Les Rapounchous

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Spring is the season when traditionally people went out gathering what they could find to help boost the system after a winter of eating preserved meats and a distinct lack of vitamins in the diet. Two foraged plants which feature heavily on the spring menu are; the fresh young dandelion (pissenlit) leaves that can be used in a salad and rapountchou.

The collection of rapountchou is still very popular in Aveyron (as well as the Tarn and the Gers) and sometimes it seems that around every corner you come across people standing in ditches and examining the hedgerows.

Also known as “L’herbe des femmes battues”  because the root was used as a treatment for bruises. The method of cooking is a subject for much debate or should I say many conflicting categorical statements!

Repountchou is very bitter and the method of cooking often varies according to how much bitterness you can stand. Cook it for an age, cook it as briefly as possible, don’t change the water, change the water 3 times. Some would  say “confit” it in oil and serve it as a salad dressed with lardons and vinegar. I’ve also been told cooking it in milk takes away some of the bitterness.

Below is the Claude Izard’s recipe, a local chef and author of a book on the subject!

  • blanch in boiling water for up to 3 minutes
  • Serve in a salad with hard boiled eggs and grilled streaky bacon

He also suggests coking the tips in the same way as they cook all there spring hedgerow greens in Cyprus, in a sort of scrambled egg/omelette.





Yes I know, shopping , not the most interesting of subjects, but for me , people watcher/nosy bugger, quite a lot of clues to lifestyles and attitudes can be gleaned from shoppers and the shops themselves. I’m not talking clothes etc here, just day to day shopping, and in fact that’s the first difference between where we were in the UK and here; there’s no such thing as just shopping. In the Uk the food shopping is a chore (I am of course generalising here), you arrive at the supermarket clutching your list, head down determined to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. Here people arrive, head up, on a mission, convinced of the importance of their duty to provide for the family.

Food shopping is an honourable pastime, an important part of the quality of life. Discussion must be had, the pluses and minuses of each product carefully weighed up.

Another interesting phenomenon is the chair. In lot of local shops (particularly butcher’s and post offices for some reason) there are chairs, you are encouraged to sit, to take you time (in fact in one of the local post offices one of the chairs is taken pretty permanently by an older lady who just likes to watch the coming and going).

Even in supermarkets nobody expects you to pay until everything has been properly packed away, and possibly discussed. the cashier enquiring into your purchases, quality, uses, showing an interest in a new line etc.

What a difference a decade makes, part 2

So, as I said in part 1, a decade ago the mornings looked a little different to how they look now!


6 get up; prepare son and self.

6.45 leave house and struggle through traffic to nursery

7ish (very ish, given the traffic variables!) have son dragged screaming from arms.

7.05 ish start drive to work, this was always the big variable! The drive, if done in the middle of the night, from St Albans to north Watford is 15 minutes, but given that the towns are on junctions of the M25, the M10, and the M1…….well what can I say, an average journey time of an hour, but you need to leave an 1 hour and a half to be sure.

? arrive at work, usually running and clutching my mobile, giving instructions, trying to avert the latest disaster caused by students or staff!

8.30 morning meeting

Teaching and admin and firefighting until 6/7 or 9.30 (if evening classes)

Fight way back home, dinner, marking, preparation, large amounts of wine, bed!


7.30 get up, (son, now 13 prepares himself! ), breakfast, leisurely shower, check Facebook.

8.35  leave for work on foot, going via chickens to let them out and collect eggs.

8.45 arrive at work, receive instructions

1.45  break (didn’t get one of those in UK!)

3.30 back to work

5  leave work!

How things have changed! Not only that but here are a few photos of the “commute”

P1020533P1000318  The village of BournazelP1000311Dawn over the fieldsP1030726 P1020663 Le chemin de l’écoleP1020593 0c4dc-p1020886

What a difference a decade makes! Part 1

In July this year we will have lived here, in Bournazel for 10 years, the time has come perhaps to reflect on what we “left behind”.

The most important change has of course been the distance that we have put between ourselves and our families, obviously the most negative part of our “big move”, but that is maybe better left for another day. What I have been thinking about a lot recently is the change in our style of living.

When I left the UK, I was in charge of a department in a very large further education college, I am now a classroom assistant and dinner lady, that’s quite a change! We of course made a conscious decision to change our priorities, and thought long and hard about this massive change in our lives (although arriving without jobs, no savings and still with a couple of unpaid of credit cards, not to mention a 4 year old in tow it might not have appeared that way!) but I don’t think you can ever be completely ready for the culture shock of living in a new country and maybe that’s a good thing!

There are a lot of people that arrive from the UK to start a new life in France, but there are also a lot who don’t stay. There are a lot of reasons for that: people underestimate the cultural differences, international travel is more difficult than from the UK, French is a hard language to learn (I know it’s not Chinese, but it’s still hard!), many people move from an urban environment to the countryside, nobody ever says your name right, no crackling on your pork and many more!


Sew long

Sew long

So I have this lovely long wool winter coat donated to me by my step-mother, it’s very “French Lieutenant Woman” , which is why I have managed to pretty effectively destroy the lining, wafting about in it and catching it on door handles, my feet etc. (yes, I’m not really designed for elegance!).
Anyway, this coat has been in my car for going on for 2 years, why? Well the seamstresses place is not exactly conveniently placed and the opening hours are what you might call flexible. On one occasion there was  a note saying back in 10 minutes which gave me some hopes, but after 20 minutes I gave up. So the other day I was amazed to see the door open, hurray! Unfortunately when I went in the lady there (in her 60 s) said she was only the daughter of the seamstress  and that she was not allowed to take items in in the absence of the boss. “OK how long will she be?” “Not sure, she’s gone shopping, she’s already been a while.” So (although she wasn’t keen) I left the coat and said I’d do a bit of shopping myself and pop back (there’s not much shopping to be done round there to be honest, but needs must!).
Anyway when I got back “The Boss” was there and as is traditional in the more old fashioned shop she was less than welcoming, something I quite enjoy it’s a challenge to win them round and most warm up eventually, it’s just part of the rather taciturn character of people from round here.The conversation started predictably in the tutting and “big job that” style that everyone will recognise. She wanted me to buy the lining from Rodez 30 km away etc. Eventually she admitted to having “a few pieces of material” that might be suitable and started to try and open some of the 30 odd drawers she had, various bits of material where excitedly held up then rejected, the front of several drawers fell off, some received kicks and “gros mots” and eventually we came up with enough off cuts to do the job.

So when did I want it for? Well that’s a loaded question, if you ask for it too quickly you’re implying people have got nothing else to do, if you give too long you’re criticizing their skills, well we agreed mid October,  but I’m not to turn up without ringing first. We’ll wait and see, maybe for next winter?