Friday, October 20, 2023

France 2023 - Sommieres, Horsemeat, and Hooking up Justin Trudeau

Michael and I begin the day by sharing Instagram fart videos. He finds the Top 10 Baby Farts and I laugh so hard that I decide to forego my morning routine of 1000 crunches, 600 situps, and 45 minutes of side planks becuase my abs already feel sufficiently exercised.

We only have two days left here so I find some suitable writing paper (napkin) and put together my To-Do list. We have a lot to accomplish, but with the right level of determination and fortitude I think we might have a chance.

Our daily van adventure takes us to the town of Quissac, but the restaurant Anna and Michael wanted to take us to was closed. The French are awesome, if they want to go on vacation they just tape a sign to their shop window saying CLOSED and take off. They do not feel the need to be open 16 hours per day and 365 days per year. I was a little sad, though. I've been looking around for horsemeat and Michael thought they might have it on the menu here. I've never much liked horses, but think if a portion of a horse were to be mixed with exciting spices and encased in pig intestines then put into a freshly cooked bun and sprinkled with dried onions then layered with mustard and mayonnaise, then I could see myself converting into a horse lover, like almost immediately.

We continue onto Sommieres, a standard-issue medieval walled city and notice the recent rainfall has swelled the river and is nearly overflowing the sidewalks that run beside it and has drowned out trees and plants that were happily growing in the parched riverbed just yesterday. The level of rainfall we've received over the past two nights is very unusual for this region and happens very infrequently.

Sommieres is incredible and I feel like I'm in Game of Thrones, except I'm a shit sword fighter and I don't have that classy English accent. So instead of strutting around looking all mean and kicking ass on serfs, I instead just take a few pictures, say "Bonjour" to everybody I pass, and try to focus on the small details. For example I notice a poster of a giant ear at a tattoo/piercing shop that identifies all the possible pierce points so you could load up your head with dangling iron and look real badass. Further down the street I see a real cool sign above a shop that says "Boucherie Chevaline" and has horsehead icons. Wait a minute, I say to myself, that's a horsemeat butcher! Happy days! I do a little jig on the street and walk in, but all I see are handbags, cute outfits, and fancy shoes - no horse sausage, no filet du horse, no horse muffins, no horse dogs, no horse pastrami, not even a single pot of horse pate. I am devastated. I look to the shop owner, point to the sign and, in French, say, "What the fuh?"

She goes into this long winded story which I presume is about the history of horse butchery, the town's history, how her great grandfather's great grandfather was the original Sommiers horse butcher, and how he passed down the skills, tools, and stomach required for slicing up horses to his son, then that cascaded down the generations a few times and finally the last horse skewering patriarch in her family fell in love with a long legged but deadbeat vegan from San Francisco and she convinced him to get out of the horse business and into fashion. And that, I think, is why you can no longer get horsemeat in this town.

Back at Chateau Olson, Ana and I make ourselves some non-horse sandwiches and sit out by the pool to enjoy the glorious sunshine which has returned. But soon the clouds roll back in so we agree on a second pool option and go inside, head to the lower level, and rack up the balls on the billiards table and shoot a game. This room is amazing - besides the pool table there is a second foosball table, the door to the wine cellar, and a bunch of cool posters hanging on the wall. One is a signed picture of Pele shaking hands with an inferior opponent. There is a gold record by Madonna and a sexy picture, signed by the Material Girl herself. It's the ultimate dude quarters.

One of the items on my list is to eat a hot dog, so our immaculate hosts lead us up the medieval village hill to the Lookout Bar which is run by the most gentlemanly Frenchman you could imagine, and his partner who is an author. The only thing more amazing than the unobscured view over the countryside is the hot dog gratin. It is served in a soft bun and has been sprinkled with cheese then speed  baked to crisp it up, and weaved on top are alternating strings of Dijon and mayonnaise. I didn't ask if it was a pork or horse wiener, but it was so good it must have been horse. We clank wine and beer glasses together and cheers to this magnificent moment in France.

Back at the Chateau, Michael and I get to work in the kitchen. This is hallowed ground for Anna and Michael and not just anybody gets to wield a knife, so I feel most fortunate. I am tasked with washing and cutting beans, dicing an onion, and peeling some shrimp. Michael shows me a little trick for making a sauce with the shrimp peels, stock, and butter cubes and I take mental notes. Like the greatest kung fu master who, with unfathomable generosity, may offer a slight nod to an exceptional student, Michael tells me the onion is well diced. I feel like I'm ready to go pro.

We reposition to the poolside grill and get lubed up with 25 centilitre Kronenbourg infant beers as Michael cooks up a wallop of sausages and wild mushrooms.

"I'm not sure if I'm ready for dinner, still quite full from before," Ana says.

Michael looks up from the grill, confused. "This isn't dinner, this is for apero."

"I thought apero was that food we ate at the lookout bar," she replies.

"ARE YOU NEW HERE?" he shoots back, to uproarious laughter from Anna and me. "That was post-lunch snacks."

Sure enough we apero right there on the patio, jabbing toothpicks into the mushrooms and sausage pieces, sipping on our wines and beers. The temperature is rapidly cooling but the conversation is heating up so we head back inside.

"So who is Justin Trudeau going to hook up with?" asks Anna.

"His relationship with Sophie was cheesy and corny. So he needs somebody with less cheese and less corn," I say.

"Jacinda Arden, the ex-prime minister from New Zealand. She's straight up, no cheese, no corn, just results," says Michael.

"No good, she's married," says Ana. "What about Amanda Marshall?"

"Oooh, good one!" says Anna. "I met her once, she's really nice. She said she liked my cookies."

"Who doesn't? OK, but only one problem. She's not French. Trudeau is totally French. He can't even speak English properly. He needs a Quebecois," I say.


"Celine Dion!"

"Jan Arden!"

"Alannah Myles!"

"Nelly Furtado!"

"Buffy St. Marie!"

"Hold it!" Michael says. "Now you're all just naming every Canadian female musician you can think of. Nelly Furtado isn't French, neither is Alannah Myles or Buffy. And they wouldn't like him anyway."

"I've got it! I know who!" I say.


"Tegan. And Sara."

"This is going nowhere," says Ana. "He'll probably just start dating Chrystia Freeland."

"Why would she date him? She's a genius and probably already has like five plots in motion to get rid of him so she can take over," says Anna.

"Maybe he can find a nice girl in India?" I suggest.

"He's banned from India!" says Anna.

"This is tough," says Michael. "Kris, let's go outside and cook up the shrimp and fish while the girls sort this Trudeau thing out."

The plancha is still hot so Michael tosses the seafood on it while I hold up the bar. We pound back about 6 baby beers while the food sizzles, and soon we are back inside and sitting around the table with a magnificent spread and, of course, the wine selections for the evening.

I find myself in our room hours later after yet another fantastic evening. I challenge Ana to another foosball game. She agrees, but again, only up to 1 goal. We line up, I drop in the ball, and it rolls right into my goal.

Lights out.

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