25 January 2022

Back to Luynes

I published two posts about the town of Luynes last week, and then I got distracted by the dog's situation and by some foods I enjoy. One of the photos I took in Luynes, which is only 5 miles from the center of the city of Tours, was this 16th century half-timbered house. Here are a few detail photos I also took the day CHM and I were there in 2010.

24 January 2022

A shrimp and okra weekend

• That first photo might not be very appetizing. Do you know what it is? It's a chocolate- brown roux
in which have been cooked sliced onions, celery, and bell pepper (red, green, and yellow).

• The second photo shows steamer-cooked okra pods that have been cut into pieces so that they can
better release their magical "goo", as the Wikipedia article about okra calls it.

Okra Gumbo with steamed rice

• The meats I put in were turkey breast, pork sausage, and shrimp. I fried the turkey and sausage
before adding them to the thickened broth. The shrimp just cooked in the broth.

• The broth is chicken bouillon into which which I stirred the "roux goo" as a thickener.
The okra goo also has thickening power in the broth.

23 January 2022

Shrimp and grits... and okra

Two products we wanted from the Asia Market grocery store last when we went to Tours the other day were frozen shrimp, a.k.a. prawns and in French crevettes, and either fresh or frozen okra (called gombos in French). We already had a bag of American grits in the pantry. Grits are a ground white corn mush (or porridge) that originated, apparently, in the U.S. South.

In coastal South Carolina, where shrimp and grits was a seasonal dish often served at brealfast, grits used to be called hominy. We used the term "hominy grits" in North Carolina. This porridge made from dried corn kernels is similar to Italian polenta, but with a slightly different texture because of the way the corn is processed and milled. On the internet I see the term gruau de maïs for the same kind of thing in French. (Gruau must be "gruel".)

We don't find okra in our local supermarkets very often, and we mainly find shrimp that are sold already cooked and
with the heads left on. In the Asian grocery stores in Blois and in Tours we can find both okra and
raw frozen queues de crevettes (shrimp "tails", which in English are not tails but bodies).
The shrimp are sold headless ("headed", étêtées) but with the shell left on.
I like to peel and cook shrimp myself rather than buy them pre-cooked.

For this version of shrimp and grits, I first "sweated" some chopped shallots (you can substitute onions) and garlic (4 cloves) in a mixture of butter and olive oil. Then I quickly sauteed the peeled and deveined shrimp.
I had already cooked the okra in a steamer pot.

This is a pan of the southern U.S. porridge called grits. I cooked these grits in watered-down shrimp broth that I made
from the shrimp shells with white wine, herbs, and spices. You can add grated cheese
to the grits if you want to, but I didn't want cheese in this recipe.

I added the cooked okra pods and a diced tomato to the pan with the shrimp and aromatic vegetables and
quickly sauteed everthing together. You can add more butter or olive oil at this point —
there's no other sauce for the grits. (Some recipes include a kind of gravy.)

Finally, serve the shrimp and okra over the cooked grits. Spoon it out onto plates or into bowls and serve it piping hot.
There's an interesting article about the history of "shrimp and grits" here. A North Carolina
restaurant chef played a big part in popularizing the dish back in the 1980s.
I spent my childhood in coastal North Carolina, but
we didn't eat shrimp with grits back then.

22 January 2022

Tasha in rehab

Here's Natasha the Shetland sheepdog after her first night in her (borrowed) recovery corral.
She's been behaving admirably well as this rehabilitation starts.
She's staying calm and being perfectly cooperative.

Yesterday afternoon Walt took Tasha over to the local vets' office to have her leg bandage was taken off. He bought a
"cone of shame" for her to wear. It prevents her from using her teeth to pull the stitches out of her knee.
We've resumed taking two or even three short walks a day around the hamlet —
on a leash, following the surgeon's recommendations.

21 January 2022

The drive to Tours

We went to Tours again yesterday and brought Tasha home. And we made it through the first night. Walt took her out on the leash twice late yesterday afternoon, and I took her out this morning. She's still limping pretty badly, but the vet says she needs a short walk two or three times a day. She is dozing in her living room corral right now. She was quiet in her loft corral overnight. Later today, we'll take her to the local veterinary clinic and have her bandage taken off.

1     2
Here are a few photos I snapped as we left the house and drove west toward the city of Tours.
These first two show the road we take from our hamlet down into the Cher river valley.

3     4
You can see that we had nice sunny weather. We had to deal with road works at a couple of points.
We drove through several villages along the way, but the road from Saint-Aignan
to Tours is a main two-lane highway that's wide and smooth.

5     6
There are many picturesque towns in the Cher river valley, like this one (Montrichard).
We looked at houses there and could have decided to live there back in 2002,
but we opted for a house in the country instead.

7     8
We drove down the Cher river valley all the way to Tours. It's a wide flat floodplain bordered by hills and bluffs.
We didn't have any trouble finding the clinique vétérinaire because we had done the same drive a day earlier.

