A tree shrinks in Daglan

Considering the title of this posting, those among you of a literary persuasion may nod knowingly and admire the subtle reference to Betty Smith’s semi-autobiographical novel of 1943, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” Others of you may simply wonder how the heck a tree could shrink.

In fact, this posting is a follow-up to yesterday’s brief article (“Timber!”), in which I showed what happened to our village’s Christmas tree when high winds hit Daglan. It was, to put it simply, knocked flat.

This morning, as I drove north out of Daglan, I saw our village’s two male workers on site, struggling to get the tree back in place. Because it had literally snapped off at the lower part of the trunk, the workers had to saw away some of the lower branches, to create a long-enough lower trunk to hold up the tree. And finally, here it is, just after noon today:

Back upright — just shorter.

So it’s up, just a bit shorter than it was. On the plus side, I believe that if the workers used all the decorations that had been on the tree before the fall, the decorations-per-square-inch-of-exposed-tree-surface would be a touch higher.

Merry Christmas, and let’s hope for no more storms. At least for a while.

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We’ve had some awfully wet weather lately, as previously reported in Radio Free Daglan (December 15). Sometimes we’ve had gentle showers, other times we’ve had hard rain. Unfortunately, some days we’ve also been hit with serious storms, bringing strong winds that have been knocking down trees all over the Greater Daglan Area.

One of the victims, in turns out, is our village’s Christmas tree, which has been standing proudly in the Place de la Liberté. But today just before noon, it looked anything but proud, as you can see:

Our fallen Christmas tree.

I’m not sure the village workers will be rushing to its rescue, at least today anyway, because of the sometimes torrential rain we’ve had to endure this morning. In fact, this photo was taken through the window of my car, because the rain was so heavy I didn’t want to roll down the window even for a minute.

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Getting the (Christmas) turkey right (encore edition)

Christmas is fast approaching, and you may be thinking of serving turkey as the centrepiece of your big holiday meal in a few days. So today I’m re-posting “Getting the turkey right,” exactly as published on December 26, 2018. It’s all about brining your turkey — why you should do it, and how. So, folks, here it is, from Radio Free Daglan of a year ago:

This year, we went the “traditional” route for our Christmas lunch — but with a twist. Yes, it was turkey and trimmings, including mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce. But thanks to the inspiration of son Michael in Toronto, I brined the turkey.

It was my first time to brine any meat, and my wife Jan and I thought it was the first time that either of us had eaten brined turkey. We also agreed that it was simply excellent — moist and tender and delicious. Not at all like the dry, almost tasteless turkey that is far too common.

My inspiration was that Michael had brined his family’s turkey for Canadian Thanksgiving, back in October, and he raved about it to us during one of our regular Skype sessions. So we thought we should give it a try for Christmas.

For a brining recipe, I checked with several food bloggers and websites, and was particularly impressed with suggestions from The Pioneer Woman and Dinner at the Zoo. But I made some tweaks of my own, partly because of personal taste (no garlic, please), and partly because we live in the Greater Daglan Area of France, and the products here are not exactly the same as in North America.

Our turkey was small (just two and a half kilos), since there are only the two of us in the house, and we made sure it was not fermière or free-range (since free-range poultry tends to be tough and chewy).  With that background, here we go.

In our large stock pot, I poured a 75-cl bottle of apple cider (brut) … seven bottles of water … one cup of coarse salt (gros sel) … one-half cup of brown sugar (Cassonade) … a tablespoon or so of black peppercorns … seven sprigs of fresh rosemary … a bouquet garnie … the peel from two oranges … and one thinly sliced lemon.

I brought the solution to a simmer, heated it through for a few minutes (to dissolve the salt and sugar), and took it from the heat. To help it cool faster, I first dumped in two trays of ice cubes, and then sat the stock pot in the kitchen sink, with several inches of cold water around it. And here’s what the solution looked like:

Quite the aromatic mixture.

When the solution was cool, I submerged the turkey in it, and placed the covered stock pot in the refrigerator, to let the solution permeate the meat overnight. Here’s the bird in place:

The turkey is now being brined.

The next morning (Christmas Day) I drained the turkey first, and then washed it thoroughly in cold water, to eliminate excess salt. After patting it dry, I roasted it in the usual manner, basting it along the way with liquid from the base of the roasting pan (some white wine and water) and brushing it with melted butter. When it was all done, I tented it with aluminum foil and let it rest for 30 minutes or so. The result? Have a look:

Just waiting to be carved.

