La vie est belle ! (Life’s just great !)
As I write this week I am fortunate to be enjoying the spring sunshine in France. Ten years ago we bought this little house in the south west – the Aude and our petite maison is nestled in a small village in the Montagne Noir. I'm not talking villa with swimming pool and large garden but a small very old terraced stone house enjoying clean air, views, countryside and no cars.
Some Brits seeking a bolt hole abroad are attracted to areas that boast many English speaking residents and "Britishness". We didn't want that. If I had wanted to mix with the English I may as well stay in north Lincolnshire. I wanted to better understand the language, the culture, the wine and most importantly the food of rural France.
My first hurdle was the language. At school French was taught and I hated it. It made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. I had never been to France, didn't really know where it was so instead I became a disruptive idiot in class. Consequently, as an adult I had no foundation and had to start from scratch. Ten years on I am proud to say after lessons, books and tapes I can converse quite freely, read a recipe book without any problem and understand the gist of what is being said on the radio and television.
An understanding of the language is fundamental to a full life in France and once you have the confidence and courage to have a go, the people are brilliant at helping you out. It is fun actually when trying to explain something when you don't have all the vocabulary – a bit like a game of charades. As with English there are French words which sound similar as I found out to my cost !
I was once asked by my neighbour Janine to bring for her from the town 1kg Haricot (pronounced "arrico") green beans. I remember thinking that's an awful lot of beans for an old lady who lives alone. Anyway in the market (French markets are superb by the way), I weighed out the 2.2 lbs beans and brought them home. The shock horror on Janine's face. She was alarmed and confused and when I questioned her she told me she had asked for 1kg Abricot (pronounced "abricco") apricots.
I continue to make such errors to the amusement of everyone and I have many other similar stories but am mindful that I must keep my blog post short and readable. On the subject of apricots I will share with you this week my recipe for apricot and almond slices. The recipe uses ready to eat dried apricots so can be made all the way through the year – no need to wait for the apricot season.
Hope the sun is shining where you are and look forward to talking again soon.
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