Monday, September 18, 2006

Grape Pickin'

Tomorrow, I leave for 2 weeks of work at the Chateau Le Vieux Chevrol in the Lalande Pomerol near Bordeaux. This will be the sixth year I have done this and I really look forward to the 2 weeks of mindless labor. I get to cut grapes, carry them on my back, sort them and drive tractors! It's a great experience for me because I cannot speak very much English as most of the workers are French or Moroccan and Algerian. There are a few old Dutch guys...I am the only American.
It's a continuing education, each year I learn more about how a great wine is made. They do not use pesticides and all the weeding is mechanical. The owner, Jean Pierre Champseix really tries to educate us about wine, there are trips to other chateaux and we have tastings designed to educate our palates.
We work hard have good food and get to sample lots of the product!
I am away from radio, television and the computer for the entire time so I say temporarily, goodbye and see you in 2 weeks. If you come to this page, please look at the 3 Song Hit List and leave your favorites! I will publish all lists and your comments when I get back!
I will also do some posts about working in an environment where most people have never met an American before. I'm not what they would expect........
a bientot!

Reason #45,987.5

This morning I read Donald Rumsfelds latest reasoning for the invasion of Iraq. "We had to do it. He was a bad guy and with the price of oil these days, he would be making so much money that it would be easy for him to develop a nuclear weapon of mass destruction!"(translated from Bizarro speak:"Me want bomb earth! Me take oil!") I think that this is his 45,987.5th reason in a continuing series of backtracking and mis statements regarding the occupation of Iraq.
Do you ever get a feeling that we are on the wrong planet? Somewhere there is another Earth where things make sense? Like in the old DC Superman Comics, we are on a planet where is everything is backwards and wrong. This is the Bizarro World and the Freaks are in control!
Will we ever find the right planet again?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Once upon a Future.......

I had a strange vision of the Future this morning after hearing about the provisions in Bushes Torture Bill that he is trying to cram down the throat of America. He wants to provide himself with blanket amnesty for anything that could be charged as a war crime in the past or in the future. I smell a trend here.......
In the year 2038, after a coup d'etat by a group of brave Military and concerned citizens, the Bush regime was over thrown. There would be hard years ahead to cope with the economic ruin caused by George II, Jeb the First who tried to move the capitol to Havana, then the tragic bad hair years of the reign of the co-Queens, the Twins, when things really fell apart. Some say the coup succeeded only because the Omnipotent Cheney-Tron containment unit manufactured by Haliburton needed to be defillibrated and failed.
As the popuulation reeled in the wreckage and rust of what once was America, guilt set in and the blanket amnesty that had allowed the rogue clan to maintain their grip on power was revoked and the entire family was prosecuted. George was tried posthumously, he had died some years earlier in a tragic microwaved nacho incident in 2012. They were deported under protest claiming that they were only following Gods commands and that they were somehow related to the British Royal family and deserved some respect. Now they reside safely under guard on a remote penguin inhabited ice floe floating amid the remains of the rapidly melting antarctic ice shelf. The twins say that they are dedicating the rest of their lives to nursing baby penguins suffering from heat-stroke.............
It could happen, after all Pinochet finally has had his amnesty revoked after Chile was allowed to come to its senses!!!!!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Walnut Time/Gateau aux Noix

This is a speciality of the Perigord. The version here is a classic, but there are many gateau aux noix recipes. One of my favorite walnut pastries is made in the little Village of Ayen, just over the border into the Correze in their little boulangerie. It is called une Delice aux Noix. It has a crust made from ground walnuts like the one in the recipe I'm going to give here, but it is filled with a walnut pastry creme and topped with a coffee icing and of course decorated with a nice walnut half. What a treat, plus they have some of the best bread in a region that still has great bakeries in every village.
This is a filled gateau, actually a tart, so it's best to make it in a tart pan with a removeable bottom.
First, the crust: Mix together in a bowl:
250 grams of flour
125 grams of butter
60 grams of sugar
30 grams of walnuts powdered in food processer
Mix this together, form into a ball and let it sit for 2 hours in the refrigerator.
You can then push it easily into the tart pan (ideally 26 cm diameter)
I prick the crust with a fork and precook it in a 325 oven for 10 minutes.

