28 May, 2012

Toute chose rit de plaisir

After several months of foul weather Spring has finally decided it should go into sunny mode this week.

Three consequences:

1) My fruit platter has finally diversified from winter apples and pears, and the odd orange or mandarin. At last I can eat local melon, strawberries and cherries!

2) One can sit comfortably on the terraces of cafés.
3) People will be dressing in a more colourful mode from now on.

I wonder if Roos Heikens has ever been to Paris in this season. She has perfectly captured the atmosphere in the drawing she did for me two weeks ago.

Revoici venir du printemps
Claude Le Jeune, Ensemble Jacques Feuillie, Arion

Colourful Paris drawing: Roos Heikens

14 May, 2012

Sky of blue and sea of green


Two weeks ago I had my first experience of sailing. Friends from the Choeur Varenne had organized a sailing week end in Britanny. I joined a party of ten living on board a sailing boat. I did enjoy the sailing but as this blog is devoted to food and music, I will delve on those aspects of this trip. As all the crew members were part of the choir, when bad weather struck we whiled it away singing or listening to the piece of our next programme.

It is very tight on board so every thing is optimized to save space, including the kitchen and dining tables. When in sailing mode under strong wind the boat can tilt to up to 45°, so all objects have to be secured in cupboards, store rooms or inside the two deep sinks. Otherwise, things just fly off the shelves and break on the floor. We came back to port with one plate broken on our first day because newcomers like me were not aware of the shifting horizontality on board. One of us had left a plate on the kitchen table.

I was delighted to notice that I did not get seasick. I could actually widstand the to-and-fro tilting while reading, sleeping and even preparing food inside the cabin. I have also learned how to get organized to prepare complete meals for ten using only two hot plates, a small oven and a very small and unstable working space. One must pay particular attention to one's fingers when cutting food on board a boat that is sailing.

The trip organizer had prepared a detailed menu for all the meals of our four days on the boat but our crew quickly decided we would not follow the menu to the letter, prefering to be inventive with the ingredients available in the store rooms and refrigerator. There was a generous provision of Muscadet white wine, which did not seem to tempt diners, so I used a lot of it for sauces to accompany the meats. The crew also made a particular effort to arrange the fruits available into fresh fruit salads rather than opening the tinned fruit salads. For our last dessert on board, I fried the leftover bananas in salted butter caramel. Our captain was particularly grateful to have a chef to prepare the food so that meals could be ready very soon after the boat had been moored. I must admit that I enjoyed more being in control at the stoves than clumsily trying to help out during manoeuvres in the ports.

I have mentioned space was tight on board. Our dining table was also the bed I shared with another crew member. The table feet could be removed and two planks set on which to lay the table. Cushions then completed the transformation of the dining table into a large bed.

Yellow submarine
The Beatles, 1962-1966, EMI

I drink with jam and bread

I am on holiday in Hong Kong until tomorrow to see my brother Arnaud and his wife Nancy. They treat me to delicious local foods at every meal.

However, as they were both working today, I went to enjoy afternoon tea alone at the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon. It allowed me to rest from my day of shopping over good tea, a selection of sandwiches, cakes and delicious scones.

Rodgers and Hammerstein, The sound of music, RCA

13 May, 2012

Sing a song

I have gone on tour with the chamber choir Les Métaboles to the French Flanders region for three days at the end of April. We were giving an olfactory concert there. The concert was "olfactory" because we had come with a perfume artist who had created four perfumes to be smelt with the music we were singing. The perfumes had been crafted with the four seasons in mind, as the sequence of seasons also transpired from the music of our programme.

However, the highlight of the tour for me was the educational concert we gave to several classes of kindergarden and early primary school children in the small town of Bourbourg. Though the audience was extremely young, I found that the children were very attentive to the music, listening to the words and reacting to the cues we had asked them to search for in it. The children also witnessed the olfactory side of the concert as they each received a sample of Autumn. The choir then sang a piece which was supposed to go well with this scent but we did not get any applause... The children were visibly too engrossed in their perfume sample to pay attention to the music as well.

The singers and perfumer mingled with the children after the concert. The children even sang a few songs in return as they are being coached by Rémi Aguirre, a professional singer who sings with us in the choir. The whole tour was organized by the association Des voix en Flandres, which promotes choral music for people of all ages in the rural areas of the region. We were hosted by the association's members, enjoying the food they had prepared for us, and staying in their homes.

The tour ended with a banquet of traditional food from the North of France.

The Carpenters, Gold: greatest hits, A&M