From the juices in the pan, Jan made a gravy, which had a mild (and very pleasant) citrus taste.

I think the finished product looks pretty good, but I wouldn’t say the big difference is in the appearance — lots of well-roasted turkeys look nice and appetizing. The real difference is the taste and texture of the meat, and it’s well worth the effort of brining. So I say: Vive la différence!


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Dreaming of a wet Christmas?

Daglan lies in the Région of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, and as you may know (from your Latin studies) the word aquitaine comes from the same root word as water. That’s because the Romans (sometimes known as The First GDA Residents) found so many lakes and rivers around these parts.

And speaking of the GDA, you might think that the following photo shows an attractive small lake, or perhaps a large pond, near us.  But you would be wrong. Have a look:

A tranquil body of water near Daglan.

That photo was taken yesterday (Saturday) around noon, as I drove home from a session of aquagym. But just two days earlier (Thursday), it had been a field, normally occupied by cows, where two men with chain saws were cleaning up a number of trees they had felled. I see this field often, as it’s only a kilometre or so from our house, and I pass it if I’m heading towards either Gourdon or Cénac.

In the next photo, you can see the logs the men were piling up at the side of the road that leads to the hamlet of Bouzic:

Logs from the field, now a lake.

Everywhere I drove yesterday, there were these temporary lakes and ponds, as streams and rivers overflowed their banks. We’ve had rain after rain after rain, and with the earth so soaked, there is nowhere for the water to go — except up and over the banks.

Today, fortunately, was sunny and dry, so maybe our Christmas will be bright. Then again, there’s a good chance it will be wet.

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Our Super Sunday successes (holiday edition)

Did you ever have this thought: “What if I threw a party, and nobody came?” I must admit I was feeling a bit of that apprehension before yesterday’s Marché de Noël.

Knowing the huge amount of work that had gone into organizing the Christmas market, I was concerned that only a few people would show up — if for no other reason than it was a new event for the village. But boy, was I wrong: the Marché de Noël proved to be an unqualified day-long success.

In fact, yesterday was something of a Super Sunday for Daglan, as the Christmas market — which opened at 10 a.m. — and the winter truffle market — which began at 11 a.m. — came together nicely. I wrote about both markets in “Getting the most from Sunday’s events,” which I posted on December 6.

Having described the Marché de Noël in that posting, today I’ll simply offer some photos and brief descriptions about the event, starting with the front entrance to our Salle des fêtes. That’s where a garland had been draped around the doors, while outside were several food stalls:

A garland around the door welcomed visitors.

All along the hall inside were vendors selling everything from toys to Christmas decorations to jewellery. There was even a place where children could have their faces painted. Here’s a look at a couple of the stalls, photographed from just behind the large Christmas tree that had been placed in the centre of the hall:

Looking through the Christmas tree branches.

At the far end of the hall was the market café, which (as you can see) featured an amazing array of cakes, cookies, rolls, coffee and tea. Most of the treats had been made by the volunteers themselves. As well, the volunteers behind the tables were taking orders for several cooked items, like bacon and sausage sandwiches, which were prepared by a cook in the large kitchen at the far end of the building.

Believe it nor not, they pretty much disappeared.

This charming lady was one of the vendors that my wife Jan and I spoke with. She proudly said that she made all the decorations herself, while her husband had made the confitures that she was selling.

She was as proud as punch.

Of course you can’t have a Marché de Noël without Père Noël, and here he is — moving from table to table, handing out treats to the delighted visitors. (That’s Mrs. Claus in the background, having a laugh.)

What is there to say but: Ho, ho, ho!

Throughout the day, visitors bought items from the various vendors; snacked on the baked treats; ate lunch; drank a variety of beers and vin chaud; bought raffle tickets; and of course chatted.

How successful was the event? Well, I’ll offer  just two examples: First, virtually all the baked goods were sold by the end of the day, a real testament to how yummy the treats looked. As well, I can confirm that all 10 litres of the vin chaud (mulled wine) had been guzzled. I’m confident about the last statement, because Jan made the mulled wine and she and I served glasses of it through the day. But there were similar successes in every corner of the hall.

Will the Christmas market become an annual event in Daglan? I certainly wouldn’t bet against that. It truly was a success, and a tribute to the creativity, generosity, and plain hard work of all the volunteers — members of the village’s “friendship club, ” or Club de l’Amitié Daglanaise.