20 January 2022

Tours the city, Asian foods, and the poor dog

Yesterday's drive over to Saint-Avertin, a town that borders on the city of Tours on its southeast side, took us an hour. It was stressful because we were driving in the dark. Walt was behind the wheel. Neither of us is used to night-time driving any more. Headlights were almost blinding. Then it started raining. The fact is, however, that we found the veterinary clinic easily and arrived 15 minutes early. We got there before sunrise.

After my 30-minute meeting with the surgeon, we drove from Saint-Avertin across a bridge that spans the Loire river and into the area known as Tours-Nord ("north Tours"). The historic center of Tours is on the south bank of the Loire. The other half of the city is north of the river and is much more modern. I was surprised how urban it felt. I'd been there before, but I had never driven through residential neighborhoods in the area. It sure is a different world compared to the Saint-Aignan area. The city of Tours has an area of 34 km² and a population of nearly 140,000. The village we live in outside Saint-Aignan has an area of 32 km² and a population of fewer than twelve hundred. It's almost lonely out here.

Our destination in Tours-Nord was this little supermarket:

At Asia Market, we bought bottled sauces, bags of spices, noodles, fresh okra and bok choy, frozen okra, shrimp (3 lbs.), pot-stickers, spring rolls, and more. The last time we had shopped in an Asian grocery was probably two years ago. There are two such groceries in Blois, and two in Tours-Nord. Blois is closer to Saint-Aignan by about 20 minutes, but we are reluctant to go into cities these days because of Covid. Our local Saint-Aignan supermarkets have expanded their Asian food offerings over the past two years, but they still can't compare to an actual Asian grocery store.

As of now, we're scheduled to go pick up Tasha the Sheltie early this afternoon and bring her home. However, I have to call the veterinarian surgeon in a couple of hours to confirm that schedule. He spoke of complications when I talked to him yesterday afternoon — complications that might mean Tasha's convalescence will be longer than expected. Wish us luck.

19 January 2022

S-Day for the dog

Today is surgery day for Tasha, our sheltie pup. We'll be driving her over to the town of Saint-Avertin, a suburb of Tours, where we have an 8:30 a.m. appointment with an orthopedic surgeon (un chirurgien orthopédiste). It's about an hour's drive from Saint-Aignan. I talked to an employee at the veterinary clinic two days ago and learned that Tasha will be operated on today (Weds. 1/19) and we'll be able to go pick her up and bring her home tomorrow (Thurs. 1/20). Then we'll start 6 to 12 weeks of convalescent care here at home, confining her to limit her movements, and carrying her up and down stairs and out into the yard on a leash for her to do daily business. More about that as time goes by.


Here's a photo of the Château de Luynes, which I posted about yesterday.
It's on the other side of Tours, about eight miles (20 mins.) from the veterinary clinic.

18 January 2022

Le Château de Luynes

I'm having a hard time leaving Amboise, but it's time to move on. I didn't realize I had so many photos of the town. Continuing about 40 minutes down the Loire from Amboise, passing through the city of Tours, you arrive at the town of Luynes (pop. 5,000). It's not as well known as upriver Touraine towns like Amboise and Vouvray, or towns downriver like Langeais and Bourgueil. It's actually only four miles from Villandry and its gardens, but there's no bridge over the Loire that links them directly, so it's a 20-minute drive.

I took these photos nearly 12 years ago, on a mostly sunny July day.

This is a particularly nice old house — probably 15th century — in the center of Luynes.

Just down the street from the house above is the town's 15th-century covered market hall.

Here's a view of the château from the center of town. Parts of the château date back to the 12th century.

Finally for today, a detail of the façade of the town's church, which is dedicated to sainte Geneviève

17 January 2022

Amboise : maisons

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On the left, the hotel Le Manoir des Minimes and behind it the hotel Le Choiseul
On the right, an Amboise “tiny house”

3     4
A troglodyte house (cave dwelling) on the left
On the right, a house that's been turned into a restaurant

5     6
Views out over the town from the château grounds

16 January 2022

Du brouillard givrant

The temperature stayed below zero all day yesterday, and it's still below zero right now. Zero in degrees Celsius, I mean. That's 32ºF. The fog was dense, and it was freezing on the trees and on other surfaces. Walt wanted to go to the market,
and even though the car was parked under the carport out front, it was iced over. I mean clear, smooth ice, not frost.
The frozen fog was hard to scrape off, so he just warmed up the car, turned on the front and rear defrosters,
and waited for it to melt. The trees above and below are across the street, in our neighbors' yard.

I've posted about freezing fog several times over the years. Click here to scroll through those posts and view photos, including this one from 2017.

The frozen fog looks like snow, but it's less damaging to trees and causes less inconvenience for humans. It can be beautiful, especially if the sun comes out while everything is still frozen.