Sunday, December 6, 2020

Lockdown diaries day thirty-eight, Advent day six, snails

French Village Lockdown Diaries day thirty-eight France Trivia advent calendar day six
Advent day six

Day thirty-eight, Sunday 6th December 2020


Advent day six

Christmas kind of arrived with a real jingle yesterday evening when we prepared the pizzas to the accompaniment of the first play of the Christmas music, and then enjoyed Love Actually (our favourite Christmas film) after dinner. My Sauvignon Blanc scored higher than the Chardonnay from Friday, and tonight I have a red Cabinet Syrah to look forward to, and it’s a Biere Brune for Adrian and boy does he deserve it. 


French Village Lockdown Diaries day thirty-eight France Trivia advent calendar day six
Cleaning the sewing machine

If yesterday was a productive list-ticking-off kind of a day, today was frustrating. Everything we tried to do, went wrong, didn’t work, needed fixing and ended up taking forever. The worst was the sewing machine. All I needed to do was hem two small squares of material to make curtains for inside a cupboard door. This would be the finishing touches to upcycling the old TV unit, that we bought when we moved in together in 1997 but is too small for the new TV. Adrian has lovingly sanded the pine, given it five coats of white paint, replaced the legs, fitted new handles and with the curtains it would be ready to go up on the landing to house my sewing machine and other sewing bits and pieces. You would have thought the sewing machine would be grateful for a new home, but seemingly not. The first problem was a bent needle which knocked the foot off every time I tried to move it. Adrian replaced the needle. Then it seemed there was another problem causing it to jam (somewhere) and break the thread. Adrian to the rescue once more. He cleared the insides of years of fluff, kept tinkering and trying and eventually, after fitting another needle, had it working fine. It would seem the machine prefers Brother needles to cheaper ones found in multi thread sets from budget supermarkets. Things could have been worse, I know. My poor mum needed a covid-19 test first thing this morning and is now under strict isolation until Wednesday, when she goes into hospital for a knee operation. 


French Village Lockdown Diaries day thirty-eight France Trivia advent calendar day six
My new sewing cupboard

The finished sewing cupboard is now in place and I’m delighted with it. Adrian’s done a great job giving it a new lease of life and it’s just the right size for the landing, which needed something in the way of furniture, but we didn’t want it looking cluttered. There really is no end to his talents, he even gave my lockdown locks another trim this afternoon.


If I’d have had more time today, I would have made the first batch of mince pies, but they will now have to wait until tomorrow. I am rather excited about dinner though as I’m planning to add a Christmas flavour twist to tonight’s risotto. Inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s parsnip risotto recipe, mine will have parsnips, Brussels sprouts, lardons, leeks, mushrooms, chestnuts and courgettes. 


France Trivia advent calendar, day six, snails

As things seemed to move as slow as a snail here today, I thought a few trivia facts about this French delicacy would be appropriate. 


Larousse informs me that snails have been on this earth far longer than man has and from cave finds, Frenchmen have been enjoying them since prehistoric times. The Romans were also partial to them and would cleanse them with milk before frying them. They were also the first to raise them in farms, to ensure they reached a decent size before eating them. Snails then fell out favour when the Christian church declared these rampant breeders to be impure, and it was only the poor who continued to eat them, until their gastronomic revival in the 19th century. In 1814, when celebrated chef Antonin Carême was invited to produce a dish to impress Tsar Alexandre 1st, he chose snails cooked in butter, garlic and parsley, and the rest is history. Larousse also recommends that as it can be a tricky dish to eat, often rather messy and involves lots of buttery sauce you’ll want to mop up with bread, it is a dish best served with close friends and family with whom you are at ease. 


Our neighbours Pierrette and Dominique regularly collect snails from the hedgerows after the rain and have shared not only the final dish with us, but their preferred method of cooking too. First the snails must be purged in a cage with no food for two months. Pierrette can then begin the lengthy cooking process, simmering the snails in white wine with sautéed shallots, pork rillettes, an onion studded with cloves, and lots of garlic and herbs, for at least three hours, then allowing them to cool. The following day she repeats this process, and will eat them after cooking again, on day three. They may not be everyone’s idea of a tasty meal, but I can assure you Pierrette’s were delicious. 

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