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RANDOM THOUGHTS, SOME FRENCH SOME NOT: VENDANGE, BREXIT, GERMANY, AND MORE #3

 VENDANGES 


The rural south of France is crisscrossed with two-lane blacktops, narrow and with curves that skirt old property lines several times per kilometer. Unlike the USofA, where roads take precedence over property, the French are unlikely to consider condemning a portion of a vineyard just to straighten out the road a bit. Since I like driving on twisty roads, I like driving in France. But not during vendanges, the grape harvest.

Grapes are harvested at any hour of the day or night, depending on the personal preferences of the vigneron, the winemaker. Some go by the phase of the moon or other astrological and/or mythological signs and portents. Some are of the opinion that pure chemistry rules. Whatever the case, for several weeks and at unexpected times of day, you may find yourself on a curvy patch of blacktop behind a slow-moving tractor who has insufficient verge to let you pass…and probably would just as soon let you fend for yourself anyway.

It’s a miracle that the byways of the south of France aren’t littered with the burnt corpses of the cars of impatient French drivers who gambled on the absence of oncoming traffic once too often.

GERMAN ELECTIONS 

The European multiparty system has definite disadvantages. One problem was immediately manifest the night that we sat with German friends to watch election night coverage on German television. All the votes might be counted, but we still don’t know who the winners will be. Although the center-left party received a few more votes than the center-right party of Angela Merkel, both of those major parties come in close to 25%. Since it takes 50% + 1 to govern, it will be necessary for one of the parties to build a coalition.

Let the horse trading begin. 

If it can be said that there was one true winner, I suppose that it would be the Greens. They came in a solid third place, meaning that the party that they choose to align with will probably be able to form a government and name a prime minister to replace Merkel. It should be noted that the Greens in Germany are not just a fringe party. They may have only commanded 15% or so of the vote nationally, but they are the party that will be running Berlin. 

The negotiations could take weeks, months. And so, after all the votes have been counted, the question of who won the election is still an open one.

UPDATE: As we go to press, the three parties of the left have announced a tentative agreement to form a coalition. That was the expected result, certainly. But the devil is in the details. Stay tuned.

BREXIT

On second thought, no. I will not discuss Brexit today. What’s going on in England right now is simply too unnerving to try to tickle apart in a few sentences. It’s as if the USofA had elected someone like Donald Trump as President. Unimaginable with consequences too convoluted to untie contemporaneously. We just have to hope that the next generation of historians can come up with a coherent rationale for WHAT IN GOD’S NAME WERE PEOPLE THINKING!

 

 THANKSGIVING

This week, I will go to our local butcher and order a turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner. It’s necessary to order a month or more in advance because French shops don’t normally keep whole turkeys on hand except for Christmas. Wings? Breasts? Thighs? Yes. Whole turkeys? No.

Why? This is where the Gallic shrug comes in, that Franco-European gesture that signifies that a question has no discernible answer and that the ‘shrugger’ has no interest in pursuing the matter.

We order a turkey for pickup the day before Thanksgiving to give us time to brine it. We ask that the turkey weigh seven kilos - about 15 pounds for the metrically challenged among you. The bird is always delivered on time and is of uniformly excellent quality, but we have received turkeys ranging from five to twelve kilos. That 25 pound bird barely fit in our little European oven. 

Whatever their size as they are being prepared for the Thanksgiving table, our turkeys all suffer the same fate. Leftovers. Sandwiches. Freezer - if there's any meat left. Stock.


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