18 October, 2010

Just the headlines and some real pie comfort.

Autumn and I are continuing to get reacquainted.  The bite of cold in the fingers, the ears.  The feel of a friend's frigid cheek, mid-kiss, at the outdoor market.  The critical eyeing of the mushrooms on display and tut-tutting over the cost.  In short, the usual.  Except this is France, and today, here's what we're facing:

Revolutionary woes: French airports face major strike disruption Tuesday
Half of all flights to and from Paris Orly airport and 30 percent of flights at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle and other French airports will be cancelled Tuesday due to strikes, aviation officials said. The civil aviation authority DGAC said it had ordered airlines to reduce their traffic after unions called the day of strikes, with the airport stoppage set to last 24 hours. Tuesday will be the seventh day of nationwide protests in two months against a government reform that will raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.
© 2010 AFP

But that's not all: France activates fuel supply crisis cell
France activated Monday an emergency government crisis cell charged with maintaining fuel supplies amid a strike that has shut down refineries and blocked storage depots, the interior ministry said. Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux decided to "activate from today the inter-ministerial crisis centre in order to assure the continuity of petroleum supplies," a statement said. Petrol distribution bodies UIP and UFIP said separately that pumps were starting to run out, with the UIP estimating that 1,500 out of 4,000 major service stations were affected. Most of France's oil refineries shut down production last week as part of a nationwide movement against plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, and protests escalated Monday with truck drivers blocking access to depots.
© 2010 AFP

In practical terms: More than 1,000 French petrol stations run dry
Around 1,500 petrol stations located on the forecourts of French supermarkets had run out of fuel Monday amid strikes against pension reform, their industry association told AFP. Around 4,500 of France's 12,500 filling stations are attached to shopping centres, and they are the country's busiest, supplying 60 percent of the fuel used by French motorists. "Twenty to 25 percent of our distribution capacity is either stopped or in trouble," said Alexandre de Benoist, a senior official with Union of Independent Petroleum Importers, which represents the sector. He said that some regions, in particular Brittany and western France, were in a "very worrying" situation because fuel distribution stations were either on strike or blockaded by strikers from other sites. "There are at least 1,500 stations that have run out of at least one fuel product or are totally dry," he added.
© 2010 AFP

If you can't get enough of the hullabaloo, there's this: French truckers block roads as anti-reform protests escalate, and oh, yes, this: Go-slow protests hit French roads.  This all means far too many schools are on strike, as well as post offices, oh, the list of government-related strikers goes on.  As of today, here in the Gard, people are suddenly limited to 20 euros of gas at a time, thanks to those charming strikers. Living here, you learn to go with the flow, only my challenge is this: I am supposed to fly (on strike-prone Air France, boo hiss!) to New York City (oh yes!) this particular week, when all things transportation-related are a bit, well, hairy.  Wish me luck.  I have a few days yet.  This may all calm down by, say, Friday. 
Hmm. Much closer to the home front, my neighbors have finished their grape harvest some time ago.  The unmarked trail from kitchen door to forest is lightly carpeted with leaves. We've gathered the walnuts from under the big tree (well, what the squirrels left behind anyway).  It's an opportune time for some fine autumn comfort, using some of those walnuts in an easy-as-pie riff of a Bon Appétit recipe (October 2001).   This comfort comes dense, whole nuts bound only by cream and honey, contained within a gorgeous shortbread crust.  There's no complicated palaver with eggs. It's just the kind of thing you need to throw together and eat as the days grow colder.  It's maybe even just the ticket for a paralyzing national strike.
Tarte aux fruits secs et miel (Honeyed Autumn Nut Tart)
For the crust:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into smallish pieces
1 142 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
 OR 1 refrigerated, prepared pâte sablée/pâte brisée crust

For the filling:
3/4 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/2 cup darkest possible honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum
1/2 teaspoon blend of ground cloves and cardamom
2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped toasted nuts (can be a blend of cashews, walnuts, pinenuts or really, any other nuts)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 180C (350F).  Pulse butter, flour, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor until small lumps form. Press onto bottoms and up sides of small (about 9 inches) tart pan. If using a ready-made crust, transfer the crust to a tart pan, fold in any overhang to form double-thick sides, and place in freezer while preparing filling. 
Whisk cream, honey, sugar, vanilla, rum and spices in heavy, large saucepan. Add nuts. Simmer over medium heat until mixture is bubbling and darkens slightly, stirring until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Spread filling evenly in crust. Spinkle salt evenly over tart. Bake until filling is deep golden brown (watch closely for signs of burned nuts, so much less yummy) and crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Cool completely before serving. Can be baked in advance. Cover and store at room temperature.


  1. This is yet another thing I love about France. It seems your citizens actually stand up for themselves when they see the government doing something they don't like.

    The pie looks good. Yet another to add to the list.

  2. Hi Rose,

    From a distance, being willing to react against the powers that be is the sign of an engaged citizenry. Closer to the ground, however, it seems less clear: schools around here have aready shut down several times, and now more this week. Same for the post office. Luggage in hand, my husband and many others had to walk 3 kilometers on the highway (traffic being at a standstill due to protestrs) to reach the airport, where he waited an additional four hours to board a plane. Since Monday, there's a limit on gas purchases and yet more than 4000 stations are bone dry due to the fuel blockade. Tomorrow, nurses and banks join in the strike. So ATMs will simply not be replenished; not clear how many. People's pension checks aren't sent off (those who would do it are on strike) so at least one pensioner I know wasn't able to get his phone bill paid. They are threatening to cut his service as a result.

    My friend in Lyon is telling me of the mayor's office barricaded and all public transport closed down due to demonstrations. Also, tear gas hanging heavy in the air and bashed in windshields of all the cars the entire length of her street (shop windows too), because of course nasty types jump into the general hullaballoo to foment further mayhem unrelated to the matter at hand. This seems a little extreme and somewhat counterproductive to me.

    Just my view from here, though.


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