31 August 2017


Maybe you make lasagna all the time. It's pretty easy, actually. It's a great way to use up a lot of an overwhelming zucchini crop. You need cheese and tomato sauce, which you can buy at the supermarket. Spinach or chard can be really good in a lasagna too. The tomato sauce can have meat in it or not.

I like to pre-cook zucchini slightly before putting it into the layers of the lasagna. This summer, one time I cut the squash into disks, drizzled them with olive oil in a big bowl, tossed them around, and put them in the microwave, covered, for a few minutes. When they were partially cooked, I could put the lasagna together. This time, I decided to cut the squash into "slabs" and cook them slightly in the oven after brushing them with olive oil. That gives good flavor.

The cheeses I used this time were mozzarella and ricotta, with a sprinkle of grated Swiss cheese (emmental râpé that I bought at the store) on top. I used six lasagne noodles on each of three layers — 18 in all, then. Start by spreading a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the lasagna pan and arrange the first 6 noodles over that. Then continue making layers of noodles, cheese, sauce, and squash or other vegetables.

I had made a quick tomato sauce with some of the many many fresh tomatoes we have right now. Instead of making a meat sauce, I included some slices of pre-cooked chicken breast in one of the lasagna layers.

We ended up with an extra-large lasagne. One third of it was enough for our lunch, and the other two thirds went into the freezer for later. We'll enjoy some summery lasagna between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I think.

30 August 2017

Stones and cones

Just as the latest heat wave was a-building, our neighbor's house was undergoing major work. The neighbor, a woman who lives year-round in the Paris area and spends just a few weeks here in summertime, had cleared out a day or two earlier. Now I understand why. This is the exterior wall of her bedroom.

The house is an old farmhouse. The late husband of the neighbor grew up there, and his mother lived in the house until about 10 years ago. She passed away at the age of 95 after spending a few years in a retirement home. Six of our neighbors have died since we came to live here in 2003. Four of them were in their 90s.

I don't know why the "render" (sheathing) needed to be taken off this wall. It looks like the wooden ceiling beams that are set into the stones might be rotting. Maybe the wall was no longer waterproof and moisture caused damage.

If you saw Walt's blog post yesterday, you've seen Tasha the Shetland sheepdog puppy in her neck collar-cone. I took this one early one morning this week.

By the way, yesterday the temperature hit 95ºF (35ºC) at least. Sometime around four o'clock in the afternoon I just took to my bed with no covers and the fan blowing on me. I slept for two or three hours. Then I got up, watched some news on CNN about Houston and the flooding, and went back to bed at nine. I slept. I hate to complain about our weather when I see videos of the disaster in Texas. Today, our high temperature is supposed to be much, much cooler than yesterday's. Relief...

29 August 2017


The temperature in the house is higher this morning than it was yesterday — 26ºC, which is about 79ºF. I just finished opening up all the windows and doors to let some cooler air in, and I've got the fan going in the living room. The high today is supposed to be in the low 90s, so the house won't have a chance to cool down if I don't cool it down as much as possible before the sun comes up. The heat wave will break tomorrow, according to predictions.

Natasha the puppy is doing really well with her head cone. Yesterday she learned how to climb the main staircase in the house with the cone on. Going down the stairs has not been a problem. I think she might miss the cone when this is all over with. We take it off  her at mealtime or when it's time to go outside. She's very cooperative when the time comes to put it back on.

I made another 4 liters of ratatouille yesterday, for the freezer. Today I'll be making a pan of zucchini lasagna, part of which will go into the freezer. Part it will be lunch. I'll probably get some tomatoes into the dehydrator later today or tomorrow.

As you can see from some of the photos here, not only does Bertie the cat bring live mice into the house when the weather is this warm, but also many moths are attracted to the lights inside the house when I open all the windows and doors early in the morning.

