Having just had a week in Le Grand-Pressigny that included New Year, I couldn't help making comparisons with our first New Year there in 2007. So I thought it was time I picked up the story again and carried on where I had left off.
The butcher in Le Grand-Pressigny
One of the things we have enjoyed in the two years that we have owned the little cottage "au pied du château" is getting to know the local shops. During the week between Christmas and New Year in 2007 we shopped often in the village. There is an excellent butcher, a boulangerie, a florist that also sells fishing permits and guns, and a general store, the Spa. There is also a bank, insurance office, post office, estate agent, DIY and builders merchants, hairdresser, pharmacy, newsagent/tabac, plumbers and tourist office. I hope I haven't missed anything out.
That week in 2007, we decided that we would like to invite Barrie and Lucie to dinner one evening. This would be our second dinner party challenge - cooking with our new cooker and finding enough crockery and cutlery for all four of us at once ! We decided to cook roast beef as it seemed fairly safe and we knew what we were doing there - or so we thought.
In the morning of the appointed day we shopped for everything we needed in the village. We are very keen to support the local shops although periodic visits to the supermarket at Descartes are inevitable. We bought bread and a "tarte au mirabelle" for dessert in the boulangerie. It is virtually impossible to enter this shop and then come out with just some bread. The cakes, tarts and other goodies on sale are extremely tempting. So we also bought some little meringues and "gateaux", which are actually biscuits, to go with our after-dinner coffee.
We bought cheese and saucisson sec at the Spa. Vegetables had already been bought from the market in the village square on Thursday morning.
Next we plucked up courage to enter the butchers. I say this because, even now, a trip to the butcher is a slightly unnerving experience. Personally I find it makes a huge difference how many people are in the shop already when I enter.
If there are just one or two, I have enough time to scan the produce on offer, decide what to have and how to ask for it, get it and leave before I lose my nerve. If there are too many in front of me, I lose track of what I want in listening to the locals who buy all kinds of scary looking stuff and know what to do with it, panic because my French is so pathetic, then by the time it's my turn, I'm a nervous jibbering wreck and make myself look a complete idiot. An English idiot !
Worse still is if people pile in behind me whilst I'm waiting to be served. Then, not only do I have time to forget what I wanted in the fog of total panic, but the knowledge that all those people are listening to every mis-pronounced and inappropriate word makes me feel even more stupid, if that were at all possible.
Now I must say here that none of this has anything at all to do with the proprietors, M. and Mme. Poupeau. They are immensely patient, helpful and kind to us and have never ever said a single word that was intended to make us feel uncomfortable or inadequate in any way.
On this day, we were in luck. There was just one person in front of us so we checked out the meat in the display and also spotted some quiche and taboulé we would have for lunch plus some paté we could serve as a starter for our little dinner party. Quite an order and we were feeling confident.
Nick was at the helm and he asked Mme for "un pièce de boeuf à rôtir pour quatre personnes" (in his best Crabtree accent). She smiled, disappeared in the back and re-emerged with the biggest and most fabulous piece of meat I have ever seen in my life. She sliced a piece off and took the rest back to the fridge, re-emerging with a large parcel. This turned out to be thin slices of fat, some of which she wrapped around the meat and tied in place with string from a ball nailed to the ceiling. We marvelled at the whole performance.
Next our joint was wrapped and weighed, hitting the mark at 800 grams exactly! With a sweet smile, she lifted it up and as she was about to hand it to Nick she seemed to have second thoughts and quickly drew it back towards her, just out of his grasp !
Taken aback, we both stared at her as she said, in a stern voice. "quinze minutes, Monsieur". About two seconds passed as their eyes met and she said, leaning forwards ever so slightly, "quinze minutes......vingt minutes, maximum !"
Quick thinking as ever, Nick replied "Mais oui Madame, vignt minutes, bien sûr !" Satisfied that we were going to treat her beef with the respect it deserved, she allowed us to pay for it and we left the shop with our purchases, stunned but happy.
This picture is not the actual joint - but ours looked just as good !
Later that evening, we cooked it for almost an hour and it was absolutely perfect !