NOVEMBER

We are going to the farm in Ockley this morning to pick up a leg of lamb and some chicken gizzards. I want to make “gesiers confit” for salads. I loved them in France, mixed with the tough leaves of chicory, called Frisee, and tossed with a tart vinegar and oil dressing. I also loved the gizzards with the fried chicken my Midwestern mother used to make on a Sunday, and as it happens, one of my grandsons, Nico, who is six, also likes them. As with snails, which are tastiest because of the butter, garlic, and parsley sauce, I think it is the texture he likes, the chewiness as well as the flavor.

However, it is raining, “comme une vache qui pisse” (like a pissing cow), heavy now, although it lightens to moderate now and again, which is expected to continue all day. It will be muddy and wet at the farm; better wear the wellies. Afterwards we will lunch at a nearby pub, The Parrot, which is said to source all its food locally, and to sell local produce. I hope they have the fire blazing today, because it’s not only wet, but cold, too.

Later:

Yellow leaves against tree trunks black with rain mark the road; soggy, russet leaves pad the roadsides, while Nico’s tree tunnels further shadow the dark day. Despite the rain, though, the rutted, muddy lane leading to the farm is lined with cars. Grown men, out to play hunter for the day, are shooting tame, pen-raised pheasants. Big deal. Oh well, better than shooting each other. I guess.

We pick up the lamb, some eggs (including duck eggs), and the gizzards, which because nobody wants them, are free, and head for the Parrot, a 5 minute drive away. We’re early, so we have our pick of tables. I choose the one closest to the fireplace, of course. Tasha is welcome here, and settles snugly beneath the table. This is a good thing, as a flock of hunters clad in knee breeches, tasseled knee socks, tweedy coats, and caps invade the pub. They cluster around the bar ordering drinks and slapping backs, and then, with the loud guffaws men in groups seem to find obligatory, settle at an already-laid table in a side room. We order warm beer, Bernard a pint, and I, a half, then choose from a menu that is only slightly “pubby”. Hardly a fish and chip in sight. My bruschetta arrives heaped with wild mushrooms and ratatouille, light and tasty.

After lunch we check out the “farm shop”, which is in the pub itself. It has a small butcher shop, a variety of cheeses, country bread, and specialty jams and pickles. The home made sausages look yummy, so we take some home for supper. They are yummy. We also buy some English cheese to serve our friends for lunch on Sunday, an English “brie” from Somerset, and a camembert-style cheese from Surrey. These also turn out to be excellent, even drunk with French wine. The French, by the way, do not think cheeses from elsewhere should be called by their French names, and that cheese as well as wine should be awarded an “appellation controlee”. I think they have a point.

I am told the English actually makes a wider variety of cheeses than the French, despite de Gaulle’s comment that a country which produces over 300 cheeses is ungovernable. I have tasted only a handful of English cheeses so far, and can only dream of the delights in store, as long as my cholesterol stays low.

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