Then, mix together
220 grams of powdered walnuts
200 grams of sugar
200 grams of thick creme fraiche (in America, I would use sour cream)
50 grams of corn starch
(If you would have it, but absolutely not neccessary, one shot glass of vin de noix)
Pour this mixture into the tart crust then cook for 35 to 40 minutes in the 325 oven.

Let it cool when it comes out of the oven and while it is cooling melt
100 grams of dark chocolate ( the only chocolate I have found in America that is any good is Lindt dark baking chocolate...I've tried other stuff from natural food stores and it has waxy lumps in it, I'm not being a snob, but you cannot make a mousse with lousy chocolate!)
30 grams of butter.
Melt the butter and chocolate together and frost the tart with it, then decorate the top with a few perfect walnut kernels and VOILA! If you want, in the near future, I will give you the recipe for Madame Benets Chocolate Mousse. You have to be careful not to tell your guests the ingredients in America unless you know CPR!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Delusional Reality

Today, an increasingly familiar tradegy was played out in Montreal. A young man, a loner obsessed with video games and darkness stepped over the line and turned fantasy into reality.He brought the video game Postal to life and shot and injured a number of people in a school before he was shot and killed.
Over the last few years, and more and more the last week, I have wondered about George Bush Jr. Does he live in the same reality we do? Does he believe any of what he says.
Where does his fantasy end and reality begin?
Can we assume he is sincere about his religious awakening and beliefs? In the big business world of Right Wing Christianity it is becoming apparant to a lot of people that the leaders are really big time manipulators making millions of dollars and amassing incredible power bases. Is George a manipulator or being used?
I think he is truly a religious opportunist like the other big boys who freely roam the twilight land between fantasy and downright criminality. Most of the extreme doctrine of Fundamental Christianity has very little textual base in the bible. A lot of the doctrines are exclusively American bred. Born in the sweaty revival tents of the showbiz preachers of yesteryear.
George claims that he meets more and more Americans who support and share his beliefs. Could that be because he lives in a very carefully screened world where anyone who differs from him can't get in?
I think his reliance on this support system of religion as a rationale for his actions is making him more and more dangerous. He claims that God told him to invade Iraq. In his 9/11 speech earlier this week and in his speech to the armed forces last week, he suggests we are involved in an endless war against evil.
Bad for us and the rest of the world, but very good for the Carlyle Group. We are trapped in his neo con fantasy gone bad. We watch as he tries to march us into a war with Iran because some of his advisors fantasixe that a few quick air strikes and whammo! No More Iran problem...Reality is something else entirely different.
How can we wake America out of this fantasy? A nation of Lazy Fuzzy Thinkers who want to be led and have forgotten how to question! To be one with a few thousand sheep in a Mega Church on Sunday then after it's time for Krispy Kremes!!!!YAY!
I just finished Antonia Frasers' Cromwell, Our Leader of Men.
Cromwell was delusional and a religious fanatic. He began as a liberator of the people from the tyranny of the crown and in the end he became a bigger monster than anything he fought. He used lies to imflame the British people to massacre the Irish and take there lands. He used the army to fight a bloody war of religion.
In the end, after he died and his family was deposed, he was tried in the grave, dug up and his rotting corpse was hung.
I'm not quite sure what analogies I can draw from Cromwell, but it is well worth reading to understand that what is happening in America is not new, it's just horribly different!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Walnut Time!

