers are being pointed at the wholesalers for over-charging an this has caused the supply to dry up. Coupled with some bad weather, onion production is in very short supply.

Forget the world news – this makes front page headlines:

Bon fete. It’s Christmas time in Provence. We seem to have escaped (so far) the horrifying weather conditions in the UK and USA. However, there is no-one who has not got a story about Gatwick or Heathrow Airports.

Our Christmas was planned to be quiet this year. It’s has been a hectic 2010 and 2011 is shaping up to be just as eventful. A week of doll merchandising and storage organising, left us ready for a great Christmas Eve in Goult.

The 24th December is Charlie the dog’s birthday and the local Goult schoolchildren parade through the streets of the village with candles and the villagers really make an effort to dress their windows – delicately, not brash Father Christmas’s and rearing reindeers.

However, the mistral had other ideas, no outside service, no candle procession and we repaired to Cafe de la Poste to celebrate Charlie’s birthday.

This is what greeted us!

Cafe de la Poste - ready for the Christmas Eve party

A few locals were draped around the bar and the owner, Bernard, told us “cinq minut” (literally meaning you have five minutes then get out!). Two and a half hours later, we were all there, the chairs were down and the village was a-partying. Even Bernard was seen to be quaffing the occasional glass of bubbly!

Birthday boy and his mother enjoying their champagne

Marcello (right) and Alma start to negotiate longer opening hours with the host

Christmas Day was an 80kmph mistral and with Alma and Charlie at a loose end we kicked off with foie gras accompanied by some delicious Beaumes de Venise sweet wine and then the piece de resistance – the Chapon.

The foie gras

Nicely rested - ready for preparation

All dressed and ready for the oven

3.5 hours later, out of the oven. Clementine's peeping out.

Carved and ready to go

(We’ll go into more detail of the Chapon’s heritage in a post later this week. It’s impressive.)

Boxing Day reversed the quiet trend. Denise and Keith from Louramin/Cape Town along with Jan, Clive and Catherine from Menerbes/London came for lunch at 2.30. We bade them a reluctant good-bye at 8.

Suffice to say, the only pictures we have of the lunch is the famous aubergine, courgette and tomato wheel centred with a full head of garlic.

The dish....

The doll cabinets are full. There’ll be plenty of posts about them but here’s a sweetener.

Miniatures, miniatures

Au bientot: Lovonne and Simon.xx

This ad needs no comment ……  (it’s for a lawyer!). In Papua New Guinea.

The Chapon for Christmas – roasted with two clementines inside, some stuffing and loads of Herbes de Provence.

The chapon is a neutered rooster

The chapon is a neutered rooster

It’s Christmas morning in Menerbes and the mistral is blowing at a gusty 70kmph! A very Happy Christmas to all the LSW readers, family and friends.

The chapon is in the oven, the halls are decked and the fire will be lit shortly..

Here’s a little Irish blessing for us all:

“May the road rise to meet you

May the wind always shine at your back

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

The rains fall soft upon your fields and

Until we meet again

May God hold you in the palm of His Hand”

Picture in sunny Cape town!

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