28 August 2017

Oven-roasted lemon squash

The pot of tomatoes that Walt cooked and ran through the food mill yesterday yielded six liters of thick red sauce, with the skins and seeds strained out. There are hundreds more tomatoes out in the garden, and they are gradually ripening. The weather is hot now, and predicted to stay hot for two or three more days.

Meanwhile, I cooked the batch of lemon squashes (courgettes rondes jaunes) that you might have seen in the photo I posted yesterday. They don't taste lemony, but they do look a little like lemons. Actually, we've now given up on keeping up with the summer squash out in the garden. We're officially overwhelmed.

To cook the round zukes, I just trimmed off the bottoms and the stem ends and put them on an oven pan (une lèchefrite) lined with parchment paper (papier de cuisson). I cooked them until they seemed tender all the way through. Now I can freeze them.

The cat just brought in another live mouse. Merde ! He took it into the kitchen and let it get away from him and run to hide under the stove. The temperature in the house this morning is 25ºC — that's close to 80ºF. I have all the windows open and two fans positioned to blow cooler air from outdoors into the house. Even outdoors the air is unusually warm. Temps are supposed to be in the 90s F this week.

27 August 2017

Sauce = sauce

Sauce — as in “tomato sauce” — is the same word in English and in French. In French, it's sauce pronounced SOHSS and tomate pronounced toh-MAHT. We've entered that season here in Saint-Aignan.

Some of the tomatoes are almost perfect. Almost totally unblemished. Most of them, however, have some kind of blemish or another. No matter. It's organic gardening, without fertilizers or pesticides. The one on the left is a beefsteak tomato, I believe. I brought seeds back from North Carolina.

Remember, Walt grew a lot of tomato plants in the spring and transplanted just 30 of them into the vegetable garden. On the left is a photo to give you an idea how many we are harvesting. And the harvest is really just getting underway. (We are also still harvesting a lot of summer squashes.)

Here's the sauce pot. All it has in it is tomatoes and coarse salt (gros sel). After I took the picture, Walt added oregano and bay leaves, all from the garden. And probably some black pepper. Then you just turn it on and let the tomatoes disintegrate. After their liquid has boiled down, you run the tomatoes through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds.

And before you put them in the pot, you trim them up. The tops and of course the green stems just go into the compost, which will help feed next year's crop. We'll put the sauce in plastic containers and keep them in the freezer for our cooking needs and desires this winter.

Voilà. Isn't simple food the best food most of the time? And don't worry, we're eating plenty of fresh tomatoes right now. But it's good to plan for the future.

26 August 2017


I made yesterday's pinto beans into chili. (In some varieties of English, it's spelled "chilli".) In fact, I had made chili con carne, with turkey, a few days ago. We ate it with the rice and lentils mixture that I had originally made as a stuffing for squash, which worked well. So I decided to put the leftover chili into the pinto beans, add some spices, and add some fresh tomatoes from the garden, all finely diced up. As you can see, the speckled or "painted" pinto beans, when cooked, take on a solid tan color.

The first chili was very good, and with the added spices and tomatoes, the second chili was even better. I also added some grilled zucchini and lemon squash that we had left over, and some chicken that I bought at Intermarché. The chicken is salt-cured and packaged for use as a flavor ingredient, like lardons (smoked pork belly, a.k.a. bacon). Aiguillettes ("little needles") are chicken "tenders" or tenderloins — the little strip of meat attached to the underside of the chicken breast. I'll buy them again.

And what about the beans? They weren't bad — more than edible. The experiment, cooking dried beans in mineral water rather than our hard tap water, was of course inconclusive. I'll repeat it, more scientifically. I have a one-kilo bag of dried pink beans. Soon I'll cook half of those in one pot in mineral water, and the other half in another pot in distilled (déminéralisée) water, side by side on the stove and for the same amount of time. Maybe that will be interesting. This is what passes for entertainment at my house.

By the way, we had an emergency run to the vet's yesterday afternoon. I think Walt might have a post about that on his blog today.

