Bells, baguettes, and bread pudding

At 9:15 in the morning, I hear beautiful music. It’s the telephone’s ring tone, and neighbour Ursula is calling to ask if I’d like to go shopping at the Intermarché in the nearby village of Miramont. It’s a big, all-needs store similar to the Real Canadian Superstore I cycle to back home in Vancouver. I need a few ingredients for a bread pudding recipe, so I grab a reusable shopping bag and jump in her car.

On the way out of the village, a man in glasses waves her car down. They have a quiet exchange in French, and then Ursula steers her car towards the main road.

“Will you be around at noon?” She asks. “They’re going to gather in the village square and have a moment of silence for the victims of the Paris bombing.” I was in Goa when the terrorists attacked Mumbai in 2008, and again in India at the time of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in 2015. I stare at my shoes and wonder about the world.

“Yeah,” I nod. “I’ll be there.”

Wine compartment

French shopping cart with front compartment for wine and baguettes in Miramont, France

At the Intermarché, Ursula gives me a coin for the trolley and we agree to meet in 45 minutes. Freezers of seafood greet shoppers as they enter the massive store, and the scent of the fish follows me into the hardware, kitchen accessories, chocolate, and vegetable aisles.

Senses buoyed by French food shopping, I concentrate on not being distracted by exotic food choices and packaging. Both eggs and milk wait at the back of the store, and they are not in coolers as they are in Canada. The milk is sealed in plastic bottles or Tetra Paks, and I must choose between full-fat and half-fat selections.

Naturally the wine takes up five entire aisles, dubbed The Cave. I choose a Bordeaux red for less than 3 Euros, and all it says is, “Bordeaux—Appellations D’Origine Protegée.” The back of the bottle says it is from the Gironde region.

This may be plonk, but I’m guessing it’s solid, Bordeaux plonk.

I wait for Ursula at the cash register and notice that the shopping cart has a carrier for children and a carrier for — wine and baguettes. I ease my first purchase of Bordeaux into its special compartment in the trolley.

Bells for Paris

Back in Lauzun, I join Ursula and fellow village neighbours in the main square, the Place de la Liberté. I recognize many faces from the Armistice Day procession just a few days ago.

Armistice Day procession in Lauzun, France

The flag-bearer is here, and the Mayor. At noon bells ring twelve times, then fall silent. Then they ring again, and continue ringing with no hours to mark, only lives. A white car tries to nudge through the small crowd of bowed heads, and Allan steps in front of it. Its engine falls silent, joining our own minute of silence.

Bread and butter and Floc de Gascogne

Stainless steel pot filled with sliced baguettes on a kitchen counter

I return to the chateau, fire up the pellet stove for heat, channel KEXP.org for music, and slice my collection of stale baguettes. There are so many slices, they fill a stew pot.

I turn on the electric oven, convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, melt butter, heat milk, cut apples, and blend spices. I’m not sure where Sue keeps the vanilla, so I reach under the counter and avail of her offer to try a local sweet aperatif, Floc de Gascogne. I had wondered about the word Floc when I first arrived in Lauzun, as a nearby cafe is called Floc ‘n’ Tea.

Label of Floc de Gascogne

According to Wikipedia.com,

…The Floc de Gascogne is a regional apéritif from the Côtes de Gascogne and Armagnac regions of Sud-Ouest wine region of France. It is a vin de liqueur fortified with armagnac, the local brandy. It has had Appellation d’origine contrôlée status since 1990.

Sue had explained the specialty to me and invited me to try a taste, so I splashed a bit in the custard and then a bit in a glass. It’s light, sweet, and easy to sip – quite unlike the cashew-based local liquor I’d tasted in Goa, Feni.

I fill a glass baking dish with baguette slices but rather than lay them flat, I carefully stand each slice on end. Then I cover the entire dish with cinnamon-rolled apple cubes and raisins I’ve scavenged from a bag of GORP.

Bread pudding made with sliced baguette in France

I carefully load the pan into the electric oven, set it to 190 degrees Celsius, and wait. And wait. And wait. It takes 45 minutes for the eggs to set but the kitchen smells great.

Baked bread pudding from baguette slices

I figure the bread pudding will be a relatively healthy breakfast alternative to the buttery, apricot-based oranais pastries I like to pick up from the nearby bakery.

As it gets dark outside, the village bells ring to count the hour. Three bells, four bells, five. I read in the newspaper that three men were identified. And I read that France dropped bombs, 20 of them, in Syria.

I walk a block to the Café de Pays for a small coffee. A jet flies overhead, but my neighbour George observes that it didn’t shake the window panes with its sonic boom, like others before. I reach for the newspaper, and it’s in French of course, but I read it as best I can.

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UR

Writer, rider, traveller.

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