French Word-A-Day goes out twice a week, but the stories continue in pictures over at Instagram. This snapshot, above, is subtitled "Following in a musician's steps, in Aix." I had been hurrying along behind the stranger, on my way to a meeting, when a little voice whispered: Snap out of it. Sometimes we are so clamped down on our track to the future that we are incapable of experiencing the present moment. This is also the theme of today's story. I hope you'll enjoy it.
la date limite
: deadline, cut-off date
date limite de consommation = best-before date
date limite de conservation = expiration date
date limite de publication = publication deadline
La date limite d'utilisation est une date indiquée sur l'emballage de certaines denrées au-delà de laquelle leurs qualités ne sont plus garanties. The expiration date is a date indicated on the package of certain foodstuff beyond which their qualities are no longer guaranteed. (French sentence from Wikipedia)
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A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
This month marks two years since I began writing the back page column for France Today magazine. In addition to Le Dernier Mot, I have been given the chance to write a three-page feature for their June edition! Though I have finally adapted to a regular deadline (getting lots of practice here in my blog) I am panicked about this week's due date and my tendency is to clamp down and shut everything else out. Like this, I recently missed the chance to meet friends in Cassis, and I missed my dear friend Tessa's painting class. C'est dommage. The friendly breaks would have surely had a positive effect and would not have caused my little publishing empire to come crumbling down!
By Wednesday this new deadline was looming when another date limite (you need to say those words with a French accent: DAT LEE-MEET) crept into the picture. That is when I remembered the skinned rabbit in my refrigerator.
Mon Dieu! It was time to cook it or see it expire for the second time! That would be inimaginable after what Annie--and the rabbit--went though!
Surfing the internet, I found recipes and diagrams on how to cut up a rabbit. Gosh! I hadn't gotten to that last part yet, couldn't it be cooked whole, like a roast chicken? In the middle of this dilemma, my husband walked in and there, I saw a solution...
Jean-Marc and I stood side-by-side in the kitchen, one of us holding a dull knife (I tried sharpening it), the other waving an instructional diagram through the air, in vain. (Jean-Marc will have nothing to do with convention.)
In 9 no-nonsense whacks, the rabbit was now ready to be sauteed in pieces... For this, I did as Annie had instructed earlier, when that very morning I had flagged her down in her car as she drove past our house. Reaching for me from her car window, she held my hand as she relayed La recette grand-mère pour Lapin à la Moutarde.
(Rabbit, covered with shallots, thyme and ready to cook)
RECETTE DE GRAND-MERE POUR LAPIN A LA MOUTARDE
- Saisir or fry the pieces in butter
- coat them with good mustard
- add fresh thyme, salt, pepper
- sauteed shallots if you like...
- a little water into the shallow pan, or a bit of white wine (or both)
- and into the oven at 175c for 45 minutes, turning several times, during cooking, to coat the rabbit in the pan juices
Squeezing my hand a few more times for courage, Annie added, "When the lapin is done, gently scrape off all the mustard and mix it with cream (I used sour cream), then recoat the morsels with this thick sauce and reheat, adding more liquid if necessary, so the meat doesn't stick to the pan."
As Annie drove off, I reached down and plucked up several branches of flowering thyme and headed back to the kitchen. I was a little confused as to why Annie's recipe called for only 45 minutes of cooking, and most of the online recipes called for hours and hours of slow cooking. And then, by coincidence, a guest last night (Marie, see her vineyard here!), whose son-in-law raises rabbits, explained: old rabbits are cooked longer, to make civet. Young rabbits are cooked quickly).
Bon, back to our story. There remained one question: when to serve Annie's rabbit and to whom?
Because we had two helping hands here at the moment (including Gilbert, who you met here in the asparagus post, along with his dog Inès de la Frange remember her...) the answer was easy. But would there be enough rabbit for three hungry men and one curious cook?
Amidst all the questioning, the thought of how can I ever thank Annie returned. And then I remembered a comment I had read from the morning's blog post, wherein so many of you were writing in with tips and encouragements on what to do with Annie's rabbit.
Cynthia wrote: By all means, do make a rabbit stew and invite Annie for dinner.
Mais bien sûr! This would be the perfect way to thank my neighbor! The only question now was: would there be enough for 5? Annie accepted the invitation and wanted to know if it would be alright if she brought her daughter along....
"Oui, oui!" I insisted, mentally watching our rabbit stretch itself to accomodate lunch for 6. Jean-Marc had cut up 6 pieces hadn't he? And there went my worries, back on the hamster wheel: round and round...
Returning to the kitchen to finish preparing the rabbit, a miracle occured. Just like Jesus and the fish, the rabbit multiplied! There seemed to be more pieces than before....
When it came time to sit down for lunch, our garden worker friends were famished from four hours of débroussaillement (clearing the jungle of bushes from our driveway). Annie and Margot, Annie's daughter, were exhausted from pulling up the lilac bush and an exotic plant from their own garden (which they gifted to me).
Returning to the kitchen to pull the rabbit out of the oven, I prayed the pieces had not shrunk from the cooking. Arranging the servings with economy, I sent Jean-Marc out with the plates and careful instructions: this one's for Annie... this giant piece is for Roland... and this little one's for you!
At the table I studied everyone's faces until Annie spoke.
"Bravo, Kristin! C'est délicieux!"
Thrilled with the compliment, and seeing my guests' plates were empty (good sign indeed!), I returned to the kitchen to serve up more rice. Peering into the oven I saw another miracle. Three servings of rabbit remained.
Crawling into bed for an afterlunch nap, I relived the previous moment in my mind's eye. There had been two ways to spend my morning: nailed to my keyboard, overworking my story (due in a few days...), or preparing a meal for some lovely characters.
The true miracle was to have chosen the second.
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Sitting down to lunch with my guests.
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Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi