My great-grandparents bought the house, then a farm, in 1942. This gave them benefits during the war - food to supplement the rations, and a laisser-passer which allowed them to travel with food, as well as extra rations of petrol. The oldest part of the house - mainly the cellars now - date back to the 12th century. The oldest above ground part is from the 16th century, and the rest is from the late 18th century. Until 30 years ago, most of the house was a farm - with just a small apartment redone by my great-grandparents. The center of the house, what is now the kitchen and the living room were, a room occupied by the tenants and hay storage, respectively. The commune currently boasts 263 inhabitants, with a church dating back to the 10th century. The population has been steadily in decline and the school and any remaining shops were closed about 20 years ago. The closest village has around 1300 inhabitants. This village, about 85 percent destroyed during the war, has a church and some streets dating from the 11th to 13th centuries. The "big city," about 15 km away has about 18,000 inhabitants. In recent times, the population in the country has started to swell, with young families moving back to the villages where taxes are lower and quality of life is better. This region is also rich with history from World War II, with a strong presence of the Resistance and the German occupiers. It is also directly in the path from the D-Day beaches to Paris, and so suffered a lot of damage during the advancing of the Allied troops and the retreat of the Germans.
Anyways, I could talk about this for hours, and have recently been delving into some of the more salacious stories...but back to the food - it is after all what you are here for!
One of my favourite recipes to make was a Clafoutis - a flan filled with cherries. Although traditionally, the cherries are not pitted - in order to keep the cherries from floating in the batter - one of the best parts was to use the cherry pitter and spend a couple hours staining our fingers from removing the pits from the basketfuls of cherries we used to pick. The remaining cherries were gladly eaten, or made into jam.
The clafoutis comes from the Limousin region of France and is traditionally made with black cherries. The Larousse Gastronomique specifies that in variations using other fruits including red cherries, plums, prunes, apples, cranberries or blackberries, the dish is properly called a flaugnarde.
The dish's name derives from Occitan clafotís, from the verb clafir, meaning "to fill" (implied: "the batter with cherries"). This name for the dessert first appeared in the second half of the 19th century.
100 g flour
100 g granulated sugar
400 g cherries
20 cL boiled milk, cooled
10 g butter - for the dish
Preheat oven to 190 degrees celsius. Boil milk and let cool. In a bowl, mix flour, eggs, and half the sugar. Add milk a bit at a time, stirring constantly to avoid granules. In the bottom of the buttered dish, spread a couple spoonfuls of batter, until the bottom is covered. Put the dish in the oven with the door open. The thin layer of batter should cook in a few minutes. Now, layer the cherries and the rest of the sugar. Pour the remaining batter over the cherries. Bake for at least 40 minutes. A Clafoutis should be served lukewarm, dusted with powdered sugar.