Friday, April 6, 2007

Village Shops

Did the village shops today. Before we arrived in France, I had this dreamy vision of strolling down each morning for our daily baguette and exchange of cheery repartee in the bar. This was not immediately the case - I was so embarrassed at the inadequacies of ancient school French that I wanted instead to stroll down to the river and jump in it.

However, the enormous warmth and encouragement of just about everybody we've ever met here made our plunges into conversation a heck of a lot easier. Several years on, we still make ludicrous mistakes but nobody minds and I don't get anguished. Now we confidently gabble away to captive audiences in the butcher, baker, bar, grocer and post office, unstoppable until they manage to back their way to the door, or just fall over in a deep trance. (We have a similar effect at parties).

The shopkeepers have always been so kind in helping us to integrate - "The Annual Dinner Dance is coming up"... "Don't forget the Bike Ride on Saturday"... . What's best in the village shops, though, is the masses of advice we're given: what's in all the wonderful breads, who grew these rosy apples, and as for the meat... the butcher only needs to start on "what to do with beef cheeks" to induce a bombardment of age-old family recipes from all the other customers. We've tried every one - after a few hours of festering, beef cheek becomes succulent and flavoursome and a definite favourite of ours. (Ghastly though the idea was when first confronted).

They are generous in their praise of English food, too. The baker told us all the family really liked George's Christmas Cake, and yesterday couldn't wait to show off a "traditional English Easter cake" that someone makes her every year because she loves it. (There are two or three other UK couples in the vicinity). I had no idea what it was, so she made enquiries and today informed us its name is Hot Cross Bun! Good Heavens - I always used to buy supermarket special packs of shiny cellophaned clones - how was I supposed to know the real thing is sort of brown and lumpy?

Anyway, off to assemble some of these fresh provisions into lunch.

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