A DUTCH friend gave us some Roomboter Waffeltjies, or some such name, the other day. They're a sort of papal-strength wafer soaked, steeped, clarted in rum butter. I had one with my afternoon tea (a Lapsang Souchong-Russian Caravan mix) and felt t
A DUTCH friend gave us some Roomboter Waffeltjies, or some such name, the other day. They're a sort of papal-strength wafer soaked, steeped, clarted in rum butter. I had one with my afternoon tea (a Lapsang Souchong-Russian Caravan mix) and felt the weight of it the rest of the day and well into the night. I had dreams of bitter disappointment involving temporary membership of a fleshpot called El Club Scanty, where beautiful women melted away when I reached out to them. Not good. I should have stuck to McVitie's Digestives.
I wondered where she got them from. Apparently there's a Dutch lorry that makes the round trip from Amsterdam, through France and down to Malaga and - for all I know – El Club Scanty in Spain, doshing out the Gouda cheese, Oranjeboom beer and of course Roomboter Waffeltjies wherever the Dutch have set up their expat nests en route.
No Brit lorry shows any such enterprise, at least not in our part of the world. If we want goodies from home we depend on the kindness and spare boot (trunk, if you're reading this in the USA, and I hope you are) capacity of visiting friends. But it's a chancy business, and possible dearth of childhood needments like Scott's Porage Oats or Marmite (Vegemite, if you're reading this in Australia, etc., etc.) can lead to desperate hoarding. Indeed, I once went to see Ron and Julie, a rotund Yorkshire pair from Goole (with our household instinct for base nicknames they became The Ghoulies) who like us have settled down here in the Deep South.
Ron talked mainly about what would happen when the balloon went up, as if the French Revolution Mk 2 was just around the corner. He's got no great opinion of the French: it wouldn't take much, in his opinion, to trigger a popular movement against the rising tide of expats. (Maybe he has a point. Numbers are going up and up: in our département 18,000 northern Europeans per year apply for cartes de séjour, residence permits.) He didn't actually mention race riots or cattle trucks to the Gulags, but there was a distinct whiff of Dr Guillotin in his discourse, not to mention Mme Defarges, the scaffold-haunting crone in A Tale of Two Cities who added a stitch to her knitting every time an aristo's head rolled into the basket.
But he was OK, he reckoned. He could withstand any siege latter-day sans culottes could throw round his villa in the sun, at least until Mafeking was relieved and the SAS helicoptered him and Julie back to Blighty: he unlocked a spare bedroom wardrobe to show me floor-to-ceiling stacks of Heinz Baked Beans and Bird's Custard Powder.
OUR LOCAL supermarket has at least cast a nod in the direction of expat Brit tastes, but they don't make it easy for you. You have to know where to look. Pity the poor Dutch in search of Roomboter Waffeltjies: they'll have to go hungry and/or sleep untroubled by seductive visions of El Club Scanty and its sirens. But for Brits in search of HP Sauce, Lemon Puffs, Sharwood's Spreading Piccalilli, Mrs Globus' Crumble Mix, etc., etc., all you have to do is locate what they call the rayon exotique and then be guided by the shelf-top country of origin sign: Espagne, Chine, Thaïlande, Tunisie and so on.
Suddenly among the tacos mix, couscous and soy sauce you come across a noble stack of McVitie's Digestive Biscuits. You look up: does the sign say Angleterre . . . Grande Bretagne . . . Royaume Uni ?
Does it Cadbury's Cocoa: it says 'Mexique'.
OUR NEW walnut tree came into its own this year. 'New' means new to us: it's a 30-year-old specimen standing by the foot of the drive of the newly-acquired land we'll be building a house on next year. Unfortunately its lane-side position means that those unversed in age-old country laws of have and have not, viz. anything belongs to anybody who thinks he can get away with it, help themselves to the fallen nuts.
Earlier in the year several branches had to be removed to allow diggers and lorries up the drive to prepare the site. Age-old country laws reckon that growth follows the knife, and certainly this year's crop has been enormous, if only because I've been reliving a Missing Link childhood mostly spent up trees, shaking the nuts down for Josephine to collect and spread out in the sun to dry in shallow fruit boxes.
A country favourite round here is vin de noix, walnut wine. It's excellent as a sweetish apéritif, rounder and fuller than medium or sweet sherries, if not as delicately flavoured. Traditionally it's prepared on St John's day, June 24th, so you've got several months to get ready. But you'll need green walnuts, i.e. the nuts still tender in their apple-green suits, before they've fallen off the tree. More Missing Link stuff.
14 green walnuts
1 litre eau-de-vie at 45 degrees proof (sounds good so far)
3 litres of red wine (AOC St Chinian is recommended: better and better)
500g granulated sugar.
1. Crush the nuts. (Better to wear gloves: walnut juice stains horribly.)
2. Macerate the crushed walnuts in the wine and eau-de-vie for 40 days.
3. Strain the mix and add the sugar.
4. When the sugar has dissolved, stir well and put into bottles.
If you don't want to bother with all this, just drink the wine instead. It comes to the same thing in the long run.
LAST MONTH'S competition asked readers to identify a dizzy crag-perched castle near Perpignan. First correct answer came in from regular prizewinner Robin Quinn of Ottawa, who identified it as Quéribus. Well done, Rob, yet again. You win a handful of sage from our lane-side herb garden, if the passing self-help trade has left any. If not, I can offer you some digestive biscuits. Or maybe you'd prefer some second-hand dreams of El Club Scanty and its denizens, untouched, more's the pity, by human hand.