Panier of Plenty

December 2011

Lactaire délicieux

From The Forest

Only a few lactaire délicieux remain, all the other mushrooms have
now disappeared. After the abundance of rain it is now dry and sunny,
and although unseasonally warm, there is not enough moisture and
humidity for the varieties we have become accustomed to eating
to thrive. There are plenty of the ‘unedible kind’ and I am
recording ‘what not to eat’ with photos, at the same time as
remembering the best locations and conditions for the tastiest

In The Garden

A surprise snowfall

The herb garden

The broccoli is nearly ready and the carrots and beetroot are somehow
coping with the sudden drop in overnight temperatures. The onions and
échalottes seem happy enough and are still in the ground – I pick them
only when needed rather than harvesting and drying them. We have had an
invasion of taupes (moles) as the soil is now easier to tunnel after the
November rain, and their mounds have disturbed the cuttings we are
trying to establish, as well as unearthed some of the vegetables.
The red cabbages are looking plumper now as they create their hearts,
but the artichokes are very slow to develop. Mint still continues to
thrive along with the rosemary and thyme but the tarragon and verveine
(verbena) have finished, and now lie dried in jars. The fennel is
flourishing, and the leeks are still very tiny but surviving. Without
warning, as it has been warmer than usual, we had a sprinkling of snow
that stayed for an evening and day. Higher up on the mountain they had
the first fall of 5-6cm. As yet, there hasn’t been a frost, just beautiful
sunny days, and many of them without the wind to ruffle our feathers.

Exploring The Region

Vide Grenier

Each Sunday morning there is a vide grenier in our preferred
village (20 minutes drive) and I am learning to differentiate
the dealers and Spanish stalls – the regulars – from locals
cleaning out their cupboards. Last month I came home with
hand carved sabots (clogs once worn in the region – traditional
wooden Catalan shoes), a large terracotta bowl which proved
invaluable for straining quinces and a baking dish.
This month I have preserving jars (bocaux) and garden shoes
– for the grand sum of 3 Euros my panier is full of treasures.


December's treasure

Noël, le château royal de Collioure

Christmas, or Noël

Each village is lit with a cascade of Christmas lights, and carols
float through the air. In the region we celebrated with traditional
music and events in homage to the singer and composer Jordi Barre
– Catalan chants, and the Christmas Eve ‘Pessebre’ in Perpignan’s
Cathedral St Jean: a costumed crèche vivant or nativity play, with a
rich display of characters from every walk of Catalan life – peasants,
gypsies, angels and fisher folk all joined in song. The château royal
of Collioure came to life as a Christmas market, complete with geese
and a band of snowmen (bonshommes de neige), as local artisans and
producers paraded their wares. But the highlight for me is ‘churros’
– hot fried donut-like piped tubes, often coiled as great serpents,
snipped into equal sections, then coated in sugar. In nearby Puigcerda
(across the Spanish border in Cerdagne) they are served in paper cones.

Perpignan by night

Christmas village, Perpignan

The pessebre, Catalan hat

Traditional character, pessebre

At Home

An unexpected visitor

Another visitor

Mina assists


Voyou, our resident taureau (who ‘slips’ through the barbed wire fence)
has invited several friends to eat the greener grass here. He has been
a regular visitor since October, mounting the steps to our terrace and
helping himself to the flowers, he even found a way to negotiate the
rock garden. The corrida has become a morning ritual – chasing any
surprise guests – Mina and Gypsie (the chien de Mas) willingly participate.

Creative Project

As I open the shutters of our bedroom I have to admire the view to the
belvédère, with its dramatic rocks and stone walls, just masking Canigou
as his snowline rises above them. We were given bedside lamps that I was
inspired to transform from ‘rose coral’ to a cream base, and using
acrylics I pieced together a panoramic view that comes full circle,
from the hills above the road, across the valley on the right, to the
mountain in the far left of our sight, joining them at the seam.

Painting the belvédère

Last section of the panorama


One thought on “December 2011

  1. Anna-Maryke and pugs on said:

    We have those mushrooms here – growing under the pine trees, some the size of plates! They are called Milk tops – delicious pan fried on toast!

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