La Galette season once more

I was listening to Radio 2 a few days ago and the presenter was talking about Wassailing which sounded very similar to the French tradition of bringing good luck at the start of the year that I had to find out more information.

Wassailing is famous in the West Country of England around Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. Where the tradition is to make a cake with a bean inside and whoever is served the slice of cake containing bean becomes King for the day. Which is the same in France, however the English King for the day then goes to bless the oldest tree in the apple orchard in order to dismiss evil spirits and encourage good spirits so that the apple orchard will flourish and more Cider is produced. After the blessing of the tree, cider is poured around the tree, then another blessing, singing, drinking cider and eating more of the cake. This particular tradition dates from Anglo-Saxon Times and is performed around the twelfth night but can be performed throughout January.

In France a similar tradition with a cake takes place, it starts on 6th January and continues until Shrove Tuesday. A cake is baked containing a favour, the custom taken from the Roman Saturnalia. Whoever has the slice with the favour is crowned King for the day. In France it is the cake that brings good luck for the coming year.

Perhaps I should introduce the drinking of walnut liqueur around the oldest walnut tree in Daglan!
 

La GaletteAt first we went for the Brioche which had sugar crystals on top, it tasted something like a large doughnut.
 

Frangipane Next we picked the traditional frangipane La Galette, which can have various different fillings such as almond paste, apricot, raspberry or apple, all are very delicious.
 

FavoursWe bought three Galette over the month of January, Paul was King for the day twice and myself once, and here are the favours. I am considering baking my own next year but the Galette from the Boulangerie at Castelnaud is so delicious.
 
 

Events:-

Sarlat Organic Night Market 2nd February.

Daglan Spring Festival 19th March.

 

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Ban on UFO landing!

In Chateuneuf-du-Pape, the Mayor of the town which is traditionally famous for its wine producing area has stated that he has no plans to lift the ban on “flying over, landing, or taking off of flying saucers in the area”. The original ban was signed by the former Mayor Lucien June in 1954, when a man told the local Mayor that he had seen two figures get out of a flying saucer. The current Mayor Claude Avril announced that “it creates a harmless bit of fun for the town”.
 

angry-cartoon-alien-ufo-illustration-looking-47714920Go to Daglan

Image courtesy Dreamstime Stock Images

Other interesting French Laws are:-
It is illegal to name your pig Napoleon
Drinking alcohol at work is forbidden except if it is wine, cider or beer!
It is illegal to kiss through the window of a train while it is on the platform!

Its so Cold

Winter

When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When Blood is nipped and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-who;
Tu-whit, tu-who: a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

William Shakespeare.

 

My goodness it is cold -10 a few days ago, -7 today but am I complaining well a little but you need the cold to appreciate the warmth of Spring. It is one of the many things that I love about France, you certainly notice the changing seasons – from weather to the seasonal fruit and vegetables in the markets.
 

dscn2191a“This is mine, just try to take it from me”.
 

Like all eccentric people Paul and I do not let the freezing temperatures stop us from going out, so on a -10 day we left the warmth of our home to go shopping in Sarlat. The country side did look gorgeous bathed in a frosty glow but I was observing from inside the car wrapped in a car blanket!
 

These pictures were taken later in the day near Castelnaud
dscn2226We were unsure if the Montgolfier’s were getting ready to take off or they have just landed or the owners were testing them?
 

dscn2225aUp, up and away
 

News:-
Beynac-et-Cazenac: The D703 is closed to the public until 17th February due to construction work to widen the road and pavement. Diversions are marked, and very scenic.

Domme: Major works installing new utilities – electrics, gas, water, drainage and communications, expect road and path closures. All new for the Spring season.

 

Vitrac & Vitrac Port.

Vitrac consists of a port and a small village near the hamlet of Monfort. Vitrac Port is located on the D46 between Sarlat and Cénac et Saint Julien, Vitrac village is about a kilometre away along the D55.

Although we drive through Vitrac Port a couple of times each week on our way to and from Sarlat we have never stopped to look at the twin villages before, so on a very cold but sunny day we ventured out to take a look.
 

dscn2016A magnificent Château is to be found at the entrance to Vitrac village
 

dscn2017Vistas over the Château grounds to the swirling mist on the hills and the dordogne river in the distance.

The village itself is quite small, in the main square is the church of Saint Martin, opposite is a narrow lane that leads off to the artists studio.
 

dscn2022This photograph taken at Vitrac Port reminded me so much of a scene from the film ‘A Good Year’, staring Russel Crow. If you have seen the film it is the scene when he is taking photograhs of the grounds in order to sell the estate. However, each photogragh he takes reminds him of his deseased Uncle and the wonderful memories of his childhood. The photogragh just needed a smoked cigar in an ashtray on the table to complete the scene.
 

dscn2023The rushing water of the Dordogne completes this magnifisent property.
 

dscn2019Just over the bridge there is an excellent park area where each table and benches are enclosed in a horse shoe shaped hedge.

Of course in Spring and Summer you can rent a canoe or two from Vitrac Port and slowly meander your way down the river. Or you could go further along the road and visit Monfort, Domme, Daglan or Sarlat.
 

Close by is the Château de Montfort.
dscn2232aThe Château has had a turbulent history starting with Bernard de Casnac who was not a very pleasent person to meet if you were Catholic for he swore “to cut to pieces” any Catholic that he enounted. Which was at odds with the peaceful Cathars at that time! Then came the infamous Simon de Montfort and a list of others throughout history who pilaged, burned, rebuilt and destroyed again. In fact it is quite a feat for the Château to be here at all, but I am glad it is.

