That we weren't living in Amsterdam anymore seemed clear when I was helping to make a gigantic vat of pumpkin soup for La Rabanelle. Each year, the village school celebrates autumn with its chestnut festival. The smallest children had collected the chestnuts, which are roasted during the festival itself. Under the multicolored fairy lights, the local choir sang traditional songs and we all grinned, warmed by the vin chaud and the accordion.
The soup was a communal effort, and they say that every year it tastes different. I added ginger; that exoticism was tempered by the obligatory creme fraiche. My eats-like-a-sparrow son had three bowls; for him, it was a success.
Our Dutch friends and their three kids had also come down to help us inaugurate fall, so we all went looking for chestnuts...All this is great fun, especially with an exuberant, chestnut-chomping Weimaraner. The less fun part is when it comes time to actually do something with said chestnuts. Last year, it was chestnuts in chestnut honey, because I was fed up with trying to get them out of their skins whole. This year, we roasted them. And left it at that. I have developed a profound and lasting appreciation for store-bought, vacuum-packed chestnuts.
The Cevennes are in many ways defined by the chestnut. I roamed around online and found a nice synopsis of its role here: http://www.getfrench.com/food/chestnuts_food2.htm
Confirmed night owls need just this sort of activity--writing and virtual roaming-- for after the children have been tucked in, the tea drunk, when the only thing to be heard is the dog running in his sleep. This blog is for when you don't want to fold the laundry.