Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Light & Airy -- Literally

         
A lacy "shell" from Rebecca Taylor for a mere 230 Euros.
          My friend Babette who owns the irresistible boutique in the town near our village maintains that if we could snag but one item in the waining days of the soldes  (markdowns), it would be a lace or eyelet blouse.

          All the French fashion magazines I've seen recently agree. It's unlikely that there are any eyelet bijoux lying on the bottom of a sale box at the end of July, but the good news is that these sweet blouses are still available, albeit at regular price points. Still, imagine the ways you could wear them -- from jeans and trousers of all types to skirts of every imaginable confection.

Eyelet blouse from Stella Forest.
         Because I like sleeves on everything, I prefer the Stella Forest model I bought chez Babette when Drea and Ella were here in May.

        French Elle prefers the sleeveless Rebecca Taylor version which btw costs about double the Stella Forest. I can see the advantage of no sleeves for jackets, but I still vote for arm camouflage.      

Monday, July 28, 2014

Life In France: Home Delivery

       
Two horses giving each other massages. . .
         As I've mentioned, not only does our internist make house calls, but also Charlotte's veterinarian.  But, I've never told you that physical therapists also come to the house.

         Today was my first seance with my "out patient" therapist. I've known him for years and he has an extraordinary reputation in our corner of the world. Everyone at rehab raves about him. One of the main reasons I am one of his biggest fans, apart from the obvious, is that he is also an equine massage therapist.

         He says that sometimes he wishes he lived in the United States or England where his horse metier would be appreciated and respected unlike in France where it is not universally considered  worthwhile. Still, he has many clients because we live in horse country.

If the subject of equine massage therapy interests you, click here.
         He'll be back tomorrow. Charlotte loves him which gave me the opportunity to discuss her rheumatoid arthritis. He treats many two-legged patients with serious arthritis problems and he, like several of you, suggested taking her off her current food, which after reading the ingredients I discovered does have cereal in the mix, and giving her "food that logically makes sense for a dog." He has five dogs including a 17-year-old Labrador mix. All eat cereal free food.

         It's a gorgeous day for a walk which is what he told me to do so I'm off. . .

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Diet Directive

         

Are these packages of beurre exciting or what?  Each little rectangle holds 10 grams of butter and if you notice there are three choices of one of France's most delectable products: doux (sweet), demi-sel (some salt) and my all time favorite, sel de Guérande (that lovely, crunchy sea salt).

         Home at last. As I write, Charlotte* is lying next to my feet at the side of my desk.  I missed her almost as much as MRFLIF -- at least he could visit me in rehab. Dogs and children under 13 years of age were not allowed. (The dog part was not specified, but tacitly understood. . .)

         I am desperately trying to keep up the regime I was on while in my "medi-spa". Trust me when I tell you, not yet two days out and it's not as easy as one might imagine. Every day my trays arrived with exactly what I was supposed to eat, in precisely the acceptable portion sizes. After several weeks the eye does become accustomed to portions. That part is not a problem. Yet.

        To accomplish one of my goals, which may seem ridiculous to some, but not to a butter slatherer like moi meme, I bought boxes of individual portions of butter so I could stay on message. According to the dietician I am allowed 20 grams of butter per day. Each of the little rectangles of individually wrapped buerres, is 10 grams. You would be surprised at how much mileage I can get out of those two little packages. My new motto is: scrape, scrape, scrape.

       Before, when confronted with a slab of butter (in a lovely dish or butter whatsit of course) I was incapable of judging quantity. I'm trying to transfer the notion of quality over quantity from my wardrobe to my meals. One is easier than the other.

Delicious donut or Saturn peaches.
      After buying three boxes of butter, I then headed to my favorite market to buy the "donut" peaches I discovered in rehab. When MRFLIF saw them he said, "I'm not eating those things." Fine with me.

      Then I visited my friend Mr. Google to see how many calories there are in a donut peach. He told me 60.

     Oh yes, just for the record, I don't count calories.


* When I told you a couple of months ago how sick Charlotte was, she was put through a battery of gruesome tests. As near as I can translate from the French she has rheumatoid arthritis and she's a sick girl. Our veterinarian, whom we love as I've said, told us it's not fatal, but it's not curable. She was on massive doses of cortizone and now progressively less. The cortizone makes her ravenously hungry and yet she has lost a great deal of weight. Maybe some of you have some thoughts on the subject.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fromage: The Final Chapter

       
Pretend this Lipault suitcase is navy blue, like mine. It's almost completely packed for my departure.
         Early tomorrow morning, I'm heading out. No more rehab. It's over. It was wonderful while it lasted and I fully realize how lucky I am to have been able to be here.

One of my absolute favorite cheeses.
         Before I leave I thought I would tell you about a few of the other cheeses I've eaten while in my medi-spa. I was also thinking, I hope this isn't boring for you. I can't think of a controversy that involves a conversation around fromage. Connoisseurs might argue about some in the same way some would about wine, but that is beyond my purview. I do like Beaufort better than any of the hard cheeses like tomme, Gruyere, Emmenthal and others of that genre. It has more character. Unfortunately there was no Beaufort on offer during my stay.

          Proving that the French are not necessarily chauvinistic about their fromages,  Gouda and Edam were included on the menus.

