Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Another Day, Another Fête

We had a day off last week and managed to fit 3 engagements into one day. In the morning G, M and I went to Eymet, renown for being the most ‘English’ town in France, or so the local TV station says every time England plays France at anything. They were holding an oyster and wine festival. Sadly there were no Arcachon oysters as their sales had been halted due to an infection scare but there were some from northern France. There were also many local wine growers eager to promote their bottles too.

We started off at the tourist information booth that was selling glasses for wine tasting and I also bought some raffle tickets. We then did a tour of the town square to examine all the stalls. There were stalls selling all sorts of seafood (as in the picture above), stalls with moules/frites and stalls with wine. Once we’d decided at which stall we’d purchase our moules the only problem was to get a seat. Whole tables were being reserved by the gathering groups of French who were far better prepared than we were. They turned up with the covertures, aperitifs, coffee and picnic boxes crammed full of salad and other delights to accompany the oysters or mussels.

We eventually settled ourselves on the end of a table near the corner of the square where we could people watch and then set off in relays to purchase lunch while leaving at least one person to guard our places. Having really little idea of which wines to try our decided plan was to get three different rosés and have a joint tasting. Wine, mussels and frites and a plate of oysters were soon purchased and very quickly consumed with much enjoyment.

From there we travelled to Monflanquin where the medieval fair that progresses through the bastide villages in the area was currently installed. The atmosphere in the encampments is always fun and the visiting children and sometimes adults, join in, arriving in their own costumes to be entertained by the re-enactors. One of the highlights of the Monflanquin stage was a display of raptors and along with a wonderful eagle our hearts were taken by this eagle owl.

We didn’t stay too long there as I started to feel decidedly unwell. This was not a good sign as at Christmas I had been very ill after eating oysters. Yes, I was decidedly unwell again which was strange as I’d quite happily wolfed my way through a box of two dozen oysters soon after I’d arrived in France. Having thought about it I’ve finally concluded it is the salt levels of the oysters that I can no longer tolerate. The ones I’d had when I’d first arrived I’d kept in cold water in the house as at that time I didn’t have a refrigerator. The two lots that had made me ill were both fresh and au naturel. So I think I’d better give oysters a miss when I out from now on.

Thankfully the illness was short lived for that evening we were off to the local salle de fete for a village meal.

My village/commune although very small, around 200 inhabitants, is twinned with two other places in France that share the same name. one of the twinned towns was visiting our village for a four day visit and the paella meal was part of the celebrations – a bit more of this in the next post.

As is almost statutory at these village meals there was far more food than anyone, even G, could eat and of course because this is the prune (plum) growing area of France it was washed down with the plum eau de vie. We did well and managed a few mouthfuls each of the fire water and then decided that we’d bring it home to drink the rest later. I only had to drive about half a mile but that stuff is potent.

The wonderful day was given and even better feeling the following day when I received a telephone call from Eymet tourist office. One of my raffle tickets had been drawn and I am to receive a basket of preserves from one of the town shops, exactly what I won’t know until I finally get it but I am thoroughly looking forward to that.


Georgina said...

It sounds like you are all having a great time. You certainly do get around (in the nicest way I mean). I'm glad your enjoying yourselves. Debs x

Chef Ave said...

Check out the website www.rawoysteralert.com. I was shocked to learn that several individuals die each year from the consumption of raw oysters that are contaminated with naturally occurring Vibrio bacteria. Some gulf states have chosen to not take action in order to make raw oysters safe for ALL consumers.
Several years ago, the state of California made a requirement that all imported raw oysters must be pasteurized and since that requirement was put into place there have been NO FURTHER DEATHS in that state.
In order to affect change, consumers need to only accept oysters that are SAFE through post harvest processing or through being cooked. Consumer demand drives the market and the industry would be forced to provide oysters that did not lead to unnecessary deaths.
The website www.rawoysteralert.com has a wealth of information available and also explains how you can help in making the consumption of oysters safe for everyone.

dND said...

Thanks for the link avebayle.

The oysters here are very rigorously checked and sales halted if they find any bacteria. In my case it was just the high salt level that caused the problem.

farming-frenchstyle said...

Well done on your winning ticket - and I bet you said as you bought it "I never win anything!"
Perhaps take more wine with your oysters?

Adam Cope said...

hello debbie

just popping by to say 'bonjour' & that it was nice to meet you for real in bergerac :-)

funny you should mention oysters as i have a soft spot for them. just returned frombritanny where we ate dozens of them, despite the food warnings. every oyster has a pearl or a silver lining, now, how does that one go??

btw, esturary osyters such as from marennes or etel may be more to your low salt taste.

hope the farm is going well


Clare said...

Wow what a day. Sounds wonderful though - isn't people watching just one of the best past times.
How exciting to have won something - will be interesting to see what is actually contained!
Take Care
Clare x