I’ll leave you with a quick peek at the winter truffle market, which is held every Sunday in the courtyard of Daglan’s public school. I was there at 11 a.m., sharp when it began, and managed to score a very nice, large truffle for 30 euros. Jan has already turned it into a log of truffle butter, and it’s now resting in our freezer, ready to go.

A good crowd for the winter truffles.

Posted in Festivals in France, Food, Holidays in France, Life in southwest France, Markets in France | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting the most from Sunday’s events

This posting will provide you with an easy-to-follow three-stop itinerary for your enjoyment this coming Sunday (December 8), provided that you will be in the Greater Daglan Area on that date.

The focus of my suggestions is the Christmas market, or Marché de Noël, that Daglan will be hosting in its Salle des fêtes, or community hall. But that’s not all: Sunday is to be the first day for our market of black truffles, the famed truffes noires of our Périgord region. Put those two markets together, a short walk separating them, and you have an enjoyable combination of events.

Let’s begin with the Marché de Noël. The poster below provides some of the key features of this event, so I’ll let you have a look, and then I’ll provide more detail. Here you go:

This colourful sign tells the story.

As of today (Friday), things are already taking on a festive look in the community hall. I have it on good authority (actually, the best authority — my wife Jan) that the hall is already decorated beautifully. All the organizers and volunteers — members of the Club de l’amitié Daglanaise — are set to go.

So, what can you expect? Lots of holiday decorations, of course, and a tombola (a raffle) for a basket of goodies, plus vendors selling gift items like crafts and jewellery, plus lots of cakes and cookies, plus coffee and tea, plus mulled wine, plus treats like sausage rolls and quiche, plus gift bags for the children, and of course, visits by Père Noël himself (Santa will make two appearances — at 11:30 a.m. and 16.30, or 4:30 p.m.).

Then there’s the market for black truffles, which is held (starting at 11 a.m.) in the courtyard of Daglan’s public school, a short stroll from the Salle des fêtes. To learn a bit more about the market, you can refer back to my posting of December 5, 2018, “Double your truffle.”

So then, what’s the suggested itinerary? Well, you start at the Christmas market at 10 a.m., where you can be among the first to check what the artisans are offering (I am thinking of some jewellery for a certain someone) while strolling around with a cup of coffee or tea, and maybe a cookie or two.

Then you can head out to the truffle market for its 11 a.m. start, and score one or more delicious black truffles.

And then it’s back to the Christmas market for, perhaps, some mulled wine (vin chaud) accompanied by a light lunch — maybe some sausage rolls, or quiche, or bacon sandwiches. Finish that off with some of the delicious desserts on offer, including a variety of cakes and tarts. And there you have it!

And by the way, if you’re not sure what to do with your black truffles, here’s a simple tip. Just grate the truffle finely, and mix it into some softened butter. Then roll the butter into a log in waxed paper, and freeze. It will last a long time, and you can just cut off chunks as you wish, to flavour any number of dishes — from pasta to mashed potatoes to vegetables like green beans. And you could rub the truffle butter onto a chicken you’re roasting. Enjoy!

Posted in Festivals in France, Food, Holidays in France, Life in southwest France, Markets in France | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Our Tree — in all its glory!

In yesterday’s posting (December 4), I raised the subject of Christmas in the heart of Daglan. Here’s some of what I wrote:

Admiring our village Christmas tree has become a time-honoured tradition, at least here in the world of Radio Free Daglan. But this year, I have a special treat for you — a sneak peek at the tree as it was being installed in the village’s Place de la Liberté this very morning.

And then I posted a photograph of two of the village’s workers installing the tree, securing it into a hole in the pavement created for just that purpose. I went on to say:

So far, so good. It looks nice and tall, so we’ll just have to see how the branches shake out when the tree is securely fastened in place. (Don’t worry, of course I’ll show the decorated tree in a subsequent post.)

As you can imagine, when I drove out of our quartier this morning, I was delighted to see that the tree had already been fully decorated. And here it is:

Daglan’s 2019 tree.

Is it the best-looking Daglan tree ever? I’m not sure, but it does seem to be an attractive specimen. And on that note, Merry Christmas to you all!

Posted in Holidays in France, Life in southwest France | Tagged , | 2 Comments