25 August 2017

The bean experiment

This morning I realized I hadn't taken any photos in a week. I guess I've been too busy with lost dog collars, dog surgery appointments, and of course cooking — but not things I felt inspired to take pictures of. So I thought, what am I going to write about today?

Well, today is the day I'm doing the bean experiment. That is, cooking dried beans (légumes secs) in mineral water that I bought at the supermarket. I want to see if the beans, skin and all, come out tender instead of tough. Our local tap water, which is pretty hard (calcaire), produces tough beans when you use it for their cooking. I tooke these photos this morning.

Nosing around in the cold pantry (le cellier) downstairs a couple of days ago, I found a half-empty bag of pinto beans. As usual around here, these are beans that are imported from Portugal, but there's no indication as to where they were grown.

I've had trouble cooking these beans in the past, and for years I actually gave up on cooking them at all even though I love pinto beans (haricots coco roses). They're the best beans for Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes (like chili con carne), I think.

I cooked white kidney beans in distilled water a couple of weeks ago and they were a success. Mineral water is actually less expensive, and it's more natural, I guess. I'm cooking the pinto beans with shallots, garlic, bay leaves, black pepper, and a hot pepper. I didn't soak them first, and I'll put in no salt until the beans are completely cooked. I'll let you know how they come out.

24 August 2017

Dog days, dog years

Natasha the Shetland puppy has come through her operation just fine. That's our impression so far, anyway. She's licking her stitches a little bit, but not too much. I have to say, I really missed her yesterday. The house was too quiet. Except for the vacuum cleaners — we took advantage of the time to do some house-cleaning.

Callie the border collie (2007-2017) at age 9½.

Since I didn't take any photos of Natasha yesterday, and I've published quite a few pictures of her recently, I'm going to give some equal time to the other two dogs that have been a part of our life together over the past 25 years.

Collette the rescue dog (1992-2006) at age 11, when we first arrived in Saint-Aignan.

Thinking about Natasha at the vet's undergoing surgery made me remember all that we went through with Collette and Callie, especially at the end of their lives, and how much I miss them. Callie had to have surgery twice in the first few months we had her here, 10 years ago. She left this world very suddenly a couple of months ago at age 10. She fell ill on a Saturday and departed 2 days later. Collette lived to the ripe old age of 14, and her decline started a couple of years before she passed away. She fell seriously ill on a Sunday and died 2 days later. Both of these dogs made us happier and healthier people, as will Natasha.

23 August 2017

Vet appointment, 8:45 a.m. today

We will take Natasha over the to veterinary clinic (la clinique vétérinaire) in Noyers-sur-Cher at about 8:30 this morning. It's for her spaying — sa stérilisation. We gave her a bath yesterday. First, I called the clinic and asked whether it would be a good idea to bathe the dog (lui donner un bain), or whether bathing her at the clinic would be part of the preparation for surgery. The answer was: if you think she needs a bath, do it today, because you won't be able to bathe her while she has stitches.

So we did it. (I think Walt got a picture or two, but I didn't. The one above is from a week or more ago.) Natasha liked the bath! I filled a plastic tub with warm water, mixed dog shampoo into the water, picked up the dog, and gently set her down in the mixture. She was calm and collected the whole time. I didn't try to wash her head. All this happened in the utility room shower, so it was easy to rinse her off when the bath was done.

I took these photos off the clinique vétérinaire's web site.

The temperature outside was close to 90ºF (30+ ºC), so all we had to do was take Natasha outside and let her run around for a while to dry off. Then Walt took her out for the late-afternoon walk. To tell you the truth, she smells better now.

The two vets who are partners in the clinic are Dr. Jean-Yves Nourdin and Dr. Caroline Guéguen, in the background.

The veterinarian (le vétérinaire or véto) who is scheduled to perform the surgery is a neighbor of ours, though we really only know him from taking our dogs and cat to see him and his colleagues for the past 14 years. By the way, he's a fairly young man whose sister happens to live in Sebastopol, California. Or did he say Petaluma? Either way, she's near San Francisco, and he visited her there last year.