Here we are at the end of summer. It's harvest time and one of the main crops of the Dordogne is Walnuts. There are walnut trees everywhere. Supposedly the peasants had a use for every part of the nut except the air in the shell....A brown stain still used here for wood called Brou de Noix, Yellow brown dyes for cloth, the oil for salads and other culinary uses, ...the shells are burned for kindling and fuel and can also be used in tumble polishers and the nut meats. There are many recipes in Perigordine Cuisine that use walnuts. Tonight we had one of our easy favorites. Janet has been making this for years now and perfecting the recipe. A Roquefort Walnut Tart.
You don't even have to make a crust here. We use premade puff pastry crusts that are cheaply available in every supermarket. Just unroll in your tart pan. Use a shallow tart pan. I was able to find the varietty with a removable bottom in many cooking supply stores in America. The advantage of a premade puff pastry crust here is that it comes rolled in a piece of cooking parchment. You can use a pate brise if you have to but puff makes a crispy light base for this tart.
You need:
100 grams of Roquefort (nice firm blue cheese if you can't find it)
75 grams of emmenthal grated (or gruyere)
3 egg yolks
1.5 cl of creme fraiche (regular cream would do)
100 grams of chopped walnuts

Make the oven hot. 325 f (180c) roll out the pastry and prebake for a few minutes.
Mix in a bowl, the egg yolks, cream, crumbled roquefort, gruyere and nuts.
You shouldn't need any salt because the roquefort is salty.
Pour the mixture into the tart shell and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
A few minutes before it is done, you could sprinkle a little more grated gruyere over the top for the perfect look!
Let it cool a few minutes when it comes out of the over, but it should be served immediately! This tart is very good for aperatif! You can cut into small servings.
Myself, I like a nice red wine with it. Tonight I had an inexpensive Bergerac, but in America, you have a nice choice of California and Australian wines that are pretty inexpensive.
I am going to publish a few more of my favorite walnut recipes in the next few days.
I have many different gateau aux noix recipes, buutthere is one killer gateau that is a classic found in the good patisseries here and I have made it a goal to replicate it and you can too!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Yes, it's back by popular demand! The 3 SONG HIT LIST! What are the three songs that absolutely drive you wild? The songs that you could not listen to and drive a car at the same time! Music that is so connected with a time and place in your life!
Here's the fun part, DON'T THINK TOO MUCH! You wiill learn more about yourself and the others who participate by being spontaneous!
In our last episode, my 3 songs were:

Flashlight by Parliament/Funkadelic
7&7 by LOVE
Shotgun by Jr. Walker and the AllStars

Mitch from Sheepshead Bay, NY just blogged in his faves:

We Can Work It Out by The Beatles
Stuck Inside of Mobile by Bob Dylan
Little Wing (Hendrix in The West Live) by Hendrix

This is fun, it only takes a few seconds, I will keep publishing your lists!
too late, but I wish I had said
Armenia City in the Sky by the Who, Trouble Comin Every Day by Frank Zappa, Eight Miles High by the Byrds...nawww, I'll stick with my first 3!

Monday, September 11, 2006

C'est la fete!

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C'est la St. Cloud! A weekend of welcoming fall, our annual village fete! All the Badefolois and Badfoloise were having a great time! The Numa Numa song was blasting non stop along with the greatest hits of Patrick Sebastien. (The number one fete album in France, sort of country disco polka, every one sings along!)
While America was wallowing in it's 5th Anniversary 9/11 navel staring misery, torn apart watching a mediocre factually wrong miniseries on ABC, we had fire works, a grand ball, a great feast! Rides, Barb a papa! NOUGAT!
Today is the Traditional Harvest market, a tradition that goes back 600 years here.
There is garlic and onions and pumpkins and squashes of all sorts and of course a lot of regional products....Walnuts products, locally produce aperatif. There is a small company making meade (hydromel) and a chestnut based drink. Yes and the veal auction.
Yesterday, I rode my bike up to the village, we are almost 2 kiilometers away and got there in time for the big parade! There were 6 tractors, all cleaned and polished for the occasion pulling floats with kids! My favorite was the giant mushrooms, but the young hunters came in close! People ran around throwing confetti, just being there was exhilerating for me! I rode my bike from one end of town to the other to try to get different shots of the parade and having to make jokes and stop and talk to my friends!
Badefols d'Ans is a very old place. The meaning of the name is disputed. One translation claims it is corrupted latin meaning Beautiful Leaves...the other is taken from the Occitanian phrase meaning "Screaming Fool" and there is a story of a hermit monk in the 6th century who stood on the hilltop on Sundays and yelled so loud that he could be heard in the surrounding valleys! I tend to go with the latter!

