Excerpt from Chapter entitled The Egg
I come to the farm of Guy and Raymonde Lory once a week to buy eggs and goat cheese. Cheese is available when the goats arent feeding the young, which seems to be about two months out of the year. But eggs are available almost every week and they are special. Even les oeufs biologique that we buy in the supermarkets cant match these eggs. The large dark, yellow yokes are full of flavor and can make an omelet a gourmet treat.
The best time to visit is after five oclock. Guy and Raymonde work in the fields and vineyards all day long despite their seventy something years. I park on the side of the road and walk down the steep muddy path to the old mill that they use as a home and farm. The stream that powered the mill has been diverted to run by the side of the old mill house but there is still evidence of the old streambed under the house. The house was flooded last week when the stream flooded its banks. Half of the house is devoted to farm animals. Chickens, dogs and goats scurry out of the way as I negotiate the slippery path to the front door.
When I knock on the door I hear a noise inside that I interpret as an invitation to enter. The door opens into the kitchen where Guy and Raymonde are sitting at a table entertaining some relatives from Saint Arnoult. The house has the warm earthy smell of the farm and the atmosphere of hospitality. When Guy extends his right hand, it feels like a hunk of dry, rough leather but his grip is warm and gentle. The gentle grip may be the result of his missing fingers but I suspect it is more of a reflection of the sweet, gentle character of these hobbit like people. Four kisses on the cheek for Raymonde and handshakes for the relatives completes the local etiquette for introductions. Like most of the farmers in our neighborhood, they are small hardy people in their mid seventies who seem to be melting into the ground that they have cultivated for so many years. Guy and Raymonde both walk with a sideways rocking motion because arthritis has stiffened the knees. But they show no signs of pain. They are all smiles and I have the warm sensation of being welcome. Guy broadcasts the latest Monsieur Jean story. He sounds like there is a small person yelling from the back of his throat. This phenomenon results from trying to talk while smiling. Guy never stops smiling.
Although out of sequence, we talk about the weather for several minutes. All conversations in the Loir Valley start with a brief discussion of the weather. "Ah! De sale temps. Il pluie, pluie, pluie. Cest terrible." A petit verre usually follows the weather. Guy rhetorically asks if I would like a glass of wine. He pours me a tall glass of the pink liquid that I already know to be the dry, flinty pineau daunis wine from their vineyard. Guy tells me that this is the last of his wine. He is giving up winemaking and is burning the vines for heat this winter. The vines are old and they dont wish to replant. I am a little surprised but this seems to be happening more and more in the countryside of France. These little farmers in their seventies and eighties are the last of a breed of people carrying on the old country traditions.
Raymonde tells me that there is no cheese because the newborns are still nursing. Egg production is also down because of the humidity. Chickens dont lay eggs when it is too wet. Guy goes to check the egg supply and tells me that he only has eleven eggs. I am satisfied with that many but he tells me to wait few moments. He waddles across the barnyard to the chicken shed and returns a few minutes later. He extends his cupped hands to me and I take its contents. It is an egg. It is warm.