22 August 2017

The lost collar — a mystery

One morning last week, Natasha the sheltie pup and I set off for our morning walk at around 7. My plan was to walk out to the end of the unpaved road through the vineyard, which is about a mile, and then just walk back.

About halfway out, I saw a man walking toward us. I've seen him many times before over the last few months. Often he and a woman walk together, but recently he's been alone. Usually he walks later in the morning, so this was the first time I've actually stopped and talked to him. Most often, I've seen him walk by on the paved road when I'm out doing things in the yard and garden, and I've always shouted bonjour when I've seen him (or them).

Natasha yesterday in photo I took with my Android tablet

This time, Natasha went crazy. She was scared, and she started barking wildly. She's not used to seeing people out in the vineyard on our walks. She started to turn tail and run back toward the house. I had already passed the walking man, who was standing there laughing his head off. "The dog's name is Natasha and she's not yet 6 months old," I told him. Elle est jolie, he replied, still laughing.

All I could do was call and call Tasha to try to get her to run past the man standing between us and continue the walk, but she was too afraid. Finally I squatted down and made noises that I know Tasha will respond to. It worked. I'd tell you what noise I make but there's no name for it. It's comparable to a ululation, but not exactly the same thing. Tasha scurried past the stranger and ran to me. I called out bonne journée to the walking man Natasha and I continued on our way.

A couple of days later, on Saturday morning, Walt was out with Natasha and she disappeared from his view for between 10 and 15 minutes. He said he was starting to panic after whistling and calling the dog for all that time, and then she suddenly reappeared. He had no idea where she had been for so long, but she wasn't hurt or acting strange in any way. They came on back home. He said it was weird because he hadn't heard Tasha bark or make any other noise for the whole time she was out of view.

Later Saturday I took Tasha out for the evening walk, and I kept a close eye on her, calling her back to me every time she started to wander. Normally, she isn't out of my sight for more than a minute or two at any time, and that's how it was late Saturday afternoon. We finished our walk without incident and returned home.

Recent produce from the vegetable garden (another tablet photo)

A few hours later I reached out to touch Tashas back and neck and realize'd that her collar wasn't on her. It was gone. Walt and I looked around the house to see if maybe Bertie had pulled off the dog's collar while the two of them were rolling around on the floor playing. No luck. Walt went out and looked around the back yard and even outside the back gate around the pond to see if he could find the leash. Again, no luck. It was starting to get dark outside.

I immediately put two and two together and said Tasha must have snagged her collar on something out in the vineyard in the morning and finally figured out how to wriggle out of it. That could explain her 15-minute disappearance. One reason to doubt that was that neither of us had noticed for 12 hours that the collar was missing. Could she have lost it on the evening walk with me? I didn't think so, because as I said I was keeping her close to me all the time out of fear that she might again disappear the way she had in the morning.

On Sunday morning both Walt and I went out walking with Natasha. We scoured the landscape, retracing our steps along the paths we had walked the day before. Walt and I split up and he told me afterwards that he had gone into the woods and ravines around the vineyard where he's seen deer recently, thinking that maybe Natasha had chased a deer the previous morning and got her collar caught on a tree branch or something else.

We didn't find the collar. Walt looked for it again Sunday afternoon and yesterday (Monday) morning on his walks. No sign of it. And then, sometime around 8:30, I heard the front gate bell ring. I was downstairs and went out to see who it might be. Tasha barked wildly.

It was the walking man we had seen out on the road last week. He said bonjour and held out the collar, tag attached, for me to see. Where in the world did you find that?, I asked him. He said he had spotted it just lying on the gravel out on the road. His first thought, he said, was that Natasha might have run away, and he was happy to see that she hadn't.

The plastic clip that is the collar's closure was broken. Maybe it had been run over by a car, since the collar was found lying on the road. Walt examined it and saw that the key ring that attaches the dog's tag to the collar was bent and deformed, and even the little tab on the tag with the hole for the ring was slightly bent. Again, maybe a car ran over it. If Natasha had caught the collar on a branch or a stake out there, it would have been left hanging on something. Instead, it was like it just fell off her as she was running or walking along the road.