Friday, September 08, 2006

never say never.........

Late friday night here here in La Sechere. For me a few days of encouraging signs that people can actually be mobilized and network together and accomplish something. I have received emails and forwards from friends all over America about what we can do to Stop the airing of The Path to 9/11. I've written emails to the local ABC stations in every city I've ever lived in in the USA! Scholastic Books, all levels of management at Disney and ABC, Apple Computers because they are offering free downloads of the program through itunes! I emailed the BBC because I read that they were going to pick up the program and show it. Interestingly enough, I just recieved an email from the BBC program Have Your Say asking if I would consent to a live telephone interview tomorrow.
I just read that in todays Variety, they report that ABC is actually thinking of pulling the show! I have seen reports of the controversy on CNBC and CNN International and it was mentioned on French Network news (France2) this evening. Maybe they will actually do it....
I intend to stay away from the whole thing from now on...Tomorrow starts La St.Cloud , our village festival! Three days of non stop festivities! A bike race, a petanque tournament, the village dinner, fireworks, a dance, a parade of decorated tractors pulling themed floats! The village square is full of cheap carnival rides and concessions...the invevitable Nougat sellers. It is all topped off by the big traditional market on Monday. The local farmers sell garlic, onions, pumpkins and squashes....really a good time to pick up on these things! The big event is the annual Veal Calf auction in the Place de Foire in front of our 11th century chateau!
Veal is a big industry here....nothing at all like the horror it is in America. I am surrounded by forests and pastures here in the hills and there are a few big herds of cows and the baby cows are born in the field and live pretty happy lives except for being occasionally terrorized by my dog J. Edgar who reverts to his border collie roots...........

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cancel ABC!

The noise grows louder over the upcoming September 10 and 11th showing, on ABC, of The Path to 9/11, the highly flawed miniseries purporting to be fact. In it, the Clinton administration is held solely responsible for the Tragedy. Events in intelligence gathering and the pursuit of terrorists are shown in total untruth!
In ThinkProgress today, Richard Clark debunks several of the episodes in the series.
For more information about the outright lies to be presented in this 6 hour, 2 part, 30 million dollar extravaganza, please visit Firelake.
The most important thiing to do now is to act. There is a lot of anger and in the next few days, this will become a hot issue! There are posts updating continuously on crooksandliars and americablog with contact info in the comments for ABC executives and the makers of the piece, which by the way, was made 6 months ago with out any prepublicity. It has been prepromoted to right wing bloggers and kept from the lefties!
ABC had a discussion blog about the film but pulled it last night when the controversy about the facts became too much for them!
BBC plans to air the film in the near future which says a lot about the state of fear that Blair needs to create to keep his feeble finger hold. ABC and Disney also released news that they are going to provide copies of the film to schools for "EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES"! I really think that this raises many legal issues and they will be sued! is working at a local level. You can help them by contacting your local ABC affiliate and stating your concerns. Let moveon know what you've done. If you don't know who to contact in your area, moveon can give you the info!
This will be hot in the next few days and we can make a difference! Let ABC know that they have to cancel this series or we will cancel ABC!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The consequences of words

