Tuesday, March 22, 2011

gastronomic hiking

For years I have seen the ads and the posters inviting people to come out for hikes that end with a communal meal, but before last Sunday I had never participated in one. An old student of mine invited us to come out for such a randonnée last weekend and we decided to check it out. We gathered at the activity centre in St Mélaine sur Aubance at 9 am and signed up for the hike and meal. There were three circuits available at 8, 13 and 18 km. We went for the 13 km one and opted for the meal at the end.

We started with a coffee and then headed out on the marked path. After about 4 or 5 km there was a refreshment stand with brioche, hunks of chocolate, pain au chocolat, apples and water. It didn't seem like we needed refreshment, but we stayed and nibbled and chatted for a few minutes before continuing on. We wandered through vineyards, villages and hamlets, sometimes walking along roads, but mostly keeping to small paths. After a few hours of walking, we arrived back at the activity centre to be greeted with a glass of rosé. We then sat down to a meal which included spaghetti bolognese, cheese, wine, dessert and coffee. The cost of the event was 7€ and all proceeds went towards helping people in a specific village in Senegal. There were probably a couple of hundred of us between the three circuits and it was all in all a very enjoyable time!

I have to say, we're not usually early risers on the weekend, since we both have to get up early during the week, and if we do go for hikes it's usually in the afternoon. But it was so nice to get out early, get 13 km in before lunch and then still have the rest of the day to do other things. I think we may start doing this a little more often!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

the market basket

When I first met Jean-Marc I thought it was so charming that he had a market basket in his kitchen. We have always had one at the farmhouse that we like to take to the market (or supermarket) to fill up with veggies and fruit; it's so romantic! This is it here:
The first time we headed down to visit his parents together, Jean-Marc filled up his market basket with empty jam jars, various tupperware (pronounced: too-pair-WAR) and plastic bags. He mentioned that all these things belonged to his parents and he needed to return them. "Sounds normal," I thought, but I wasn't expecting the eventual refill that was coming our way. Upon our departure, my mother-in-law gave me a list of everything she had put in the basket: homemade jams, fresh veggies from the garden as well as a few leftovers for Jean-Marc's lunch the next day. Apparently this is a ritual that is to happen every time we get together. Just this last weekend we ended up with two homemade jams, leftover homemade apple tart, a container of grated carrots and a bag of washed frisée from the garden, green cabbage and leeks from the garden, as well as some rillettes, vegetable stock, apples and potatoes. We never know what we're going to get, but I have to admit it's kind of nice to get a surprise basket of mostly local and homemade/homegrown things. It's somewhat like those deliveries of organic produce that are usually a surprising mix of unexpected items, except mom-style.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

being outdoors

Well, after my little slump a couple of weeks ago, I feel as if something has shifted. Maybe it's the forsythia that a friend gave me, or the crocuses, daffodils and cherry blossoms that are out everywhere, but things feel lighter. The weather has also brightened up a bit and this has inspired me to head outside and go walking or jogging. On Saturday I headed out to a little island that is in the middle of the Loire - Béhuard - and ran through the middle of the village, which has been classified as a cité de caractère, and all around the island on the river front. Just being outside and appreciating the weather, the surroundings and the solitude was enough to give me some perspective.