Monday, 7 September 2009

Tale of the tomatoes and mistaken identities

The problem with going to France for just brief periods is that they are very intense, both in relation to the amount of work that we have to get done and the amount of people we have to visit.

We caught up with Stephane and Stephanie, our neighbours from the village. In fact, we were able to return one of the many invitations that they have given us and invite them for an 'apero' on the terrace at the aperitif hour of 7.00 p.m. I spotted Stephane tending his garden one day while I was cycling home with lunch and decided to put my French to the test by inviting him up to the house 'one evening next week'..At least, I thought that was what I said! When I got back I told Ian. "I think that's what we agreed, but I'm not sure. Maybe you'd better phone them to check". A bit later Ian phoned and I was delighted that Stephane had in fact understood the invite. However, he had not recognised me in my cycle shorts and helmet and thought the invite had come from one of our other cycling neighbours! Turns out we are very confusing! There are three of us English women living virtually next door to each other, who ride our bikes wearing helmets (no self respecting French cyclist would wear a helmet) and other elements of disguise like cycle shorts and dark glasses. The Mayor's secretary calls us 'Les sportives'. We all speak pigeon French with a funny accent and strangely enough we all have blond hair so really the locals don't have much chance. Apparently when trying to distinguish one from the other they say 'you know, the blond one' and then laugh! Anyway, to this day Stephane still thinks he is owed an invite from one of the other blond ones!
Stephane's vegetable garden is very productive and we were given some tomatoes and peaches from their overspill! Ian happened to mention that I really liked French tomatoes and in fact did not eat the English ones. (This is true. To me the watery English variety are so insipid and acidic compared to the sweet, juicy tomatoes that you get further south). With that, Stephane promised to bring us some tomatoes to take back to England the day before we left and true to his word on the Friday evening he arrived with this enormous box of tomatoes!

As lovely as they were there was no way Ian and I could use up that many tomatoes before they went bad so last week I had my first attempt at making and bottling tomato sauce! I searched for recipes on the Internet and in the end decided to go with just putting the hot sauce into sterile jars with a tight lid that fortunately sealed as the jars cooled. Hopefully I have done enough to avoid botulism! Peeling the tomatoes took a while and I'm afraid I did not have the patience to remove the seeds but I have 16 jars of summer tomato sauce to remind us of France over the winter.