Monday, September 17, 2007

Return I

As the summer of 2007 drew to a close and the daylight began to shorten, the seriously inclement weather improved. Far fewer al fresco meals were taken in the Normandy gardens this year, though. Nevertheless, at the end of August, as every year, ripe apples were on the trees, ready for picking and sorting.

Years ago Amerloque planted young Normandy heirloom apple trees. He chose the traditional varieties by not only looking at their evocative names, but also according to their harvest periods, so that apples would be ripe and ready for picking throughout the autumn season, well into November. Only apples for eating and cooking (pommes à couteau) were planted – Amerloque is not particularly interested in making cider so there no trees bearing pommes à cidre at the farm. All of these traditional apples have genuine taste and consistency, and are far removed from the insipid fruits available all year long in the supermarkets. How can one not be attracted to apples christened with exotic names such as claque-pépin, court pendu gris, calville rouge coeur de bœuf, benedictin de Jumièges or pigeonnet de Jérusalem ?

Among the first apples harvested this season, at the beginning of September, were the belle fille, the revers, the rambour d'hiver and, of course, the benedictin de Jumièges. Gathering and sorting the apples took up quite a bit of time. The bad apples had to be weeded out and the good ones carefully dried and arranged in a clean wooden crate, so that they could keep for several months. Using these Normandy apples in Sunday lunches and dinners, as well in various prepared Thanksgiving and Christmas dishes, is something that Amerloque looks forward to annually. This year the first applesauces and crumbles were excellent: the unusually wet weather added immense flavor to many of the apples !

Throughout the summer the local farmers in Amerloque's part of the world were tearing their hair out – metaphorically speaking - because of the horrible weather. It was only in the second week of September that grasses in some of the fields could be cut, since there had finally been enough sun over a period of several days to dry them out. One of Amerloque's fields still remained uncut - the neighboring farmer, after doing his own fields, finally found enough time to do Amerloque's last one, too, in early September. Usually this field is cut at the beginning of July, so the delay this year was more than a full two months ! Enfin !

On the surface, the rentrée this year seems to differ little from those of previous years. The media are filled with the usual stories: for example, how much the government's annual back to school subsidy (l'allocation de la rentée) amounts to, how much the cost for various regulated public and private services (such as electricity, gas, and transport) increased over the summer, and how many parents are upset about the closure of one or more local classes due to the failure to reach the minimum number of students. These issues all belong to what the French term la rentrée sociale and la rentrée scolaire. If one is an attentive expat with children, one pays close attention, naturally.

There is also, of course,la rentrée littéraire. The média has already begun speaking of the possible winners of literary prizes (les prix littéraires) later in the fall, the Prix Goncourt and the Prix Renudot allegedly being the most sought after, although there are others, most notably the Femina, the Médicis, the Interallié and the Académie Française. If one follows - or is tangehtially interested in - Parisian intellectual life, the nominations and subsequent jockeying for a prize is the subject of many conversations in café and salon.

Newly elected Président Sarkozy is bound to have an effect on the rentrée this year, since he now has to fulfill his campaign promises, has to fish or cut bait. At least one of his initiatives, the proposition for more independence for the universities, was seriously watered down during the summer Parliamentary sessions. It remains to be seen whether other of his promises receive the same treatment – and which ones, and by whom !

As always, the vendanges have begun, somewhat earlier in many parts of France due to the weather. Though the French wine industry is in crisis, quite a few young people still make a September pilgrimage to the vineyards to pick grapes, especially the university students whose classes don't begin until October. If one has other plans, one can also wait for the vendanges tardives, the late grapepicking season. In any event, the pay is minimum wage, the working conditions tough, and the labor backbreaking: Amerloque went down to the south of France to work in the fields, once, many, many years ago in his youth and can testify from personal experience. Actually, the best times are the mealtimes - at lunch but especially in the evenings, when the winemakers and owners generally feed their vendengeuses and vendangeurs very well. It is definitely the kind of experience to be fondly looked back on when one is older and wiser, in front of a nice roaring fire on a chilly autumn evening, as one sips a glass of a vintage wine that one could never have afforded back then !

The various alarums and excursions on the international financial markets do not seem to have thrown a damper on any French activities, at least not yet. Perhaps it is simply the calm before the storm – or perhaps the media are simply not doing their job, preferring to concentrate on the pipolisation of French society, on affairs of pedophilia and/or child abandonment, on dogs running amok, and on other issues of lesser but spectacular, paper-selling, audience-building importance. France is changing: the increasing dumbing down of the country seems more obvious at this rentrée.

Is it because of newly-elected President Sarkozy and his ministers, one of whom asserted back in July that "the French think too much" ?

Or is it, perhaps, simply that Amerloque has aged another year, and that his cynicism quotient has increased markedly ?


