19 January 2007

Cold there, breezy here

Friends in California have been telling me about the terrible cold weather they've been having, and I've seen reports on French TV as well. I think this has been the worst freeze in California since 1990, and I remember that one. So many beautiful plants were killed in San Francisco when temperatures dropped into the 20s that year. Now it has happened again.

Yesterday I drove up to Saint-Romain-sur-Cher to buy some wine and then on to Contres to get some groceries at the big SuperU store there. The man at the wine co-op in Saint-Romain, who knows me slightly but always forgets that I am American, not British, said: "Well, we are having perfectly British weather today, aren't we?"

After I reminded him I'm from California, not England, he told me all about the cold wave that has damaged the citrus crop there so badly. And he knew about the ice storm (even though in French there is no well-known term for that phonomenon — we don't have ice storms here) in the middle of the country. Nowadays the French news reports on U.S. events extensively, even the weather. Thirty years ago, that wasn't the case at all. I remember feeling very cut off from the U.S. when I lived in Paris back then.

Outside, yesterday was gusty in Saint-Aignan and Saint-Romain, but not cold (55º or so), and a fine rain was falling. Well, "falling" isn't exactly the right word — "blowing by," I guess, would describe it better. We were just on the edge of the big windstorm that blew across England and far northern France and into Belgium, Holland, and Germany yesterday. Gusts over 100 mph have been reported up there. I haven't seen the news yet this morning but I imagine there has been some damage.

Our winds seem to have died down now. Just as I was waking up, however, at about 5:30, I was aware of the sound of the wind swooshing through the big evergreen trees out back. So the storm here is not completely over. We have had gusts as strong as 40 mph, I would estimate. Right this minute, the temperature outside is 12ºC (54ºF). That's very warm for 7:00 a.m. on a January day.

I think I'll turn on France24 and see what the TV news is saying about yesterday's weather events. Do you get the new French 24-hours-a-day news channel on your cable or satellite systems in the U.S.? It broadcasts in French on one channel and in English on another, at least here.

The reason for the shopping expedition in Contres yesterday was to pick up the ingredients for two dishes we plan to start preparing today for the weekend. One is a vegetable terrine using three vegetables: carrots, cauliflower, and spinach. Walt noticed the recipe in a French cookbook we've had for years and plans to cook it today for tomorrow's lunch.

Meanwhile, I'm going to make a Daube de Bœuf using a recipe I noticed the other day in an e-mail newsletter I get from French Cuisine TV. How do you make a Daube? You take a kilo (2.2 lbs.) of stewing beef cut into big chunks and you marinate it for 24 hours in red wine with sliced onions, shallots, carrots, and garlic, along with herbs including parsley, thyme, and bay leaves. And oh yeah, you throw in a calf's foot (un pied de veau) as well.

After 24 hours, you take the meat out of the marinade, wipe it off to dry it, and then sauté it in a big pan. Add the carrots, onions, etc. from the marinade, and the foot (or not, if you can't get one). Then strain the marinade into the pan, put on a cover, and let it cook in the oven at low temperature for three or four hours until the meat is tender and the sauce is reduced. Serve with rice, noodles, or boiled potatoes. Or, in this case, vegetable terrine.

France24 says damage from yesterday's storm was especially bad in England. Dozens of deaths in England and Germany are attributed to the violent weather. I guess we were lucky in Saint-Aignan this time. I remember we had nearly a week of very stormy weather in January 2004, during our first winter here. I wrote about it on my web site at the time. And there was a huge storm in December 1999 that devastated much of France. This year's weather has been very moderate in comparison.


  1. Obtaining calves' (as well as beef and pigs') feet has become very easy here in the SF Bay Area. There's also brains, ears, snouts, kidneys, hearts, stomachs, intestines, and the occasional testicle. With the large number of Asian and Mexican stores around, these parts are now common. The other day I picked up a pig's head, a couple of pigs' tongues, and a couple of feet. No special order required. It's time for fromage de tête.

  2. Hello Peter, glad to know the so-called "variety meats" are so widely available now. The calf's or pig's foot gives a nice gelatiney richness to the daube sauce. Fromage de tête can be very nice. I like the version that Mme Doudouille sells in Saint-Aignan on Saturday mornings.

    By the way, I just sent you an e-mail using my Yahoo account. Hope it goes through. Ken

  3. John P. sends greetings from Davis, NC, where he hopes the duck hunting is good. Moi aussi, so I can try more of your recipes! Both Arlington and Morehead City environs are blustery! --E

  4. Davis, N.C. Is John hunting ducks on Core Banks? I wonder if my cousin Butch Henderson is still working as a hunting guide down there.

  5. Not sure where they are hunting near Davis. I'll find out. Looks like great country, judging from where Davis is on the map. SO NEAR Morehead City...E


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?