Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart. food for thought.

"Amour-sur-Belle, a village situated in South-West France, so ugly that even the English refuse to live there."

When Guillaume Ladoucette, the only barber in Amour-sur-Belle, realises that his business is not doing as well as it used to, he puts it down to the march of time.
His clients are all either going bald or have, to quote Shakespeare's Hamlet, "shuffled off this mortal coil".
What he doesn't know is that quite a few of the men from the village have defected to a barber in a nearby town who knows all the latest styles, including one rather strange one “that looks suspiciously like a pine cone”.
When the matchmaker is left in charge of the village patisserie havoc ensues when he gives all the little cakes away
Although he himself has never married, his first and only love Emilie Fraisse was lost to him many years before, Guillaume Ladoucette decides to give up his barbering business and set himself up as Amour-sur-Belle’s first matchmaker.
The exploits of Guillaume and the men and women that he “matches” had me laughing out loud at times, I really enjoyed this book.
That may be because I'm an English woman, living in a not very pretty village, in rural France.
When "the man from the council" arrives to tell the villagers about the water restrictions that are about to come into force, I could picture the scene, and populate it with characters I have known!
Like many of us living in rural France Guillame Ladoucette grows vegetables in a potager.

"A high priest of the cult of lunar gardening, he undertook no task in the potager, no matter how small, unless the moon was passing in front of the correct zodiacal constellation"

"the optimal time to concern oneself with leaf crops such as lettuce and spinach was when it was passing in front of Cancer, Pisces or Scorpio".

"He naturally endorsed the teaching that there were four days a month when only a fool would work in his potager"

The Matchmaker of Perigord is something of a gourmand, despite having a cassoulet simmering on top of his stove which his mother began over thirty-one years before.
“Love is like a good cassoulet, it needs time, and determination. Some bits are delicious, while others might be a bit rancid and make you wince”.

The Senior Partner and I are not lovers of cassoulet but I thought I’d prepare one for this review.
I consulted several recipes, all of which included tomatoes in the list of ingredients.
Whether or not to add this particular ingredient is the cause of much hilarity in the book, I was perplexed.
What should I do?
In the end I cheated.

I bought a large can of the famous "Cassoulet de Castelnaudary au canard" and added a small can of Italian (!) plum tomatoes.
The result was much better than either of us anticipated, in fact SP cleared his plate, quelle surprise!

"He rinsed the salad and tomatoes thoroughly. Arranging them in  a bowl, he placed it on a tray along with a fork, a small blue jug of dressing and a white napkin with his initials.
He then added a glass of disappointing Bergerac, which he had vowed never to buy again, but which he might as well finish. Next to it he placed a packet of his favourite Cabecou goat's cheese."
One foodie treat that we do enjoy, and have in common with the Matchmaker, is goat’s cheese.
Slices of warm goat’s cheese on a bed of mixed salad leaves, with a few toasted walnuts sprinkled over and a light mustardy viniagrette, is something we often have for supper.

Add a glass or two of red wine, a thinly sliced baguette and we are content.
Click on the links below to see what
thought of The Matchmaker of Perigord.
bon appétit.