Text © Copyright 2007 by L'Amerloque
Images © Copyright reserved to copyright holders, including Amerloque


Anonymous Rocket said...

Hi Amerloque

Do you know what kind of apple this is? One Korean Lady that I know brought this giant over and I forgot the name and won't see her again till next week. Maybe a Korean apple? I have never seen such a big apple in France? Not even in the "Big Apple"¤t=DSCN1770.jpg

Extremely sweet

8:04 AM  
Anonymous François said...

What are the prices of the two weekly vegetables baskets?
You said there are two baskets.


11:32 PM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hello Rocket !

/*/ .../... Do you know what kind of apple this is? .../... /*/

Amerloque has absolutely no idea whatsoever. It sure doesn't look like it's from Normandy, though, not with that size !

NASN sports are pretty good. Those Colorado Rockies are pretty impressive ...


5:20 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hello François !

There are/were two different origins for the baskets.

The first one, from the AMAP, was €15 euros each.

The one from this other fellow currently costs €16 each. (A six week subscription brings it down to €15 ...) This second one is of far, far better quality overall than the first.

Thanks for stopping by !


5:25 AM  
Anonymous Rocket said...


Do you remember the debate we had on LA some time ago concerning forex controls.

This may interest you. From Washpost

9:21 PM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:41 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Rocket !

Many thanks for the link !

/*/ …/… Migrants around the globe sent more than $300 billion to their home countries last year, a "staggering" sum that surpassed foreign development aid and foreign direct investment and carries major development potential for poor nations if properly channeled, a report says.


Researchers said the sheer volume of the transfers, which they called a conservative estimate,


Terry said the sum of global remittances grows about 10 percent each year.



This is really no surprise to Amerloque, who has long been in favor of a value-added tax on such remittances.

As a matter of fact, this only reinforces his thinking on the issue. The money should be spent where the immigrant makes her/his living. Perhaps now politicians will wake up to the billions flowing out of their countries … and connect the dots with the increaingly catastrophic social services in the host countries. Perhaps a hard look should be taken at foreign aid, too ...

Amerloque won't be holding his breath, though.


2:19 AM  
Anonymous KD said...


I was dropping by, just to look around your blog.

I will say Bonjour while here.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Mary Ellen said...

Hi l'Amerloque!

Those apples look delicious! I was just commenting to my husband today that it must have been a great apple growing season, they are being sold by the bushels everywhere and the prices aren't too bad. Especially considering that the price of EVERYTHING has gone up in the last two years.

My favorite apple right now (I change my mind every year) is the Royal Gala and there is a new one I tried called "Honey Crisp". I'm a huge fan of apples and no matter what season, I eat an average of three a day. Of course, I'm a vegetarian-so I fill up on fruits and vegetables.

There was a brand of apple that I had last year, and for the life of me I can't remember the name of it (old age I guess), but it was from France. I only bought a few of them because they were so expensive, though.

I've also tried some strange hybrids. One is called a "Grapple", it a combination of apple and grape. It looks like a normal apple, and at first I didn't taste the difference right away, but then it hit...a distinct taste of concord grapes. I really liked it, but it was too expensive to buy on a regular basis.

9:18 PM  
Blogger benoit said...

La crétinisation oui... A least, we won't be perceived as arrogant any more... Always nice to read your blog btw :_)

5:29 AM  
Anonymous bluevicar said...

Bonjour Amerloque!

I saw the apples...yum! Any good ol' American apple pie in the works? We've been back in Colorado since late June and I haven't made one yet. I saw another commenter regaling the Honey Crisp apple; I discovered this as well and find it a dandy.

Sadly, I am unable to remember the name of the last really yummy apple that I tried in wasn't pretty, yellow and spotted, but it was wonderful to eat. Hmmm...I'll have to put on my thinking cap.

Hope all is well with you.

Meilleurs voeux!!

6:49 PM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hello Mary Ellen !

Thanks for sharing your "apple" experiences !

The prices of everything have gone up here, too, over the past several years. There was a huge increase when the switch to the euro came: when converting from francs to euros, a lot of shopkeepers - and super/hypermarkets - took advantage of the customers' unfamiliarity with the new euro and hiked their prices. Some foodstuffs increased by as much as a (provable !) 78%.

The government here publishes cost of living indexes which are reality-free.

Food prices for the Amerloque family increased by 8% or so last year, and this year it looks like it'll be worse.

The biggest producer of camembert cheese (and gazillions of other products: the company is "Lactalis") has announced an across-the-board price increase of 15% for the 1st of November - coming on the heels of the 2.5% increase in August.

Danone has announced a 7% increase.

Still, apples from New Zealand are cheaper than apples from France.

The system is breaking down ...


2:26 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi KD !

Thanks for stopping by !


2:27 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Benoit !

/*/ .../... Always nice to read your blog btw :_) .../... /*/

Thanks for stopping by ... and the compliment !


