I mentioned last week that Mrs. Parish and I were developing cold symptoms and I remembered the old adage that you should feed a cold (as well as Emile’s calvados remedy). So what better country to be in than France to put this to the test. 

The French are obsessed with food. Our local radio station France Bleu Mayenne has a daily programme every morning devoted to food. There are discussions of different foods and recipes and for half an hour they dispense with any annoying music to concentrate on the food. It is serious stuff and there is audience participation with a phone in. I can’t always follow the programme in detail but I can get the sense of what they are talking about and this leads Mrs. Parish and me to discuss our weekly menu and who will be doing the cooking.

Last weekend we had some friends around to help us eat up the rabbit that Patrique had given us. Mrs. Parish is in charge of the fine dining cooking and did her recipe which involves marinating the rabbit for 24 hours in red wine and then cooking it with prunes. A friend of mine from England (Janet) has upped the ante on this recipe by letting us know her method of soaking the prunes in Brandy. As she says this is a win win situation. The rabbit in red wine and prunes in brandy, wow. Given that the weather is very cold and we have been doing a lot of work outside we have been leaning heavily on casseroles with meat from our lovely French butcher. We went in last weekend and asked for some beef for bourguignon. The French style is not to give your already cut up meat but to cut enough for you from a large piece of beef. How much would you like asks Monsieur Rebuffe and we say just enough for two people. Monsieur Rebuffe is quite a large person and I suspect has quite an appetite so enough for two is on his terms. We get home to find enough for two meals which is no bad thing!

So this week we have been feeding up to counteract the cold and of course I have had to have a few calvas to help. It has clearly worked as the cold symptoms have now gone completely. Fortunately we have been working outside on clearance work so the effect of all that food should be countered by a decent amount of exercise. I keep thinking that I should get my bike out, particularly as I got new cycling gloves for Christmas but it is very cold and windy so I have resisted so far.

I have also been considering for some time where the name La Godefrere comes from. It is the name of the hamlet we live in so applies to all the 4 houses here. I have wondered about the name particularly as I had assumed that Godefrere had some relation to the French word for brother (frère). However frère is a masculine word and therefore should be preceded by Le (all French nouns are either male or female). Which when you are learning the language is a real pain and it seems largely pointless. Anyway my thoughts were around the name having something to do with God and brother. So to the rescue as ever comes the internet and I have looked up various sources thinking that maybe it some form of patois word. Eventually I found that on an 18th Century map the hamlet was called La Godefrairie. There is an old French word which translates “frairie” as a part of a village. I then discovered that someone has written a paper about French hamlet names. “Names of habitable places ending in iere or erie in Basse Normandy”. The paper is in French and the former is a rough translation of the title. As you can imagine it is a riveting read but does reveal that these endings are related to family owned land. In our case it means simply land owned by the family Godefray. So there it is problem solved.

Also this last month we have had lots of cold weather and several days where we have had snow. I got to thinking about the benefits of hibernating  through the winter. There has been a massive amount of snow in the Pyrenees and the Alps regions of France and in some cases there has been so much snow that they have had to close the ski resorts. I have been reading a book about French life and culture and there is an interesting bit in the book about hibernation. Apparently the tradition of closing down for the winter was quite common in the high mountain regions. In some cases whole villages were abandoned for winter. In other areas from autumn populations entombed themselves until March or April in a room with a hay loft over head and with their animals on one side. They emerged in spring “dishevelled and anaemic”.  In other more enterprising areas the locals relied upon the money they made during the summer to have a winter of idleness smoking, drinking, playing cards a bit of hunting and lots of sleeping. In Burgundy after the harvest and getting the vine in the men mended their tools and then took to their collective bed packing their bodies together for warmth and eating less food. This is based upon extracts from “Discovering France” by Graham Robb.

I have discussed with the cats the idea of a winter hibernation and they are quite keen on the idea until we come to the bit about eating less. They like the idea of being inside and sleeping lots but not if they have to eat less. They seem to want to eat more when it is cold and while they like to come inside where it is warm they will always leave if their food is put outside.

The cats and me trying a bit of hibernation

Last night we had the latest in our series of village dinner evenings. This time it was at the local village Le pas about 3 miles away from us. This time it was advertised as a sports dinner in aid of the village sports teams. The tickets said that it started at 8pm. We arrived at 8-20 and were the first ones there apart from the people serving. As usual with these things people did not start to arrive until 9pm and it was nearly 10 before the food arrived. As it was a sports evening there were far more young people there than at previous village suppers. The bar area was full of young men probably just as it would be at a similar event in Britain. However in Britain all the young men would have pints of beer, larger or cider. Here in France they virtually all had bottles of wine in hand (with a glass). It looked quite odd, although perfectly normal for France.

This was also the night that had seen France playing in the 6 nation’s rugby tournament. France beat Scotland 15 – 8 and so everyone was happy. We had no Scots among our party and so we had to mock Suzanne who is from Wales who happened to lose to England on Friday. So we Anglo-French rugby fans had reason to be happy. Until that is we came to a disagreement about the rules of rugby concerning “rucking”. This is the bit when a player is tackled and everyone piles in on top in an attempt to get the ball. There appears to be no rules applying at all and mayhem ensues. However there are clear rules. As there was an argument about who could pick up the ball I proceeded to demonstrate using a plastic juice bottle as the player with the ball (represented by a sugar cube). The tackling player was a large empty bottle of red wine (the red wine being inside me). The supporting players on either side were played by four small coffee cups.

I was able to show that the juice bottle had to release the sugar cube once tackled or face a penalty. The tackling bottle of wine was able to pick up the ball provided he remained on his feet. The supporting cups of coffee could also attempt to push over and gain the sugar cube providing they stayed on their feet and did not enter the ruck from the side. I then attempted to explain this to Emile in French and failed but he was in fits of laughter. At about 12-30 we realised that we were by far the oldest people still there and so we decided we had better leave and leave the disco to the under eights who were the only ones with the energy to dance by that time.

I must go now as I have had an email from a French person who is enquiring about the gite. He wants to come for 3 nights and is asking if he can bring his cat with him!!! I think not. Three cats here at La Godefrere is quite enough thank you. I had better have a glass of tackling rugby player before I compose a suitable reply!

Bon weekend,