20 December 2012

Driving like a chauffard *

It's raining again this morning, and it's supposed to rain for another 36 or even 48 hours. On devient des palmipèdes, if you know what I mean — nice weather for ducks, though we see ourselves more as swans. Bon.

It was raining yesterday when we went out for the Peugeot's first blow-out-the-carbon drive. We filled up the tank at the Intermarché gas station after pouring the recommended fuel additive in. We headed toward Montrichard, where we had a couple of errands to run. Along the way, I turned up a side road toward Pontlevoy, which is up a fairly steep hill from the river valley.

Typical winter weather, looking down the hill toward the river valley, past the trees.
that I'm afraid will fall on the electric lines in the next windstorm.

I kept the car in third gear, as Dominique the mechanic had instructed me to do. The compte-tours (tachometer) on the little Peugeot's instrument cluster shot up to 4000 RPMs at some points and stayed steadily at 3000 or even 3500 RPMs for long stretches. When the speed limit dropped from 90 kph to 50, I put the car in second gear and kept the RPMs at what I until recently would have considered totally unreasonable if not dangerous levels. Actually, the red danger zone on the compte-tours starts at 5000 RPMs.

Winter vineyard scene, between rain showers

After stops at the bank and a couple of supermarkets in Montrichard, we headed west toward the villages of Chissay, Chisseaux, and Chenonceaux. Our destination was the wine cooperative called La Gourmandière, in Francueil, across the river from the château de Chenonceau. We were revving all the way. Since it was raining, there wasn't much traffic (though it was hard to find a parking space in Montrichard).

At the co-op, we bought 30 liters of our own preferred carburant or fuel — red wine — for the holidays (Walt's birthday is tomorrow — et que la fête commence). Local Gamay, Côt, and vin de pays rouge either filled our own jugs or came home with us in bag-in-box packaging. We didn't drink any, so I could continue my Formula 1 style of driving on the way back to Saint-Aignan. Sorry, but because of the rain, I didn't take any photos.

At the supermarket in Montrichard, we bought some of the little sausages called
crépinettes for our lunch. That's caul fat (crépine) wrapped around them.

I got the impression that the car really enjoyed the workout. A couple of hours running at 3000 RPMs and up to 4500 RPMs (in bursts) should have had the desired effect. I was a little disppointed that I didn't see any smoke coming out of the tailpipe — as Dominique had led to believe me I would — but of course I was concentrating on the narrow, curvy little roads ahead of me, and not the tailpipe. And don't get me wrong — I didn't speed, I just drove the speed limit in gears lower than I'm used to shifting into.

We cooked the crépinettes for lunch with pasta and some of our own tomato sauce.

Thinking back, I used to drive that way all the time, and especially when we came to France for vacations and rented cars. Downshifting and using the car engine's braking power in curves and when coming to a stop was how we drove back then. I've always driven cars with manual transmissions (90+ per cent of the cars in France have stick shifts, not automatics) and I therefore much preferred renting vehicles in France than wimpy little automatics in the U.S.

Next week, we plan to take the autoroute over to the big town of Vierzon, 35 miles east on the Cher River, to continue the blow-out. I'll drive at the legal speed limit of 130 kph (81 mph) in fourth gear, which should get the RPMs up. I hope the car — and the employees at the contrôle technique shop — will thank me.

* A chauffard is a reckless or aggressive driver — a real menace on the roads.


  1. Those crepinettes look a lot like slightly elongated English Faggots... but paler... did you roast them in a bath of gravy [as per faggots] or just bake them as-is?

  2. Bon anniversaire à Walt demain! I'm having fun imagining you guys ripping around the countryside at highspeed like wild teens :)

  3. Tim, I don't know the term "faggots" in that sense ;^) — please elucidate.

    Meredith, it was kind of fun.