So much outrage over the comments of Donald Rumsfeld comparing people who wanted a sane end to the violence in Iraq to Nazi Appeasers! What planet is Donald living on now, please? He seems to have a very short memory as to the mistake America committed in Vietnam. He seems to forget that the attempts to stifle protests only made them more powerful and unified! He seems not to be aware that in the age we live in, we all have enhanced memories! If he thought the pictures of him shaking hands with Saddam in full fascist regalia were going to disappear in this age of Google, well, we all remember his remarks about cell phones when he tried to smooth over the Abu Ghraib torture pictures.
We've all seen the pictures of Donny and his good buddy Saddam shaking hands over a massive arms deal with the USA. Who's appeasing who, you criminally senile hypocrit?
I found another picture this morning of an event photographed almost 66 years ago of another senile politician in almost the exact same pose shaking hands.
Unfortunately, Neville Chamberlain thought he was assuring "peace in our times", Donald was doing no such thing, he was participating and enabling a madman to commit a criminally insane act against Iran.
I have also been hearing a lot of buzz about the ABC 9/11 Miniseries that will run next week and the pro Bush slant of it. There is going to be a lot of action against ABC because of their unfortunate decision. Please check out Media Matters, Americablog and Thinkprogress for what you can do to participate! They need to know that their propaganda is repulsive to the majority of Americans! Is this a desparate ratings ploy to try to pick up the viiewers that FOX has recently lost? The bottom rated Network is going to find out that the bottom can get a lot deeper, FAST!

Detroit Reds

Today, Janet went out to the garden and pulled up a beet for lunch. It weighed over a kilo! We grow a variety called Detroit Red. They seem to be the standard! I have tried some of the older varieties including one called crapaudine here that is long, but I never really had success with them. This is the third year with the Detroit Reds. I leave them in the ground until we need them and they just get bigger and bigger.
I love beets and I love them grated raw. I think root vegetables are very good for you and I love all of them. Janet makes a mustardy vinagrette and voila, that's it. Super simple. This salad was garnished with some orange slices. Beets and citrus are a great combination. In the winter, we have a salad with sliced cold boiled beets, grapefruit slices dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
Grated beets, carrots and celery root are staple accompaniments with charcuterie here in France. The beets are served as above, carrots with oil and lemon juice, you could sprinkle a little ground cayenne and the celery root is dressed with mayonnaise (not salad dressing) thinned with a little vinegar. I love celery root. I could buy them in New York at the Union Square Farmers Market, but I rarely saw them any where else.
They are little hairy to prepare with all the knobs, but well worth it.
Mustard is one of the most important ingredients in a French kitchen. It is used in sauces, vinagrettes and in a lot of meat recipes.. I spread it on pork chops before I grill them, also, a little more complex, a small chicken can be boned and spread on both sides with mustard, then barbecued or broiled. For the barbecue, I use one of those handled cages I can securely lay the spread out boned chicken so I can turn it easily.
A mustard vinagrette is a tablespoon of mustard, 3 of oil and one of wine vinegar.
Those proportions.......Sometimes you want a thicker vinagrette, for your artichokes or boiled leeks...add more oil and whip it up with a emulsifies and gets thick!
Of course, the crux of your vinagrette is the mustard. Good Dijon Mustard is really cheap here. We buy huge jars of it. Do not refrigerate it! I get yelled at whenever it is found in the refrigerator.
Of course Frenches yellow mustard is not real mustard, read the label! There are all kinds of other things in there as well as unnatural yellowness!!!! It is pasty and weak and kind of chemical tasting. The same goes for the bizarre American conciete known as Grey Poupon! It does not exist in France! You cannot make a good vinagrette with Grey Poupon! Go to your cupboard and remove it NOW!
What you really want is real Dijon style mustard. It should bring a tear to your eye and make you sneeze! I have seen Roland Brand Dijon all over America and it is pretty good. You don't have to buy the stuff with the fancy label and the medals on it.
Some of the stone ground mustards I have had in the USA are pretty good for a simple vinagrette for a simple lettuce salad.
Well, we didn't eat the entire salad today, it's going to be around for lunch tomorrow. Tonight, we had a zuchinni tart, one of my favorite things. That's a very good thing, because there is a lot of zuchinni in the garden!
Bon apetit!