Mysterious doings in the Renaudière vineyard outside Saint-Aignan

By the way, the collar's plastic clip might have simply broken all by itself. The collar in question is one that we think we bought in California in 1992 for the first dog we had, Collette. She was about six months old when we rescued from the animal shelter in Santa Clara, and we put a small collar on her. She outgrew it, but we saved it. Then we put that same collar on Callie when we brought her home in 2007. Callie outgrew it too, but we saved it. Then last April we put that same collar on Natasha when we brought her home. The plastic was probably brittle at 25 years of age.

So the collar event remains a mystery. We'll probably never know what happened. Just as we will never know what happened to Callie — why we found her suddenly and inexplicably paralyzed one Saturday afternoon in June and had to have her euthanized two days later. Dogs don't readily reveal their secrets...

21 August 2017

Zucchini.... what else?

We grew them — there are still a lot of them coming — so we need to eat them. Zucchini. Courgettes. I was out in the back yard with the dog and a flashlight about an hour ago, shining the light on the vegetable garden, and I saw half a dozen little zukes poking out from under the plants' big leaves. I think I might go pick those while they're still small.

The other day I looked around the kitchen and I found some green lentils (French lentilles vertes). What if I cooked those with some riz rond (short grain rice) and aromatics to make a stuffing for squash or tomatoes? Then I remembered that I had a bag of frozen spinach (épinards en branches) in the freezer.

I put the lentils on to cook (they take less than half an hour) and some rice in a bowl to soak in cold water — about a cup and a half of each. Then I drained the rice and added it to the lentils about 15 minutes before they were scheduled to be done. I cooked the spinach separately in the microwave, chopped it up, and added it to the rice and lentils when their cooking liquid had all been absorbed.

I cooked the lentils and rice in turkey broth because I had simmered a turkey leg and thigh piece with the idea of pulling the meat off the bones, chopping it, and putting it in the stuffing. Lentils, rice, spinach, turkey — with aromatics like onions, garlic, herbs, and spices, at your discretion. One lemon squash sneaked in...

As you can see, I cut a large zuke into big round pieces. What you can't see is that I blanched the pieces in the steamer pot for 7 or 8 minutes — 4 or 5 pieces at a time. They were just starting to get tender when I took them out and hollowed them out. Don't worry about them not having bottoms. Fill them with the stuffing mixture and cook them in the oven for a while.

If you cook the stuffed squash on a pan lined with kitchen paper or a silicon baking pad, you can easily lift them with a spatula and serve them on plates without having them fall apart. Sprinkle a little grated cheese on top, along with a drizzle of olive oil. They would be good with a tomato sauce, which is how, later, we'll eat the ones that went into the freezer.

20 August 2017

Collar capers

I suddenly realized last night that Tasha didn't have her collar on. It's lost, and that includes the nice tag that Walt ordered and had engraved with Tasha's name and our phone number.

So I have to go looking for it this morning. We assume she lost tag and collar on one of her walks yesterday, so I'll re-walk those routes. Maybe I'll find it. Gives me a purpose for the day. Bon dimanche.

19 August 2017

Heading out at sunrise

If you look closely, or enlarge, the photo below, you can see Walt and Natasha headed out on their morning walk, at sunrise. It was a funny kind of sunrise, because somehow the golden light was shining on the trees out toward the west, but closer to the house the landscape was in shade.

I had a kind of bittersweet experience this week. I ran into an old friend at the supermarket. G is a woman we met 14 years ago, during our first weeks in Saint-Aignan. She now 87 years old. She's had a lot of health problems over the past dozen years. Age has finally caught up with her. We had lost touch with her two or three years ago. She got to be so deaf that it was impossible to talk to her on the phone, and I didn't even know if she was still living in her house or in some kind of maison de retraite. She has lost a lot of her teeth because of gum disease, I learned, and she can no longer drive. That's why she never stops by any more.