  4. Ken...
    Lucy Dayshun here...

    A faggot consists of pork liver and heart...
    [you can add other offal as you wish... kidneys, lites [lung], chitterlings [andouilette]...
    all minced with onion and breadcrumbs...
    the resultant mixture is then shaped in the hand into little balls and then wrapped round with caul fat...
    that's the really difficult bit! I've always got holes where I don't want them when using caul!!
    I've tended to use part cooked Savoy cabbage as a more workable substitute...
    but the Wiki article says bacon can also be used...
    I'm not sure how as the mix is somewhat crumbly...
    and you need to wrap it all round to keep it together.

    The Wiki article says cooked in a crock with gravy....
    any old ovenproof dish does...
    and you don't cover the faggots with gravy... halfway up is fine!
    If using cabbage rather than caul, part unwrap halfway through to brown the tops.
    Serve with mushy peas and mashed potato... and don't forget the mint sauce for the mushy peas!

    Pauline is now looking through our library for recipes...

    She just found one that uses cabbage leaves and then caul... that's cheating!!

    There is a fairly traditional recipe here courtesy of the Grauniad.
    This shows them in the dish, with the gravy, and gives the gravy ingredients... but Frozen Peas... never!!
    And shallots make better onion gravy...

    There is another reasonably traditional recipe here.

    But both the above differ from what I learnt... but there are probably as many different recipes for faggots as there are sausages!!

  5. Hmm. Sounds like fun :) I hope it's doing the trick!

  6. I thought my new car would have an automatic transmission but now you have me wondering. The problem in L.A. is the constant stop and go in traffic. It never bothered me before, until now, with my left foot in a cast.
    I've never eaten crepinettes, never heard the term either.Is that a specialite de la touraine? I am really getting out of touch.

  7. I remember downshifting a lot with our stick shift cars that we had in the 60s, 70s and 80s. At some point we shifted ;-) to automatics, but I am forever grateful to know how to drive a stick shift. Both of our children started out with manual transmissions also.

    I hope your next trip solves the problem.

  8. In the UK, if you pass your test in an automatic, you have to take a fresh test in a car with a manual gear shift in order to get a full licence.... so virtually everyone takes the full manual shift test to begin with.
    And when you go rallying over to Vierzon, you two, don't forget to wear your crash helmets... and remember... never act your age... act your shoe size!!

  9. On devient des palmipèdes ici, maintenant! Merci for sharing the idiom, Ken!

    Snow on Tuesday; it had melted off almost entirely yesterday with rain and now just rain, rain and more rain.

    I still drive a manual because I prefer the control, but I think my car will be rebelling if I don't adopt your mechanic's suggestion, as well. It is difficult to admit it, but I, too, have been driving like les petits vieux! (Surely it can't be because on Tuesday I turned over that 65 number!!!) Happy Birthday, Walt. You don't look any older, either!

  10. "* A chauffard is a reckless or aggressive driver — a real menace on the roads." Oh, you mean a typical French driver (typical in Paris anyway).

  11. Have fun driving like we used to. Now that everyone is concentrating more on fuel efficiency, they recommend changing gears early and keeping the rpms low.
    I insisted on getting an automatic on our last change. A blocked shoulder made changing gears really painful and sometimes my knee couldn't stand the constant pedal pushing, either. We ended up getting a used Prius, and have been driving "pépère" ever since.
    In France, too, though, you are better off passing your test with a manual shift because if you pass with an automatic, you won't be allowed to drive a manual shift.

  12. Hi Mary, my palmipeds reference is not a typically French expression as far as I know. I just made it up. It rained again for most of the day today.

  13. Tim, the French crepinettes are made with ground meat, not with offal, as I know.

  14. That would explain the paleness of them... most things offal tend to be darker in colour... Black Pudding, Haggis... etc.... 'cept "Tripe and Onions"...

  15. Yep, "les palmipèdes" is only used by intellectual people such as Ken, lol !!! We use this term for biological classification :-)

    Here is interesting information related to "les crépinettes"


    "Tradition gastronomique

    Pour Noël, les crépinettes sont servies avec des huitres chez les ostréiculteurs du bassin Marennes-Oléron11 ; de même dans le Bordelais où le connaisseur alterne la dégustation d'une huitre fraiche et d'une crépinette chaude"


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