Life in the Loire on lock-down. 9th April. Day twenty six.

Market day today. I’m looking forward to popping over to Vernou to stock up on supplies for the week after breakfast. Nigel went last week so it’s the first time I’ve been to the market since the lock-down.

I’ve started hand washing the mugs. What I hear you ask? Well, I’m fed up of them coming out of the dishwasher looking like they come from a grubby student flat. You know the scene where things lurk in the sink for days and then get a brief look at water before being put back on the draining rack.

The dishwasher seems quite capable of getting everything else clean and sparkling but not the mugs. In normal times I’m far to busy to worry about such nonsense. It’s so annoying.

Day three for Sally starter. I poured out all but a tablespoon in the pot, added another 50g flour and 50ml water. Stirred it all up and then – till tomorrow my love.

I found the market a rather sad experience I’m sorry to report. It’s the most beautiful day in the Loire today. Bright, warm sunshine, lovely looking fruit and veggies, great cheese, fresh fish, lovely plants for the garden, chocolates for Easter and oysters.

That was what did it. The oyster guy.

A good looking young chap selling oysters from Charente Maritime. His stall was laden with all types and sizes ready for the Easter weekend. He had music playing and was singing along to some old French classic tunes as if there was nothing in the world to worry about. And no-one was buying his oysters.

Everyone in masks. Everyone keeping their distance. Metal barriers everywhere. The Gendarmes checking everyone’s attestation. The sun shining. Oh I don’t know, it was just, well, sad.

Nigel was however, very happy. I said I would pop into the boulangerie and buy some ‘proper’ bread for lunch. He was so excited I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. Is he inferring that my home made efforts aren’t up to the standard of the boulangerie? In a word yes. He’s desperate for a lovely baguette de tradition from Boulangerie Huvet. And so I bought 2, one for today and one for the freezer. A brief respite for him before my next effort.

As I walked back to the car I could hear to two eldery ladies shouting to each other across the street. They were each sat on their balcony, trying to have a conversation. It made me smile.

I drove slowly back home, winding my way along the country roads, passing trees full of blossom, blooming gardens and rows of tulips. I pulled out from behind a row of parked cars in the centre of our village and met someone coming in the opposite direction. It’s a blind spot and often leads to confrontation with the driver that has the right of way. Not today. The driver, a young man, smiled warmly as I lifted my hand to thank him for letting me through. Are we becoming kinder, more tolerant, less quick to judge? I hope so.

Lunch was a simple baguette sandwich in the garden with some Rossette salami, finely sliced cornichons and a few crisps. Crisps are the devil aren’t they? So addictive and yet so comforting. We both have a mutual weakness for crisps.

I know we shouldn’t have but we enjoyed a glass of sparkling Vouvray too. The rest of the bottle from last night. A bit of a treat on a hot sunny day.

France has officially slid into recession after one of the worst quarterly contractions in 50 years taking us to the worst downturn since World War II. For every two weeks of confinement, the economy shrinks by one and a half percent the central bank says.

Some good news today. Last year during harvest, I was one of a group of girls that helped Louise Plou of Chateau de Montdomaine pick some Chardonnay grapes to make a special cuvée. It’s Louisa’s first wine (that she made with the help and guidance of her husband, winemaker Fred). Louisa is also a talented artist and she designed the label herself. It’s ready for market. Bottled, labelled and ready to go. Just 1500 bottles at 15€ a bottle.

Ballade des Dames 2019. A Chardonnay made by Louisa Plou with a little help from her girlfriends.

I tasted the wine with Fred and Louisa a few weeks ago when it was still in barrel. It was tasting fantastic. I can’t wait to show the Ballade des Dames to you. It’s a Vin de France wine as the appellations locally don’t allow a 100% Chardonnay wine. Bravo Louisa, and let’s hear it for the girls!

This afternoon I cleaned out and tidied the drinks cupboard. Out came all the glasses, each one was wiped and put back in neatly. All the bottles removed, wiped and replaced. How on earth did we end up with a bottle of Menthe Pastille? I don’t remember ever buying that. Maybe that could be nice on a hot day topped up with lots of ice and some sparkling water. One to try.

27°C in the garden this afternoon. Phew! This is a bit of a shock. And in Paris too. Apparently that’s the highest temperature recorded in Paris so early in the year since records began in 1872.

Nigel was in the kitchen this evening. He cooked a lovely dish, half his own half taken from a Raymond Blanc recipe. Dos de Lieu Noir with a roasted tomato and saffron sauce and sautéed potatoes dressed with a little mâche salad.

I bought the Lieu Noir from the market this morning. It’s much cheaper than Cod and just as delicious with big flakes that pull apart. Perhaps the texture is a teensy bit firmer. I guess it’s just not quite as ‘pretty’ on the plate.

Shopping at the market is much more expensive than at the supermarket and it’s easy to get carried away as everything looks so wonderful. Trying to be cautious.

We departed from France this evening with our wine choice. A bottle of Riesling Vom Rotliegenden 2017 from the Nahe in Germany. We both absolutely adore Riesling and wish we had more of it in the cellar. This was a ‘Feinherb’ – not sweet and not dry. With around 13g of residual sugar I might best describe it as off dry. Lovely green apple fruit and refreshing acidity. No petrol notes on this one.