However, it was G who saw me first and recognized me in the supermarket. She was with a woman I didn't recognize, but I did recognize G as soon as I looked into her eyes. She looks so different that if she hadn't seen me and spoken I might not have noticed her. The woman with her was her aide à domicile, whose job is to take care of people who need domestic help and health care. We talked for a while, reminiscing — and blocking the aisle in the supermarket. Tant pis for the other shoppers. The woman with G was obviously pleased to see her enjoy meeting up with an old friend and sharing news and memories. She said she takes G grocery shopping on Monday and Thursdays, and sees nearly her every day. I imagine the French social security system pays her for her work.

G in 2005
G is an authentic local character. Her father, a chauffeur, and mother, a governess, were employed by local château owners, so G spent several years living in, for example, the Château de Montpoupon when she was a girl. One of her friends is the woman who owns and lives in the Château de Saint-Aignan.

G used to be an avid gardener, and she kept sheep when we first lived here. We bought lamb from her when she had them slaughtered in the fall. She gave me many plants and seeds over the years. She hosted dinner parties and at least one memorable cookout for 50 or more people at her house back when, and she often invited us. She gave us gardening advice. She was always very interested in the collard greens I grow, and liked them when I cooked them. She asked me about the collards the other day. She wanted to know if I still grow them. It's funny what people remember and are interested in.

I told G about Callie's death, and she was genuinely shocked and saddened, I could tell. She used to have a dog named Reinette ("Queenie"), a golden retriever who had a litter of puppies a dozen years ago. They were adorable, and G gave them all away to friends and neighbors. Then Reinette passed away a few years ago, and the vet gave G got a new dog named Rumba (pronounced room-bah in French). G's face brightened when I asked about the dog, a black labrador, and she said yes, she still is doing fine. I also told G about Natasha and said I would stop by her house soon and introduce them to each other.

Talking to G again was a good experience, but as I drove home from the supermarket a great sadness came over me. Then, back at the house, we saw one of our neighbors (in her 80s now) walk out into the vineyard alone. We'd never seen her do that before, so it was mysterious. She stood and looked off into the distance for a few minutes, and then turned around to walk back to her house. I went out and asked her if everything was okay.

She said her husband had gone out for a walk with their dog, and was overdue back home. Like G, he is 87 years old. She was afraid the dog might have gotten its leash wrapped around her husband's legs and caused him to fall. She said she had asked him not to walk out into the vineyard but to stay on the paved road, close to their house. She's obviously very worried about him. They've been good friends of G's for 40 years. We met her through them, in fact.

I got into the car and drove out into the vineyard to see if I could find the missing neighbor and dog. I parked and walked around where I thought the neighbor said he liked to walk. I didn't find him and had to give up the search. When I got home, Walt said the neighbor had come back over to say she had located her husband. He had been out puttering around in a garage/workshop on their property the whole time. "I've told him so many times that he needs to let me know every half-hour or so where he is and how he's doing," she said, "but he won't listen." Anyway, tout est bien qui finit bien, as we say — at least for the time being.

Did I mention that another neighbor, not quite as old, has to have triple-bypass heart surgery soon? Sigh. Old age is not for sissies.

18 August 2017

Gratin de courgettes, tomates, et fromage

I keep giving summer squashes, both classic zucchinis and the little lemon squash, to our neighbors, but we are still feeling slightly overwhelmed. Yesterday when I offered a neighbor some, she said she take them gladly because they are so delicious. The word she used to described the courgettes was fondantes — "meltingly tender and good" might convey the idea. The dictionary also gives the word "luscious" as an equivalent.

Anyway, the one I cooked the other day was like that. It was only one zucchini, but it had grown large. I cut it up anyway, sliced it thinly, and salted the slices that I had put into a colander to let them release some water. I laid the slices out in a 32 cm (12 inch) diameter baking dish and they were about 4 deep. This is an idea based on a recipe I found on this French cooking site.

