Posted tagged ‘French cats’

Noël Encore Une Fois

December 26, 2014

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I was wondering how I’d survive a Christmas without Shel, especially in Uzès, where we spent so many Christmases together. Although, I have to admit, we never had sheep for Christmas. Eric and Jessica came to join me here for the holidays, and a couple of days before Christmas Jess looked out the kitchen window, where we normally see this,

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and saw a procession of animals making their way up the street. After a while we heard singing, and went down to the Place aux Herbes, which is the center of town. I didn’t have the wit to take my camera, but Eric did, and there he captured these images

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of what turned out to be a sort of mini-Pastorale, with scenes all around the Place, and singing in Provençale. The best part, for us, was the way the sheep and goats stood up on two feet to eat absolutely all of the holiday greenery that had been wrapped around the huge plane trees that shade the Place in summer. That, and the camels, because really, you never see camels around here.

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That helped us get in the holiday spirit, and we made a little attempt at decorating the new house, a house Shel never lived in (and a good thing too, because it’s spread over four floors, and the number of stairs is pant-inducing and thigh-numbing). We also wrapped a few presents, because, as Jessica said, “It’s nice looking at presents.”

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Christmas Eve is when the French celebrate Christmas, so we made an effort too, eating oysters like everyone else in France on that night. Alas, our conclusion, since we raise our own, is that our oysters are far better, pulled out of the water and consumed within the hour, than the ones I bought here. Spoiled, we are, and we freely admit it.

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We’re also being spoiled this year by Cannelle, a little  kitten-cat who belongs to our friend Maryse. She’s gone up north to spend the holiday with her parents, and we’re cat-sitting, to our great joy, because we’re all missing our own cats, and a loaner cat is oh so much better than no cat at all.

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And then it was Christmas day, and we set a table for seven, including four old friends with whom we’ve spent many a holiday here. In the rush of things like making a complicated dinner in a totally unfamiliar kitchen I didn’t take any pictures except this one

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of cabbage leaves stuffed with a traditional French farce.  But there was an entrée of foie gras, mini-ballotine de pintade, and mâche, with a very nice Monbazillac, then a plate of coquelet au four froid, whose recipe you can find here, with sides of the little stuffed cabbage leaves, Romanesco broccoli with beure noisette, a purée of celery root, a little écrasée of Jerusalem artichokes lightly spiced with ras el hanout, carrots tossed with marmalade made by Chef Nathalie from the oranges at l’Institut de Français, and a sauté of morels and trompettes de la mort in Monbazillac and butter. Followling a trou Gascon  of Armagnac, we had a beautifully runny Mont d’Or cheese, with a vintage Port, and a Dutch apple pie made by Katherine, without which is just wouldn’t be Christmas in Uzès. I think that’s my record, to put six different vegetable preparations on one plate (see what you missed, Xavier, by not joining us?).

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And now, looking out the office window, I see Uzès returned to its normal post-holiday beauty. Tomorrow Eric and Jessica will leave for ten days, and I’ll begin to learn what my single life in Uzès will be like. Like all the other firsts since Shel died, I both dread it, and look forward to making it through. See you on the other side.

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Adieu Petite Zazou

July 24, 2010

It’s a sad thing for a beautiful little French cat to travel all the way to the New World, only to end up disappearing into its wildness.  But Zazou was always a bit wild, even in her native France.  She was a French kitten through and through, and they’re often less tame, less gentrified, than their American cousins.  She was tough and chic and knew her own mind, une chatte française.

We’d hoped that Beppo would tame her, and would teach her how to be a calm and home-loving American cat.  But what happened instead is that when we got back to America, Beppo became instantly afraid to go outside, whereas we could barely keep Zazou indoors, no matter how we tried.  Here there are coyotes, owls, eagles. Beppo might have a genetic memory of that, being a cat of the NorthWest.  But Zazou had no more idea of a coyote than an armadillo.  She probably understood strikes and croissants in a way that Beppo never could, but coyotes?  Not a bit.

Zazou weighed barely six pounds, although she was the feistiest little bit of baggage imaginable.  She started refusing to stay in at night, then she’d be gone for one or two days at a stretch.  Then, finally, she disappeared.  She’s  been gone for a week, and it would have been her second birthday right about now.  I’d open a can of the most expensive cat food if she’d only come back for the party, but she hasn’t.

I like to think of her snuggled safely on our bed, having a little bath and a long nap.  But the truth is that Zazou didn’t want that domesticity.  If we tried to keep her in at night she made our lives so miserable that finally we took to saying “Okay little Zazie-zou, if you want to go out and be eaten by coyotes, well, that’s your fate.”  And the last time we saw her she was bounding joyfully up a very tall tree in the gathering twilight.

The night here belongs to the coyotes and owls.  They’re hungry.  You can’t blame them.  Of course, maybe she found another home somewhere, but I don’t think so.  I think she was true to her nature, wild to the very end, succumbing to the rigors of the wild west like so many other European immigrants before her.  Adieu, Zazou.  You were a tough little cookie, sweet and funny and independent, we got you to keep Beppo company but you found your own fate.  That’s the way the cookie crumbles, and now Beppo is alone again.