Book Club: A Table in the Tarn

France is probably going to be on my mind a lot during the next year; we’re planning another trip in 2013. That means it will probably be in my blog as well, since I mostly write about what I am thinking about. Not too much space between my thoughts and my fingers, actually. To paraphrase my favorite movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, “It’s my process.”

Given that we’re going to France and I love food, I put my name on the list at the library for what appeared to be a very cool book — A Table in the Tarn: Living, Eating, and Cooking in Rural France. I mean, really? How could this be bad? I read all of Peter Mayle’s books about his experiences living in southern France and reviewed a couple of them here and here. Oliver Murrin’s book looked like it was worth waiting for at the library.

I was right. It was a wonderful book, packed with personal stories of giving up the city life and starting up a bed and breakfast in southern France. It was also packed with recipes; about two-thirds of the book is mouth-watering ideas for fabulous eats. I was drawn to the Roquefort Tart pictured above — the recipe is here at what appears to be a blog on hiatus.

Imagine my surprise when I actually went to find the web site for Manoir de Raynaudes to see if we could stay there. It’s gone. Well, not actually gone, but sold to the highest bidder!

It appears that Oliver Murrin and his partner Peter Steggall went back to their British roots, bought a very old manor in southwestern England’s Somerset Levels, and operate it as a bed and breakfast. I’m pretty sure we’ll stay at Langford Fivehead when we do our southwestern England trip, which will of course include my pilgrimage to Daphne Du Maurier’s Cornwall.

But that’s another set of books and another year of traveling. 🙂

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I’m Baaaaaa – ck

As I prepared for my recent trip to England for a wedding, I became unsure how much to disclose on the internet. Most of the people who consistently read my blog already knew that I was going, but I had some (perhaps) irrational fear of stranger danger while I was gone. I suppose it’s possible that someone could figure out where I live and break in, not that there’s much beyond electronics to steal. Anyway, I’m home again, my house was fine, and I’m full of new stories to tell. I appreciate that you hung in there with me while I was on hiatus from blogging.

When I came back through U.S. customs, I struggled with one of the questions on the customs declaration card — something about having been up close and personal with any livestock or a farm. Although I didn’t ride any horses and didn’t actually touch any sheep, they were everywhere. Lambies here, lambies there, everywhere a lambie. Even the wedding venue had sheep up close to the fence that separated Kingscote Barn from the actual working farm. From what I understand, the intent is to keep people from bringing in animal-borne disease, so I said I hadn’t been near any farm animals. It’s just another one of those nuances of the English language that people who write questionnaires don’t seem to understand. You have to be exact about what you are asking and why you are asking it, or you won’t get the response that you need. But my rant about precise language can be saved for another day. You’re here to find out about the lambs.

That’s another thing. Silence of the lambs. I didn’t notice any silence. The lambs baaa — ed all day and much of the night. I’ve never lived near where there are actual sheep and cows in close proximity and within hearing distance. For a time while growing up, we did have goats that bleated and a rooster that crowed, but they didn’t seem so omnipresent as these sheep were. Perhaps I’ve been away from the countryside too long and just don’t remember the sounds of rural Ohio.

The setting for the wedding in a restored 17th Century Cotswold barn was extraordinarily beautiful, despite the sounds of the sheep, and both the bride and groom looked stunning.

Even though this was one big pain in my patootie to go to this wedding in the Cotswolds while school was in session (think volcano erupting and union contracts limiting the amount of days I can be gone from school), it was worth every minute and every dollar. If you ever get a chance to attend a country wedding in England, JUST GO. You won’t regret it.

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