Then I sliced up a good number of smallish tomatoes from the garden and arranged them in a layer over the zuke slices. You could add a layer of cooked meat — sliced chicken or turkey, bacon, ham, for example, over the zucchini slices before putting the tomatoes on. I made a custard of milk, cream, and eggs seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano, and thyme. I poured the liquid mixture over the tomatoes and zukes. It was just enough to cover the zucchini slices, leaving the tomato slices visible.

After the gratin — that's the French term — cooked in the oven at 180ºC / 350ºF for 30 or 40 minutes, I turned off the oven and let it sit there for another hour or so, hoping that the zucchini slices would be cooked through. I was glad to see that the tomatoes kept their shape and didn't just turn into sauce. (I didn't decide to take photos until after the first cooking.)

Finally, I spread a layer of grated cheese over the whole dish, drizzled some olive oil over it, and put the dish back in the oven at low temperature, say 150ºF (300ºF) just to let the cheese melt. You could make a case for putting the dish under the broiler to brown the cheese, but I didn't do that. I wanted it luscious, not crispy. Maybe crispy is how I'll prepare the leftovers that we'll have for lunch today. The courgette slices are cooked, by the way, but not over-cooked, so they have a nice texture.

17 August 2017


The annual winterization process has begun. Summer — real summer, with hot weather and sunny skies — ended a month or so ago. Summer was early this year. Late July and this first half of August have been autumn-like. We're still hoping for a warm and sunny September, but we have to be prepared.

So yesterday we got our annual delivery of firewood. This is the third or fourth time we've ordered wood from a man in the village of Vallières-les-Grandes, which is about 30 minutes from here, near Amboise and Chaumont-sur-Loire. We are so glad to have found him, because he's professional, prompt, and reliable. The prices are reasonable. Bertie  happened to be out from when the wood was dumped on the driveway and, being a cat, he was curious about it.

The delivery was four stères of oak logs cut to fit our small wood-burning stove. That's four cubic meters, which is how wood is measured here. It's the equivalent of just more than a cord, and cut and delivered it cost us 264 euros, or about $300 U.S. It will get us through the winter as a supplement to our oil-fired central heating system. We recently had 1,500 liters (400 U.S. gallons) of fuel oil delivered too, so we are ready for winter. Fuel oil is much more expensive than firewood, but our wood-burner won't heat the whole house.

The truck carrying the wood, a flat-bed dump truck, just barely fit through our front gate, and the driver had to be careful not to run into the edge of our second-floor terrace, which overhangs the driveway. The driver yesterday made it look easy. Now all we have to do is stack the wood on the north side of the house, under the terrace overhang where it will be protected from rain. We'll start working on it this morning.

16 August 2017

I don't know beans about beans...

...I guess. I don't know where the beans I buy are grown. I don't know how old they are. All I know is that I like to eat them.

Maybe I should just buy them in cans (or tins, if that's what you say). Those can be good. I've tried different brands and found some that I like better than others.

Some of the best black-eyed peas I've found here were in cans imported from Portugal. I can't find them any more. But as I've said, I cook dried black-eyed peas (which are not peas but beans) with great success. For example...  And these, more recently. I think black-eyed peas are the tastiest of beans.

I also like these haricots beurre that I get here, also imported from Portugal. Problem is, the last time I cooked some the skins were tough.

I think in America, these would be called "pink beans" because "butter beans" are something entirely different. Even in America, "butter beans" means one thing in certain regions and something different in other regions. I think butter beans might be something else entirely in Great Britain.

Packages of dried beans in France do have sell-by or use-by dates on them. These white lingot beans say they are good until 06 12 2018. That means 06 December 2018, because we Americans write dates in a different order from Europeans... mais passons.

According to an expert, Steve at Rancho Gordo beans in California, dried beans are good for about two years. Then their quality starts to decline.