15 October 2008

Neighbors, yard work, and lunch

Yesterday morning we were working out in the back yard — me cutting up branches we pruned out of some hazelnut and apple trees to turn them into kindling, and Walt shoveling out the compost bin — when Callie started barking at someone or something up at the front gate.

Hazelnuts grow on bushes that can become small trees.
We are pruning these back severely. There are 14 of them!

I went to see what the commotion was about. It was our neighbor, J-M, who with his wife A., the village mayor, will be leaving for California this afternoon. He had come over to ask us for a favor. He wanted to know if he could leave a little suitcase full of some of their most precious valuables with us while they are away. They have someone taking care of their house while they travel, but they said they'd prefer to leave valuable items like car keys, a camera, and I don't even know what all else, with us.

That felt nice, to have them express that kind of confidence in our trustworthiness. We couldn't really say we are good friends of theirs — just acquaintances, really, and neighbors — village residents. We of course accepted their proposal and J-M brought over a small bag later in the day. We put it away for safekeeping.

This is the back section of the hedge we've been working on.
Walt does the pruning, up on a ladder with electric shears.

A., the mayor, is somebody who could be extremely helpful to us as we negotiate the French bureaucracy to try to get 10-year residency cards, or even French citizenship, now that we have been living here for more than five years. I think she will be willing to vouch for us and to make some calls to functionaries in Blois if necessary.

We have a lot more work to do out back. The hedge-trimming isn't finished. There are birch and hazelnut branches that need to be cut into smaller pieces. We're getting together a good pile of leaves and trigs to burn as soon as we are ready and the weather allows.

Boudins blancs

Today for lunch, it'll be boudin blanc — a sausage made from veal, pork, or poultry with milk and eggs — and potatoes, with green salad. I got the boudins, these made with turkey and pork, at SuperU a few days ago. These sausages have a smooth texture a little like the inside of a franfurter, but white.

I hope these are good, despite their supermarket origins.
You can read the ingredients by clicking the picture to enlarge it.

For the potatoes, my first idea was just to sauté them. I have a bag of little red potatoes that I need to cook. French potatoes are so good.

Over the next hour or so I'm going to read through Joël Robuchon's book called Le Meilleur et le plus simple de la pomme de terre ("The Best and Simplest Potato Recipes") (1994) to look for other ideas. We'll see what I come up with. It has to be something that I can do fairly quickly toward lunchtime after working in the yard.

I'll let you know what I come up with.


  1. That's a pretty nice vote of confidence from your neighbors. Would I leave my precious things with two bloggers? Hmmmm, tough one. Well, I would if it were you two.

    What new potato dish did you come up with? You've got me thinking.
    Potatoes with soft cheese! Mashed potatoes with lots of garlic! Fried diced potatoes with rosemary! Homemade potato chips!
    Now I'm hungry.

  2. I'd be willing to leave my valuables with you any time.

    Your knowing a mayor is adding to our reading pleasure. We'll be looking forward to hearing what the mayor and her spouse think of our wild west and our wild election. Will they feel the frissons of change in our air?

    As for potatoes- I never met one I didn't like. An easy recipe is to roast cubes with Lipton onion soup mix and olive oil, miam, miam!

  3. Ken, How nice to be on such good terms with the mayor of the village. It's always nice to have good neighbours whom you can count on and even more so if they can be of help/use. Are you seriously considering applying for French citizenship? Bravo and Welcome to Europe! I don't have to tell you that you are going to like it here ... as you already do ;-).
    BTW, as far as the boudin blanc lunch is concerned: We traditionnaly eat boudin blanc with apple sauce (compote) and boiled or mashed patatoes. Usually we serve one boudin blanc and one boudin noir per person.
    Did you know that boudin leftovers are also very nice when eaten cold or warm, cut up in thin slices in a bread sandwich? Martine

  4. I hope your mayor has a great trip in the American Southwest! I think it's lovely that they felt that you two were a good choice to trust with their valuables :)

    I remember having Boudins Blancs with my "family" in Paris, but I also remember having Boudins Noirs as my only option one day (no thanks!) at that university cafeteria that was at metro Mabillon... do you remember it? It was near the résidence at rue du Four where all of us stayed the first month of the program. You could get lunch there for something like 5FF. How décue I was that day!

    Odd thing about your blog today: in Firefox, it opens to the October 9 entry, and, in order to see more recent entries, I had to go to the archives for October. Odd. In Safari, no problem. I tried clearing the cache and the cookies from Firefox, but had the same problem again.

    Are you seriously considering citizenship? I was wondering what the advantages would be? My French colleague here is now a U.S. citizen, which she did, in part, so that she could adopt, but, she said that when she goes to France, she still has her French citizenship. She was thinking of retiring back there, and I asked if that would be a problem in terms of pension or whatever the French retirement money is, and she said, "Oh, no problem. You never really lose your French citizenship, even if you become an America citizen." I wondered if that could possibly be the case.

    And what is this 10-year resident thing?

    Thanks! I'm so curious today!

  5. Carolyn, see my October 16 post for the potato dish I ended up making.

    Evelyn, it will be interesting to talk to our neighbors when they get back from the Far West. They are traveling with a group and I'm not sure any of them speaks much American, so they might not get a feel for it all.

    Ladybird, yes, I think of boudins blancs as a Christmas-time food. But these looked attractive so I bought them. They were pretty good. I made some applesauce a few weeks ago (it's in the freezer) so I could have had that with them. But I needed to use up those potatoes.

    Judy, good boudin noir is also really delicious. They make it with onions, or apples, or with hot spices, Caribbean-style. I remember the Mabillon restau-U very well.

    More about the residency cards in a later post. We are going to Blois today to try to get the forms we need to fill out and the list of documents the authorities will need from us.

    Strange about Firefox, but it's not without bugs.

  6. Judy – Simon and I both have dual British/Australian citizenship. He is British and took later Australian citizenship, I am the other way around. Most countries let you retain your original citizenship these days.

  7. Stumbled across your blog looking for something else . . . can't remember what now. Anyway, we're fellow SF area residents who landed here 4 years ago, so it's interesting to see how closely your experiences parallel ours. Re this and other posts:

    Your mayor, hmm. Vote of confidence in you, or lack of confidence in his other neighbors not snooping, or both?

    I notice you've never commented on French drivers. If our excursions in the north are any indication, it's much better up there. Down here, it's just plain nuts. http://lauragais.blogspot.com/2008/08/obstacle.html

    Re residency (if you don't have it already), check into taking the DILF, http://www.ciep.fr/dilf/index.php. I imagine your French is easily up to it (the sample questions on line are pretty trivial), and apparently it's increasingly required by prefectures on residency applications.

  8. Hello Ryan,

    You have an interesting view of things. I just think I will continue thinking of our mayor's confidence in us as just that and not a sign that she doesn't trust the other neighbors.

    I don't have any trouble with the drivers here in general. Of course there is the occasional tailgater and frequent speeder, but where is that not the case?

    I've driven in the Lauragais, the Lot, and the Dordogne, and I've never had any real problems there either. I've had a French driver's license since 1981. Maybe I've bee assimilated.

    Walt and I both have French language diplomas from Paris (the Alliance Française and the Sorbonne). I assume those will satisfy the Préfecture. And if there is an interview, we will do fine. It's interesting to see that they now have these diplomas for foreigners on a national level.

    Thanks for commenting. I enjoy Loulou's blog and assume that's how you found me.


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