Sadly it is in private hands so not open to the public but it is still worth a visit just to see its magnifisant turrets.

 

 

 

 

Truffle Festival

This is undoubtedly the highlight of January, Sarlat Truffle Festival which ran for two days last weekend. There are not many things that would entice me to leave the warmth of a log fire when the temperature outside is -2 and I have a bad cold but the prospect of buying a truffle wins every time.

At up to one thousand euros a kilo the fusty, musty, heady truffle is among the worlds most expensive foods, comparable to caviar that is a similar price.

You can find truffles used in moose, macerons, chocolate, and thinly sliced on top or in various meat and vegetarian dishes. When Paul and I had a holiday in Umbria many years ago we were introduced to truffle ice cream, sounds a bit icky but it was so delicious.

Due to the fact that it can be used to flavour foods before you actually use the truffle it can be quite economical. Dropped in with other foods such as eggs, pasta, chicken or rice so the truffle aroma and taste will permeate most food products you can make a small truffle last for several meals.
 

Medieval Quarter in Sarlat Medieval Quarter in Sarlat where truffle hunters and Chiefs from all over the Perigord Black sell their truffles and truffle creations.

There have always been truffles in the Perigord Black but due to the First and Second World Wars, the nurture of the truffle went into decline, on one hand due to the loss of the smallholders and on the other hand the shrinking forests due to changes of land use and the exhaustion of truffle friendly trees. Across France in the 1930’s, the truffle harvest was roughly 1000 tons. During the 1960’s replanting of trees such as the French Oak was introduced plus other trees to test the growth of truffles. Now however is the constant threat of climate change. Hotter Summers and less rainfalls in other parts of France is reducing the growth of the truffle. So as the harvest starts to decline so the price increases. Today in sharp contrast it is only about 50 tons.
 

Truffles on displayVery proud owners of the truffle selling their finds at various weights and quality.
 

Truffle mooseTruffles made into moose with grated truffle on top, or thinly sliced between pate.
 

Two young Chiefs Two young Chiefs competing for the best truffle macerons. We did buy two macerons from them and ate them while the Chiefs waited for our response. Truly delicious boys.
 

Truffle maceronsOf course we had to buy two large macerons from another Chief to take home with us. You can not beat coffee or chocolate macerons made with truffles, the flavour is magnificent.
 

Our little truffleOur little prize along side a dessert spoon, we only paid fifteen euros so a really good price. We placed the truffle on top of eggs and left them over night. The truffle had permeated the egg shell by the morning giving the scrambled eggs the luxury flavour of truffle. Now the truffle is sitting in the rice container to flavour the rice.

A pig or a dog is usually used to sniff and find truffles in the forests, however I think that we may have the first truffle cat! Our kitten Cleo loves the smell of truffle.
 

Events:-

Castelnaud-la-Chapelle 28th and 29th January for the International Céou Canoe Race.

Daglan 19th March for the Second Spring Festival of Flowers.

Sculpture extraordinaire Lau. Dussol.

A work of art has been created from a dead tree which stands just outside the library opposite the church in the village. Instead of digging the tree up and taking it way the Maire and the Commune decided on a brilliant idea of transforming the tree into a work of art. M. Lau. Dussol was duly commissioned for the task.

Paul and I have taken many walks past the tree over the months and seen the transformation. Starting from the bottom up two people came into view.
 

dscn2146On this side is a lady wearing traditional dress and clogs.

 

dscn2145On the other side is a gentleman in a top hat.
Above them both are various heraldic shields, one of which is the shield of Daglan.

 

dscn2144What I love though are the gargoyles on top of the tree at the back and sides, with the dove of peace at the front.

 

Now consider the artists tools, most of the work was carried out with a chain saw which really highlights the fine skill of the artist.

He was also commissioned to create a totem pole for the Primary School in the village, brilliant.
 

dscn2203A proud Maire and I admiring the artists work.

 

Event:- See you all at Sarlat Truffle Festival on Saturday the 14th January, we will be the couple eating truffle macaroons, they are so good.

New Year Resolutions.

I do not know about you but I always make a few new year resolutions which seem to fade away by the end of January. However, this year I really mean (this has also been said before) to get fitter, learn more French and improve my embroidery skills. We will see how it goes.

It is always delightful to see the Primary School children who were in the Square a few days ago. At first I thought that it was a treasure hunt, but no… much to the excitement of the children the teachers where attaching coloured paper to the various trees. In fact the trees of Daglan are now decked in new year resolution and wishes signs written by the children. So sweet, Paul and I walked from tree to tree reading them.

dscn2188Quite a few say that they will try to eat less chocolate.
 

dscn2175Others wish to be kinder to animals or look after animals more. A few promise to look after the old people in the village. Being old(ish) myself I was very pleased with this one. Some wish for peace in Syria and around the world
 

dscn2172One wishes to reduce pollution, which I thought was brilliant.
 

dscn2176
What a wonderful idea.
 

Lastly Paul and I would like to thank the Maire, M. Pascal Dussol and the Committee of Daglan, it was a really nice shock to see our blog mentioned has part of the traditional voeux de Maire speech of the year at the Salle de Fete last night, it was unexpected and indeed an honour.
 

Events – Truffle Festival in Sarlat on the 14th and 15th January.