Tales from
the Loir

A Weekly Column

June 26, 2002 - Summer

Summer is less complicated than spring. Its palette starts with deep rich green colors before light brown patches are added as the wheat fields mature. Then everything succumbs to bright yellow with the arrival of sunflowers. Summer is the time for roses and geraniums but it is the bright red poppies standing like sentinels at the edge of the wheat fields that defines the summer season.

Bright red cherries ripen in June. Men, women and children hasten to hoist ladders and fill buckets before the birds beat them to the harvest. Cherries are the first fruit of the season and are in such abundance that neighbors give us baskets loads for eating chilled in the cave or for making le clafoutis and preserves.

Early June is also the season for gathering lime blossoms for making tea. Unfortunately, this is one of those traditions that is disappearing. Aprille and I went to Illiers-Combray, the village of Marcel Proust’s novel, in May to attend a reading and to find where the lime blossoms are gathered. It was lime blossom tea that triggered Proust’s memory of times past. No one seemed to know where even one tilleul (lime) tree could be found. Finally one of the attendees showed us what a lime tree looked like and where they could be found. Aprille went back in early June and harvested the blossoms. Eliane Montambaux showed us how to separate the small tender light green leaves and flower blossoms from the branches and how to dry them for making tea. The P’tit Jules and his wife Jeanine are the only locals that we know who still harvest the blossoms for making tea.

Summer is also the season for gathering snails. This also seems to be a dying tradition so I was excited to learn that Christine Montambaux was collecting snails this summer. She promised to show me how to prepare the snails for cooking when she had enough. In early June, snails were scarce but Christine found over a hundred in one day toward the middle of the month and invited me over to watch the process of cleaning and cooking. I now understand why the tradition is disappearing. It is a lot of work.

The backyard vegetable gardens are a lot of work too but this tradition is still very strong. Everyone has a garden that produces huge amounts of fresh tomatoes, carrots, green beans, potatoes and lettuce of all kinds. We find fresh vegetables left at our door several days each week. We even started our own small plot on the hill above the cave this year.

Other traditions are just fun and require no work. On the summer solstice, the village celebrates the feu de Saint Jean. This purely pagan holiday involves building a huge fire in the middle of a field then dancing, eating and drinking all night. Many people sit on blankets and watch the fire until sunrise. A couple of weeks later there is another celebration for French Independence Day with fireworks, sound and light shows, and, of course, eating and drinking.

Summer is also the time for bottling pousse d’épine, making walnut wine and bottling the last of the Vouvray. Summer is many things, but for me it means sunflowers, pastis, eating outside, trips to Provence, rosé wine, cool caves, gypsies and the circus.

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June 19, 2002 - French Property News

June 5, 2002 - Emmanuel de Broglie

April 24, 2002 - Election Day in Saint Rimay

April 17, 2002 -Surprise Review

April 3, 2002 - Spring in Lavardin
March 20, 2002 - Guest Columnist /Furman Magazine/ John Roberts
March 13, 2002 - Tête de Veau
March 6, 2002 - Table Etiquette
February 27, 2002 - A Country Boy Can Survive
February 20, 2002 - Driving in France
February 13, 2002 - The Circus
February 6, 2002 - History of France
January 30, 2002 - THE BEST I EVER HAD
January 23, 2002 - Miranda This
January 16, 2002 - Charlotte Observer Interview
January 9, 2002 - Walnut Wine
January 2, 2002 - Sloe Gin
December 26, 2001 - Winter Solstice
Archive of Weekly Columns from 2001
Archive of Weekly Columns from 2000

 

       

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