The Arrival of Johanna and Richard

With the arrival of Johanna and Richard (Annie’s daughter and son-in-law) from London, we are now 8 to dinner. As both Annie & Johanna are vegetarians, Tim decides that he wants to make his Salmon with coriander and lemon zest rub, and risotto. Tim, Peta and I venture into Digoin in search of a salmon filet.

On our way, we run into Claudette, who offers us “Blets” (Swiss Chard) from her garden. We make arrangements to pick it up on the way back from town.

The grocery store that might have a filet is the one that is furthest away – a good hour’s walk. But it is mostly down hill and we have much to talk about. The day is hot, but with a breeze, and although it is 4:30 in the afternoon, it seems just the right time of day to set out on such an adventure.

The supermarket offers a good selection of cheeses and we make sure to pick up our favourite old goat cheese – the very small rounds that encourage tiny tastes on the tongue. The fish section is small, and although there are chunks of salmon they are small and expensive. Tim is about to seal the deal anyway, when we find someone to ask about anything that might be in the back.

Alas, no, there is no whole salmon, but would this large trout, on special today, due? It is about 3 kg of goodness and Tim is ecstatic. We ask if she can pack it in ice for us, but we didn’t quite get our meaning across as she packs up a bag of ice separately. No matter, we pack fish and ice into the backpack and head home.

I have the wine and gin and tonics in my pack, Tim the fish & cheeses, Peta the lettuce and other items in a basket. We head out for Bel Air, distinctly feeling the hills as we head higher with each step. Tim’s pack is dripping down his legs – we are not sure if it is ice or trout juice. What is the bear population of Burgundy?

We arrive at Claudette’s, very hot and sweaty, and accept a large bag of huge Swiss Chard stalks and 3 beautiful courgettes. She tells us how to cook the Chard – it is a complicated explanation that my meager French cannot keep up with. It involves stripping the leaves from the stalks, stripping the veins from the stalks, chopping the stalks finely, shredding the leaves thinly, cooking the stalk bits, putting the leaves on top to steam, draining and then serving the whole with cream. Which Peta does, brilliantly, to go with the fish and risotto. The colours of the meal are vibrant and the eight of us are bonded by food.

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