Friday, January 30, 2009

January journal

January 2009

We are in the full throws of our winter. It has been cold and wet. Temperatures even went down to –19 C! and we have had a couple of days that stayed below freezing. But it is a “wet cold” not a “dry cold”, and therefore it really penetrates.

With all the fog and chill in the air, we did have a few absolutely beautiful days with frost. I went over to the ponds (etangs) behind Gevrey and took some photos. And for about 30 minutes, the sun appeared through a whole in the clouds. It was stunning, however stunning is hard to caputre on film. I tried.

Over the Christmas holiday week we had sun every day (and bitter cold), then the rains came. It has been cloudy and /or rainy most of January.

Enough weather report from Gevrey .

We had a very nice Christmas. The Tuesday before we had friends over for lunch. We spent a lovely afternoon just talking.

On Christmas Eve I made duck dinner for two. I used duck breast without the skin to avoid the high fat. I added orange juice to finish it off. It was really good, but alas no recipe since I made it up as I went along. I will try it again and keep track of what I do and see if it turns out as good the second time around. If so I will add it as a recipe. Here in France,Christmas Eve is celebrated here as a family dinner and it is called “Reveillon”.

Christmas day was sunny and bright. We went over to our friends, Marie Therese and Christian’s house in Messanges. Along with Marie Therese’s father and sister we celebrated Christmas day with Christmas feast. Not sure how many courses we actually had, there were shrimp and toasts with foie gras to start, salad and terrine to follow, and sanglier (wild boar) for the main course, and cheese and dessert. It was all delicious. And again as I have stated before, meals take a long time here. To eat a meal like this, it is hours, not a few minutes. It is a time to share food and conviviality.

The week between Christmas and New Year was very quiet. I have to tell you about a cooking show that I saw on TV. It was a french cooking show and this particular one is about cooking for children [Mama, j'ai Faim- Mom, I am hungry]. I have seen it a few times, and the ideas are good for adults too. Anyway back to my story line, since it was the holidays, she was featuring some hors d’oeuvres for children (they should not be left out of the celebration). First she made a quick foie gras on pain d’espice (pain d'espice tastes like spice cake, but more the consistency of a pound cake) and then added a dollop of fig jam';for the second hors d’oeuvre she used mini blinis (we can buy them in packages here) with a spoon of creme fraiche and slice of fresh salmon, then sprinkled with dill; and third it was an “amuse bouche” (amuse the mouth) prepared on a spoon.It was chopped shrimp, mango and coriander placed on a spoon to be eaten in one bite. All sounded good to me, but in my mind, this might not go over well with small children in the U.S. or with the same enthusiasm that it does here. These children are raised as gourmets from day one!!

And now it is 2009. Have to get used to the new date on everything.

I am doing a personal boycott and if you want to join in please do. Unilever is closing the mustard factory in Dijon. The city has had many talks with the company, but to no avail. A few years ago, Unilever gave the name/recipe for Grey Poupon mustard to Kraft, so it is no longer sold here. And now they want to move the making of mustard out of Dijon to another location. It is DIJON MUSTARD !! Many people are upset because it is the patrimoine (heritage) of this area. So out with mustard under the labels of Amora and Maille (both made by Unilever) and we are now trying other mustards made in the area. We have tried Faillot that is made in Beaune. It is really pretty good. Then there is also “Reine de Dijon” made in Fleurey, and Temeraire made in Perigny lès Dijon. The only downside to this boycott, the mustard from Amore and Maille came in drinking glasses or wine glasses. So no more glasses. Better now break the ones we have.

I may have not mentioned the patrimoine before. With not just a few hundred years, but more a few thousand years of history, the heritage is very important. You see it written up in articles all the time. It is part of the preservation of historical monuments. There is even a weekend in September to celebrate the patrimoine, and chateaux are open for free, as our some museums, and other historic sites. But I will write about that weekend in September.

January 6th is the Ephinany. In France it is celebrated with a galette de rois. This is a puff pastry “pie” filled with almond paste. Also a “feve” ( broad bean) is hidden in the galette and the person who gets the feve, wears the crown. The feve that we got this year was pretty ugly, (they are now porcelain trinkets). I think ours was supposed to be a slice of kiwi?!?!, not positive.

We had a galette here at home, then the genealogy club had an evening with "galette de rois" and Cremant, and then the Photo club had an evening with "galette de rois" and cidre and annual photo. I was “galetted-out” by end of the first week of January.

The 28th of January was a beautiful day. Although it was sunny, there was still some haze. Down here in Gevrey the vignerons (grape growers) were cutting and burning the branches from the vines. So not sure how much was haze and how much was smoke. It was SMOG.

I went up to Messanges for the afternoon on the 28th. In Messanges, there was a little haze on the horizon (but no smoke), so I did not take any photos. We went for a walk and it was great. Good to be outside, and great to feel the warm sun again.

I have continued with my pottery. I have a few things in the making right now. One is a lamp base (tall) and then a couple of pots with designs. I really enjoy my Thursday mornings at the atelier (workshop, studio).

Then there is genealogy. The club registered this year to be a real association. It takes an enormous amount of paper work to do this. I have been elected to be adjunct treasurer. All officers need to register name, place of birth, residence, and employment. I had to provide a copy of my Visa too. I got the poition somewhat by default, some of the people work and just said they could not take on more work, others already volunteered for the other positions and they ran out of people!! Buto as second in line, it should not be too bad, and numbers are the same in french as they are in english.

And of course there is my photo club. Still out there taking photos when I have a chance. I put my 2009 calendar on line. If you look below this entry, I wrote a note on it and where to find it should you want a look. I may also bother you with a poll in the not so distant future. Our club expo this year is the "landscape of the Cote D'Or. So I may put some photos out online and asks for votes.

And what of that husband of mine? He is now a TV star. On January 20th, our group called Burgundy Friends had a evening together. One American had arranged for the TV station to come to Isabelle's house to interview the Americans (about the inaugeration of Pres. Obama). And so it was. We arrived and the TV crew was already there. Keith was interviewed. Not sure if it is still out on the web, but the link is/was TV FRANCE 3:

Greg Marshall, Keith Klein et Alex Miles, tous 3 ressortissants américains vivant en Bourgogne
Réactions à l'investiture de B. Obama (20/01/09) 

"L'investiture de Barack Obama fêtée en Côte-D'Or"(20/01/09) CLICK HERE
There is an ad that comes up, ignore that. It opens with a photo of Obama, scroll down ...below there should be a grey rectangle with a camera. Click on the camera. It is in french. That was a major excitement for this month.

So what else is Keith doing? He went out for a bike ride (January 28,29th &30th). There is not a lot of club activity in the winter, but if the weather permits, he still likes to ride 60-80km, or about 200km a week. He was not happy with day after day of rain. And of course, most Saturdays are spent in Bligny repairing trains and tracks and what have you for the coming tourist season.

He has also started working on some doors for the kitchen cabinets. Slowly, one cabinet door at a time, the kitchen changes.

On January 29th, there was a general strike in France (greve). The workers were protesting the financial crisis. The buses were shut down, the trains, some air travel, post office, government offices.... and the list goes on. Of course most strikes are announced days in advanced, so you can prepare. In Paris about 300,000 took to the streets (not as many as predicted though- too cold?). Here in Dijon, the paper said there were 12,000.


Easy Potato Leek Soup

This is great for those winter days, and so easy to make.


  • 1 leek, cut into small rings
  • about ½ pound of potatoes peeled and cut in cubes
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • ½ cup cream or crème fraiche
  • salt and pepper to taste [ I do not use very much salt because of the bouillon cube. I very the amount of salt depending on my taste on the day]
  • 1 TBS of oil


  1. After cutting the leek, add oil to pan and sauté the leek for 2-3 minutes
  2. Add 2 cups of water, cubed potatoes, and the bouillon cube. After it comes to a boil, simmer until the potatoes are soft. 20-30 minutes
  3. Puree the soup
  4. Return to pan and add cream or creme fraiche (this makes the soup creamy and adds a another dimension to the flavor. If you are watching the calories, it is not absolutely essential)
  5. Check seasoning
  6. To serve you could add a sprig of parsley