Nov 02 2004

Letter from Brittany. October 2004


My Dear Sally,

What a dull summer we have had in Brittany! Nature was in a very bad mood this year and very cross with human beings ! All the vegetables in the garden were rotten before being ripe – the fruits had no taste. I have made a lot of jam, but this year will not be a good vintage! We had a lot of big storms coming from the sea, but our lovely old house resisted with bravoure the attempts of the gods! “La Fée Margot”, the wicked Fairy Margot, living very close in the Croquelien woods, thought, I think : “that house is 600 hundred years old, it is a young girl and it can have some more fun!!!”


Achile the cat is sleeping in front of the fireplace dreaming about all the mice he caught in the house and is trying to find a plan to capture Valentine. I have to tell you about Valentine. Valentine is one of the several inhabitants of the old walls of “Les Eglantines”, our house. She is a lovely little souris bat, who, for several months, has been flying every evening across our bedroom when we go to bed! Some nights ago she got caught in the curtain of our baldaquin bed! She is very friendly and we are a little bit sad because the builders are going to put new joints in the walls and we do not know what is going to happen to her!


Life in the village is very quiet at the moment, everybody is a little bit lost, the jobs which have to be done normally at this time of year are standing in the air because of the weather. Marcel is rushing around like a lion in a cage! He does not know what to do. I am waiting for better days to go on with my garden. The only things I have done since the harvest of the vegetables and wild red fruits, it is to cut the hydrangeas and dry them to make winter bouquets and decoration for the Christmas table.


Last month we killed Marcel’s lambs. We did it over a week-end. We phoned the butcher to come on Friday, around 8 o’clock, to kill them. They cannot be killed earlier in the day because the weather at that period of the year is very often stormy and the meat could go off very quickly. Marcel brought them back to his field with his hilarious little blue van, which is a half of an old Renault 4L. Nearly all the village was in Marcel’s barn with the children waiting with excitement. That day we killed 4 of them, 2 for me and the other 2 for people in the village.

la voiture de Marcel

The first thing to do, which is fun for us but not for them (they can feel what is going to happen), is to catch them in the field. Everybody participates: children, women, elders etc., rushing around the field, shouting, laughing and having fun. When at last we stuck them in a corner, Marcel, the butcher Stephan, and Michael jumped on the first one, Marcel and Michael sat on it whilst Stephan the butcher killed it with a knife! The first one was relatively easy but for the second one the real fun started! The beast was a strong and fierce animal. Marcel tried to catch two legs and Michael two others, but the beast started to kick out all over the place with our two friends hanging on! The three of them rolled about for a while and eventually Stephan had it. After all that, as it is the tradition before finishing the job, we drank a bottle of fresh “Rosé” with cheers to the lambs.


Butcher2 Butcher3 Butcher4

Then we hung them in the barn, covered them with a cloth and left them over the night. The meat needs a night to distress and become tender again. The next day Michael carried the two lambs into our laundry and Stephan came to us to cut them in pieces. I love that way of cutting lamb meat because I can tell exactly what I want, what I need for my cooking. Stephan and myself we can share our knowledge, cutting the meet and using it.

A friend of mind gave me a gourd and I made a very good starter with it – the recipe is at the end of my letter.

Next week we are going with the all the village for a big mushroom hunt. I will write to you about it in my next letter. Do you have any in Devon?

I am waiting for your news.


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