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newsletter from a squire in France

Here, we are still enjoying mellow weather, but you can tell that autumn is waiting on the doorstep. Slowly leaves are turning gold and escaping their branches. There is a slight chill in the air at night. And we have received our annual invitation to celebrate the wedding anniversary of neighbours Delphine and Paul.

It’s been several years since they married, something that surprised all of us who know and love Paul. He is kind, intelligent and funny but he does haves questionable fashion taste – vintage (not the sort that are cool) suits are his thing, and very large colourful ties. He had a habit of falling in and out of love with people he saw on the telly but never met for real. He once had a pet chicken called Cheri which slept on his pillow and went everywhere with him. And he can, and does, talk for hours on end about mushrooms – did you know that genetically they are closer to humans than to plants? And that there were giant mushrooms on Earth 350 million years ago? He is obsessed with mushrooms – picking and eating them, and has a fondness for homemade crème de menthe which makes his tongue go green. In his late 50’s, he had never quite made it to the marriage stage until he met Delphine. She has the sweetest nature and like her beloved, is also obsessed with mushrooms.

Each year, in honour of their wedding day, they hold a celebration party at which mushrooms of all kinds take a starring role – morels in coq au vin, cep mushroom fricassee, nut flavoured fungi with truffles and pasta. It’s not remotely nouveau cuisine, it’s the sort of comfort food that warms the cockles of your heart and makes your soul soar. It is, as Paul and Delphine say, the sort of cooking that is love made visible, and to me it’s the start, and taste, of autumn proper.

In my last newsletter I told you about my quest to join the Guild of Chantilly Cream Makers. Well, last week I was on a barge cruise with CroisiEurope (croisieurope.co.uk – they run river and canal cruises all over France, and they are fabulous) through the Oise Valley which is in the Oise department, Picardy. And I have to tell you, I’ve fallen head over heels for this lovely area, home to the Chateau of Chantilly, and Auvers-sur-Oise, where Van Gogh spent his final months, painting in a frenzy. I can’t wait to share the tale with you in an upcoming issue of The Good Life France Magazine (which is totally free to read, subscribe and share). But in the meantime, I am thrilled to say, that while there I had a lesson from a Knight of the Brotherhood of Cream Whippers, La confrérie des chevaliers fouetteurs de la crème chantilly. I learned how to make Chantilly cream, and my dream has come true. I am now a Squire of the Brotherhood. I am not kidding. Knighthood beckons…!

Wishing you a bon weekend from a newly made squire in France,

Read the whole newsletter and see this week’s top feature and recipe picks

Janine Marsh is Author of My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream,  My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life and Toujours la France: Living the Dream in Rural France all available as ebook, print & audio, on Amazon everywhere & all good bookshops online. Her new book How to be French – a celebration of the French lifestyle, is out in October 2023 – a look at the French way of life.

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