          More cheese:

Bleu d'Auvergne.
Gruyere
Edam
Gouda
Saint Paulin
Saint Nectaire
Tomme de Savoie
Bûche de chèvre -- can anyone ever get enough of this?
          The entire time in my rehab spa, my menus were hyper-protein.  The dietician worked out a regime for me and luckily cheese is protein.  As you know from the entrées there were always lots of vegetables and usually desserts were yogurt and fruit.  I'll let you know if the diet worked.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fantastic French Fromages, Part I

       
Annato seeds from the achiote tree that gave mimolette its bright orange color.
          Every day, for lunch -- never dinner -- my tray features a tiny plate with a morsel of cheese. The portion is perfect, not too frustratingly small and not too calorifically large.

          As you no doubt know, France produces some 400 difference cheeses categorized into eight distinct families (more on this tomorrow) and within the 400 there are different nuances on the theme which makes me think of the difficult decisions I'm required to make in front of a shelf of chèvre varieties at our fromagerie.

          Each meal, except breakfast of course which is always the same, is accompanied by a small menu. Somehow this adds to the pleasure. I can read what I am about to eat. I've saved all of the menus for the sole purpose of telling you about what is on offer in rehab. The cheeses may be the most exciting. I think the fromage series will be three parts because I don't believe I've had the same cheese twice.

          I've chosen six cow's milk cheeses today, all delicious and many if not all familiar to you, except perhaps the one that is made industrially. It's really unexpectedly good like many prepared products can be.

          Les Fromages:


Emmenthal: It originated in Switzerland, but the French make their own.


Camembert:  What's to say really? One of my absolute favorites. I like it a little "ripe" while MRFLIF likes it less strong.


Brie de Meaux: The best of the best in my opinion and I'm certainly not alone. It has just enough salt in it.  Other types of brie are available, but those from Meaux are the winner. (Feel free to disagree.)


Coulommiers: Creamy, creamy, creamy and often referred to as "brie's little sister." It's a lovely cheese.


Mimolette: It looks like a cantaloupe and has a fascinating history. Apparently during the 17th century the French were taken with the taste of Edam, but at the behest of the Sun King, Louis XIV, and his finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, it was decided that France should create its equivalent -- but different -- fromage. Part of the difference included the color of the cheese. By adding the natural colorant, annato, from the seeds of a tropical tree, mimolette became a bright orange and singularly different from Edam.



Fromage aux noix de Dordogne:  This is an industrialized spreadable cheese as you can see from the packaging. It's nutty, creamy and good even though it may be a travesty in the real world of fromage. I rather doubt it makes it into the official count.  Children probably love it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

La Politesse, C'est Naturel

       
The subject of politesse fascinates me. I plan on finding this book.
          My question: If as the new poster in the hall outside our physical therapy room declares that being polite is natural, why is it necessary to have a poster?

          I asked (discreetly) around the establishment and the only consistent answer I found was something equivalent to "you'd be surprised."

         Since everyone here, without exception in my experience, is beyond polite and exceptionally kind I assume the message is not directed at the personnel. It must be for us, the patients.

         Apparently it is.

         Unless customs have changed in my absence, in the United States one is not required by politesse to walk into the waiting room of a doctor's or an attorney's office, a shop, a bakery or any other public place where there might be a collection of strangers waiting for their turn for something and say "hello" to the group. We just sort of slink in, find a seat or our place in line and maybe offer a tepid smile. End of story.

        Not in  France.

        We must say a sweeping "bonjour madame" and "bonjour monsieur" before we sit down or stand to wait with the others. A smile is not necessarily de rigueur.

         As is no doubt the case in every country in the world "please" and "thank you" are part of the social drill.

Isn't it interesting that a similar book for children in English would probably be entitled:  "Please and Thank  You" which we tell our children as a mantra: They are the magic words. You see here the importance of "bonjour" in France.
         The new poster features cartoon characters: a nurse holding a sign that says, bienvenue; a handyman with the message SVP (if you please) written on the bib of his overalls; and an adolescent holding a basketball that says merci. Then, if we don't get the message, the final line says: "C'est important pour vous; c'est important pour nous." It's important for you, it's important for us.

          I should ask My-Reason-For-Living-In-France what he thinks about the message. Meanwhile I cannot help but wonder if adults need lessons in politesse. Then I reason, they probably do or the poster wouldn't be there.
     

Monday, July 21, 2014

La Pêche Parfaite

       
Saturn or donut peaches.
         So many of you are far more sophisticated than I am in the cuisine, I often wonder if you think I don't get out much. I preface this confession of mine because perhaps I am one of the few people on this earth who just discovered Saturn or "donut" peaches.

          I've often seen them at my favorite market, but was never tempted to buy them because my focus has always been on the classic peach, both white and yellow, and nectarines. Truth be told, I thought they were some sort of aberration. I never asked for clarification. What a fool.

          Ever since I've been in rehab and found them on my luncheon tray, they are my new obsession. The minute I'm sprung from here, Friday morning, I'm heading to the market to buy a kilo of donut peaches.

When I mentioned in my physical therapy class that I thought these peaches were wonderful,  one woman said, "You should taste them in tarts or just peel them, cut in large chunks and sauté with butter and a little sugar."
          If, like me, you are not familiar with them they are perfectly divine.  The fruit (I hate using the word "flesh" when describing fruits and vegetables) is white, sweet, juicy and some aficionados say with a "slight taste of almond." I have yet to detect the almonds.

         Must run. Did my physical therapy this morning, plus the balneotherapy, now I'm off to my "gym" class.        
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