The Saffron Feast menu at l'Image this year was:
Lemon and saffron mayonnaise
Navarin of Lamb (a lamb stew with seasonal vegetables) with star anise and saffron strands
'Red Gold' Crème Brûlée and candied orange peel
Both the navarin of lamb and the crème brûlée were outstanding. Saffron combines particularly well with orange zest and the textures and tastes were beautifully balanced in both dishes. I think this is Jean-Michel's best feast yet.
the flower - the dark orange bits
As we were walking home we ran into Stéphane and Valérie, so we went over to their place for a tisane and a chat. They live in the street behind us - in fact, their house is directly behind ours, but we don't have a common boundary. Their house is large and rambling, every room on a different level, and needs as much work as ours (maybe more - it's certainly more complicated than our house).
Stéphane and Valérie are local people who, like many, went away to Paris once they left school, so they could continue their education and/or find work. In their case, they later went even further, and emigrated to Canada. Valérie had trained as a therapist working with very disabled people, teaching them physical co-ordination and spatial awareness, but she couldn't find work in this field in Montreal. When she first arrived she didn't speak English either. She got a job in a psychiatric hospital as an administrator, and learnt English over the next few years. Stéphane trained as a cabinetmaker (ébéniste). He showed us a beautiful hall table he had made out of Australian bloodwood.
Now they have chosen to come back to Preuilly, with their two young sons. Neither is working full time at their profession, although they want to, but the jobs just aren't there in rural France. To help make ends meet Valérie has a second job at the state school. Like many French people of their age and background, they have a very clear idea of what they want their life to be and work very hard to ensure they can live in a place they feel connected to and in a house they love and are determined to save.
They don't get to practice their English much, and feel they are starting to lose it. We pointed out that this wasn't much good for our French, and we need to practice even more than they do. As usual, a lively melange of the two languages was used throughout. I admire their (and Sylvie and Pierre-Yves' and Alex and Nicole's) focus and energy tremendously, but at a decade older, it does make me feel tired sometimes, and a bit worried about my own stamina and determination in similar circumstances.