La Belle France

You may have worried that I had surrendered my role as resident gourmet at london-eating but not a bit of it. My absence from the interweb last month is simply explained – I was at my modest chateau in la belle France.

When I am in residence, apart from directing the staff to fly the family flag from the topmost tower, I also instigate a ban on all telephone calls. With, of course, one exception.

Dear little Nigella who frequently calls to ask, in her wonderfully middle-class way, for some French adjectives and adverbs with which to lard her copy. Nothing gives her greater pleasure than pointlessly introducing some French or Italian word with which to impress her reader. Tout compris! I tell her and I read randomly from my French dictionary.

The ban on telephones means that I am unable to write my usual column when ‘chez moi’. I savour the solitude because it allows me to concentrate instead on writing my hilarious new novel ‘ Un cochon in my conservatory’ a brilliant tale of how a jaded London gourmet moves to France and has marvellous misunderstandings with the locals who soon grow to love him and, indeed, elect him the village mayor.

Of course the hero resembles me in no way at all, I cannot abide these journalists and others who move to France and write in a thinly disguised way about themselves. My lead character is a badly educated cockney with a poor sense of taste, a dowdy and provincial wife and not a lot of money. Nothing could be further away from moi meme, I think you will agree.

The staff here are a treasure trove of material. Our cook, Mme Bidochon, has the most marvellous moustaches which are admired for miles around. As she sits on the kitchen doorstep beheading geese with a merry cackle on her lips, one gets the true feel of France.

The speed with which she traps and dispatches small mammals is also remarkable and her cooking would put many a London chef to shame. Not for her the Magimix. Each of her soups is pureed the traditional way – by standing in the pot and treading the vegetables to pulp. Of course, in her advanced years, she now sometimes finds it necessary to take the soup off the boil first. A blow to tradition, but plus ca change!

Her husband Robert, is the rock upon which the chateau stands. Impenetrable of accent and remarkable of odour, his stony visage only cracks into a smile when he is brought news of the death of another relative. As his family intermarried freely and incest is a tradition in these parts, this occurs almost weekly. His frequent attempts at suicide by taking a shotgun into the barns only endear him to us more. How we laugh as he emerges with singed eyebrows and more parts of his face missing.

The locals of course love me. I have chosen not to take up my ‘droit de seigneur’ as the ancient texts empower me to and many a maiden has breathed a sigh of relief. Apparently the droit does not extend to the young men, which I confess is something of a disappointment. Some of them are remarkably hirsute and masculine, But I digress. “What of the food Felix?’ I hear you cry. My dears, I cannot begin to explain or catalogue its wonders. Perhaps next time, Today as I gaze out over my Somerset acres and the deer peer in at the windows, France is but a fragrant memory.

A bientot, mes braves


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