I’m joining Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.
“Barber Guillaume Ladoucette has always enjoyed great success in his tiny village in southwestern France, catering to the tonsorial needs of Amour-sur-Belle’s thirty-three inhabitants. But times have changed. His customers have grown older—and balder. Suddenly there is no longer a call for Guillaume’s particular services, and he is forced to make a drastic career change. Since love and companionship are necessary commodities at any age, he becomes Amour-sur-Belle’s official matchmaker and intends to unite hearts as ably as he once cut hair. But alas, Guillaume is not nearly as accomplished an agent of amour, as the disastrous results of his initial attempts amply prove, especially when it comes to arranging his own romantic future.”
What an entertaining & fun romp through this French village! Prepare for lots of repetition of full names & phrases in this tale~ adding to the farce and serving to help you keep this quirky cast of characters straight. . .
Among them is Guillaume~ the main ingredient in this story and former barber-turned-matchmaker~ current keeper of his family cassoulet; a baker with ridiculously small, flour-covered shoes; a postman with a tendency to mark his territory along his postal route; the mushroom poisoner; and a chatelaine who prefers antique shorn-off dresses.
Toss in an infernal egg-laying chicken, add a communal shower, stir with the force of a mini-tornado, and season with a crumbling chateau~ this book is a recipe for hilarity!
“Keeping the cassoulet going was more than just the duty of an only son, but something upon which the family’s name rested. For the cassoulet war had been long and ugly and there was still no sign of a truce.”
The bone of contention and source of contraversy~ should a cassoulet have tomatoes in it or not?
*For the purposes of this review, my rooster is standing in for the part of Violette, the infernal chicken :)
“…the bird had taken to entering the house as if she owned the place. Guillaume Laudoucette had tried everything he could think of to get rid of her, short of blasting the bird off his garden wall where she would sit warming her fluffy undercarriage while staring at him.”
“Immediately the barber felt something collapse underneath him. He shot horrified to his feet and inspected the red cushion that his grandmother had made. There, crushed into the fabric, were pieces of shell, and smears of raw yolk were rapidly seeping into it.”
“He would return home to find peck marks in his butter, tell-tale four-toed footprints in the talc on the bathroom floor and black-and-white droppings on his freshly washed cotton underpants airing in the cupboard.”
“… he spotted Violette the infernal chicken sitting on the rim of his pot of cassoulet, her tail lifted over its contents in readiness that he finally snapped.”
“After locking the door again, the horrified matchmaker rushed to the stove fearing that the family’s perpetual cassoulet, which had outlasted ten prime ministers, had been ruined with the flick of a tail feather.”
The dueling picnic basket passages made me feel “a bit peckish” with the many tasty options for Food for Thought~
“For whilst the two men were fiercely competitive when it came to fishing, their unspoken rivalry was not over what one another caught, but the contents of their picnic baskets.”
Guillaume & Stéphane the baker picnic by a “No Fishing” sign~ stopping to wet a hook as well as their feet. . .
“The baker then took out a baguette from his basket, broke off an end, pulled out some of the soft white innards, rolled it into a ball with this artisan fingers and pierced it with a hook.”
“Everyone’s using bread again these days. Pick up any fishing magazine and there’ll be an article about it. It’s only natural. Fish, like humans, can’t resist the work of a true artisan.”
“…they both took off their shoes and tied their lines around their ankles. Carefully rolling up both trouser legs to the knee, they plunged their feet into the cool water and felt the weighted lines spiraling down towards the bottom of the river.”
My husband played the role of the reluctant-but-obliging-fishing-foot-model. . . and managed to reel in a bottle of wine for this picnic~
“He watched as a bunch of tomatoes-on-the-vine surfaced, which were inhaled before being place on the red tea towel. Next came a jar of cornichons, followed by a bunch of pink radish and another baguette. Then, with what was unmistakable the hint of a sly smile, a large earthenware container was brought out and placed on the grass.”
“…drawing out a large flask from the basket and unscrewing the lid. ‘I tell you, nothing beats vichyssoise glacee on a hot day. It’s the leeks from the garden that really makes it, I think.’ ”
Striving for one-upmanship in the picnic basket competition~ elaborate picnic fare is revealed from the dueling baskets…lobster tail potato salad made with the lobster you no doubt caught yourself … walnut tart served with the honey, collected from a hive wearing your beekeeper’s helmet… fruits in kirsch~ picked from your garden and fermented for two years~ so potent as to blow your head off…
I opted for a goat cheese tart~ with garlic & herb goat cheese, heavy cream, eggs & shallots.
Unlike Guillaume I did not milk the goat myself :)
Too early here for fresh basil, I substituted chopped baby spinach. I also added 1/2 teaspoon each of chopped fresh thyme & rosemary to add to garlic-and-herb soft goat cheese.
There is a note in the recipe stating if the pastry shell has shrunk, there may be leftover filling.
Mine did shrink and I also used an 8 inch tart pan instead of the suggested 9 inch size.
I had enough filling to make 8 additional mini tarts using Dutch Ann frozen tart shells.
Perfect for picnic size and easy to pop out of the aluminum tart shell pans after cooling for serving~
“ ‘Not everyone falls instantly head over heels,’ said the matchmaker. ‘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. You may even come across the odd surprise like a little green button, but you have to consider the whole dish.’ ”
If you’re joining in the fun with The Matchmaker for FFT, let me know by comment & I’ll add a link back to this post so everyone can enjoy a taste~