stained glass & asparagus season in Loire
We visited a stained glass maker in Chartres before heading out to Orleans where we took a cooking class. Although the glass maker has been doing it for 30 some years, he doesn't repair glass for the cathedral, since all work there must be donated. Instead, he does it for a living. He showed us the process which has changed little over the centuries and it was very much like the way Mark at the Stained Glass Center in Willoughby does his work. Readers may recall my Easter Sunday story about him.
The countryside of Loire is lovely, with gently rolling hills checkerboarded by farms - many of them growing grapes and raising goats for goat cheese. Roadsides are red with delicate wild poppies and we've passed many farm stands selling asparagus.
Although the Loire Valley is known for its chateaux, we aren't visiting them on this trip with the French National Tourist Office.But we've seen plenty of them - and magnificent churches -peaking out from forest clearings on hillsides. At some chateaux the owners rent out rooms and suites and even offer camping spots to help meet their expenses. And expenses here, just like at home, are ipmacted by the ever increasing cost of fuel. My math is pathetic, but gas here is more than 1.50 euros a liter which is more than $6 a gallon
A tour of ORLEANS brought great insight into the life and times of Jean of Arc, the local heroine who saved France from the English and is portrayed all over town. At a local cooking school, I learned techniques and a great recipe for stuffed chicken legs and a clever way to cook asparagus that assures the stems and the tops are evenly done, despite their different textures. After learning how to do it ourselves we all sat down to eat dinner served with good Loire wines. Sancerre is the one most Americians would know. I'll share the asparagus technique in an upcoming food story.
Among the many French practices worth emulating is a little portable computer the server brings to the table when patrons pay the bill. The server slides the credit card through it and issues the copy to sign and the receipt right then and there. So often in the states the transaction seems to break down right at the point of giving money to pay for the purchase, The cashier is perhaps concluding other transactions and the server has to wait. So the servers takes care of another customer in the meantime. Meanwhile, the original customer is left twiddling her thumbs. The French have the right idea.