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Les Feuilles Mortes

Posted on October 19th, 2013

Autumn is approaching rapidly in the Luberon. The countryside is turning a stunning range of yellows, golds and browns. Unwanted grapes fall from the vines. Everywhere there is a scent of wood smoke from log fires. Mushrooms burst through the forest floor. Bonfires release plumes of blue smoke across the valley while hunters roam the fields and forests. Migratory birds cross the sky. Soon the olive harvest begins, followed by the truffle season. Wildlife prepares for winter. A viper has come to live in our upper walls – hopefully he will keep mice at bay. In two weeks we will celebrate three years here – it just gets better every day………………. . Autumn Leaves was written in 1945, originally in French. EdithPiaf recorded this bilingual version in 1950.

Half-baked baguettes

Posted on October 13th, 2013

Many French, particularly Parisians, are acutely sensitive to trends, terrified of being seen as dépassée. The latest victim of fashion is that great symbol of France, the baguette. In Paris’ chic 16th arrondissement, up to 90% of customers want their baguettes pas trop cuites, so reluctant bakers are deliberately undercooking baguettes to meet customer demand. Technically the brown exterior, distinctive flavour and smell of a true baguette derive from the Maillard Reaction, a heat-dependent chemical effect. Underbaked bread has a minimal crust and much less flavour. Many bakers are baffled by the latest vogue and complain it is changing the baguette into something different – a flabby, chewy, soft loaf. Bread yes, but not a real baguette. Worse still, sales of baguettes are falling.…

Eating well in Prague

Posted on October 6th, 2013

If you crave sausages and dumplings in smoky beer halls, Prague will not disappoint. Happily we discovered that Prague has much more to offer, thanks to a city food walk with Taste of Prague. Co-owner Jan met us at Wenceslas Square with a glass of slivovitz, home-made by his partner’s father in Moravia and for the next three hours we were captivated by an entertaining introduction to Czech food replete with interesting asides on Prague history, architecture and growing up in the communist era. First stop was the Cestr steak house in the brutalist-style former communist federal parliament building. The restaurant is renowned for its beef, with an on-site butcher preparing cuts from fresh daily arrivals. The age of the animal, days on special feed…

A tale of two factories

Posted on October 4th, 2013

Industrial unions in France are sometimes noted for their intransigence and disconnection from reality. This story is a stark illustration of the consequences of truculence versus commonsense. One hundred and twenty kilometres north of Paris, the city of Amiens has two tyre factories. One makes Dunlop tyres, the other Goodyear and both are owned by the same company, Goodyear Dunlop France. In recent years the company has been threatened by changing markets and increasing global competition. The message has been clear – restructure, change the way you work or face closure. Workers at the Dunlop factory in Amiens-Sud struck a deal. They kept their 35-hour work week but agreed to more onerous shifts involving a rotation of 4-day and 6-day weeks including weekends and…

Chateau de Javon

Posted on October 4th, 2013

Javon is not even a hamlet, merely a couple of houses and a modest chateau, more like a fortified manor house. It is on a remote winding road climbing the Monts de Vaucluse between St. Saturnin-les-Apt and Sault. The Chateau de Javon was built in 1551 by the Lord of Javon, Pierre Baroncelli of Avignon, descendant of an influential Florentine family. In 1444 Pierre Baroncelli (the elder) was outlawed and forced to flee Florence for Avignon during factional squabbles opposing Cosimo de Medici. His nephew, Francois Baroncelli, was appointed Lord of Javon in 1513 by another Medici, Pope Leo X, and the chateau was built by Francois’ son, also called Pierre. In the religious wars the chateau was surprised by protestant cavalry on 19th…