2:28 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hello Bluevicar !

/*/ ... Any good ol' American apple pie in the works?
Sadly, I am unable to remember the name of the last really yummy apple that I tried in France... /*/

There are so many, many apples ... (grin). Sometimes the most unappetizing ones turn out to have the best taste ... (grin)

American apple pie is a dish that the Amerloque family appreciates once or twice every autumn. It's hard to obtain the very same taste here as in the USA. Amerloque's feeling is that it's something to do with the flours and sugars used.

In her memoirs Julia Child goes into some detail about the flour here and the flour in the USA ... coming from such an authority, the reasoning is likely to be spot on. (grin)

/*/ .../... Hope all is well with you. .../... /*/

Yes, thanks. How is life back in the USA ! There must be many, many
things you miss about France ...

Thanks for stopping by !


2:35 AM  
Anonymous lady jicky said...

Here in Australia our fruit and vege are going to be very expensive - is now but its going to get worse for we are in a shocking drought. Not much rain and so the prices do and must go up.
We are seeing a new interest in the "older" types of apples here too. Maybe they can take the weather ? Not sure.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

The apples look fabulous. I need to buy some and make a pie.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Chris Late said...

Hey, Amerloque!

Just want to say how evocative this piece is! I'm in an autumnal mood, and there's something in your words (explicitly) which captures the feeling. I love the sense of cycles, traditions... anywho, lovely work!


3:14 PM  
Blogger Mary Ellen said...

l'Amerloque- I have a pie crust for apple pie that is out of this world. It's made with cream cheese,butter and flour. Very easy to mix and roll out. I'll e-mail it to you if you like.

Speaking of the prices of everything going up, on Saturday I went to put gas in my car and the price was $2.71 a gallon. Yesterday, I drove by the same gas station, and it is $2.95 a gallon, a 24 cent increase per gallon in two days. I'm afraid to look as I drive by today.

Hi rocket! I haven't seen you around in awhile. How are you?

Benoit! Aha! So this is how you found out about my blog! I was curious to know...good to see you again!

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Rocket said...

Hi Amerloque

"In her memoirs Julia Child goes into some detail about the flour here and the flour in the USA ... coming from such an authority, the reasoning is likely to be spot on. (grin)"

"It's hard to obtain the very same taste here as in the USA. Amerloque's feeling is that it's something to do with the flours and sugars used."

Some years ago I had a Japanese woman acquaintance explain to me that French flour is milled much finer than either Japanese flour or American flour. (Many Japanese women accompanying their husband on 2-3 year missions in France sign up for cooking lessons) Certainly high attention to detail in France where the concern for taste and the education of said is so important. IMHO the taste of the flour and the end result is unbeatable here in France. Really... who wouldn't die for the first warm and crunchy baguettes out of the "four" in the morning at the boulangerie (de province!) No individual should die without first having tasted that.

I go nuts over French pie crust by the way.

I remember on trips back to the US in the 80's when some American bakeries were starting to sell French bread and got a chuckle because we used to call it limp dick bread since it was not crusty AT ALL and it would collapse on itself and bend in half before you could even cut off a piece

Speaking of bread get a chuckle out of this picture

On a more fruity note

I never ate fruit before I came to France. I found the taste bland and the level of sugar not allowed to develop for output reasons. ( early picking and transportation distances) I discovered the joys of fruit only when I came to France and the taste was soooo good that it really wasn't comparable with the plastic wrapped fare in the US.

I remember even the lettuce from my former French father in law's garden in the Loire et Cher had delicious taste. I remember the Iceberg lettuce in America that tasted like refrigerated corrugated cardboard and you had to drown out the lack of taste with thousand island salad dressing.

Also if I may add

Loire et Cher = Printemps = Asperges frais = septième ciel.

Same for chèvre from the farm

Maybe with the price increases now we have to say Loire est Chère (wide grin). So why the brutal increases in price. I haven't really followed it but I know the debate is raging and Mrs. Rocket usually does all of the shopping.

I am a little concerned about pesticides here in France. They seem to use a lot and buying bio is not always a guarantee. Do you know the bio markets in Paris. I'm sure you do. Near Montparnasse and around Europe Metro once a week. They are quite small.

I used to work in Normandie once a week around a place called Yainville and in Spring would buy fresh cherries from the trees "chez les particuliers" So good!

PS - "Those Colorado Rockies are pretty impressive ..."

Until last week that is!


2:13 AM  
Anonymous bluevicar said...

You won't believe this but the day after I left this note, I unpacked a box recently arrived from France (now there is a sad story), and attached to one of the little jars inside was a decal from those yummy apples in France...Chantecler! I was so happy to see it so that I could remember the name.

Yes, I miss quite a few things about France...the apples being only one. But I'll be back!!

Meilleurs voeux!!

4:35 PM  

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