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Vegetable Soup: Cold Comfort During A Mild Winter

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The ceramic Snoopy, on whom I almost broke my teeth yesterday. He emerged from the “galette des rois“, covered in the lovely, sweet hazelnut mixture. Have washed him since. I made a wish, as per the post-Christmas custom…Quite apt really, a tribute to our dead dog, who was called Snoopy and passed away a few months ago. The tart was the dessert, following the famous stew, reheated for the fourth time and I must say amazing. The gristly nervy meat had a butter-like texture in its cider and herb sauce.

It’s exceptionally mild today: 15 degrees and almost perfect blue sky. I am extremely thankful as Winter is usually very harsh in the Jura, so am trying to make the most of being outdoors – and indoors,  without having to don my usual scarf and two jumpers, in the flat! Before I left for Christmas, we had had around 50cm of snow, which didn’t melt for weeks as the temperature rarely got above zero and “la bise”,  the nasty north wind, could be felt blowing through the window panes!Although it is mild, all seems pared down and sparse here. No more turning the heating on at the touch of a button, only a wood-burning stove here (350€/year to heat the house + a certain  jumper budget = très frugal).No more carpeted, double glazed, upholstered houses – only brute wood , with the odd curtain, made from a bargain bin-end piece of fabric.

I am reading two things at the moment, “Brideshead Revisited”(inspired by a visit to the beautiful Castle Howard at Christmas, where the film was set) and “Du Bonheur Un Voyage Philosophique” (Happiness, a Philosophical Journey), by Frédéric Lenoir.The two couldn’t be more different, the former, an account of Oxford students swanning around carelessly and mainly consuming champagne and strawberries; the latter, thoughts on how to find happiness, with a little help from various philosophers. I can relate to Epicure’s ideas at the moment(one of the featured philosophers): he claims our unhappiness results from chronic dissatisfaction. A remedy to that would be to make a distinction between 3 sorts of desire.

1. Natural and necessary desire: to eat, to drink, to have clothes to wear and to have a roof over your head.

2. Natural, unnecessary desire: fancy cooking, clothes and a comfortable place to live.

3. Desire which is neither natural or necessary: power, honour and great luxury.

He reckons you only need to satisfy “number one” to be happy.

This lunchtime I will be cultivating number one on the list. In between shelling kilos and kilos of walnuts, I will be eating a comforting vegetable soup, made with the somewhat wrinkly vegetables that didn’t make it into the stew, whilst wearing one jumper rather than two. The veg was bought from a local producer on a market, just before Christmas(they last a while when not carted around  various distribution centres). Simply boiled, pureed and seasoned. I may add a sprinkling of Comté cheese. Luxury!

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