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Trip to France has been an eye opener


Gwen Johnson stands with Olivier Guisiano, the baker from whom she is learning to cook French breads.

Gwen Johnson stands with Olivier Guisiano, the baker from whom she is learning to cook French breads.

Go to our Facebook page for announcements and pictures posted after each event, www.facebook.com/ pages/Hemphill-Community Center.

I am currently still in France. Today I attended the La Fete des Chataignes — Chestnut Festival — from the house in which I have been staying in Collobrieres Village in the south of France. This is a medieval village where food and drink are the economy. Today I saw the wines, sausages, cheeses, cured meats, herbs, nuts, fruits, and vegetables harvested right here this season.

Hemphill

Chestnuts were being roasted over open fires. I woke early to hear the sellers hawking their wares across the river from the house here. Colorful food stalls piled high with bread, olives, sweet treats, cakes, tarts, candies, and every imaginable concoction made with chestnuts. Chestnut liquor, chestnut beer, preserves, candy, cookies, breads, and paper cones with hot roasted chestnuts were available. Renaissance musicians wandered through the village playing, singing, and dancing. It was a feast for the eyes and ears.

Caroline and Lionel Thomsin wearing Black Sheep Brick Oven Bakery Aprons at their cafe.

Caroline and Lionel Thomsin wearing Black Sheep Brick Oven Bakery Aprons at their cafe.

While walking among the stalls it occurred to me that we are regulated to death in the states. These folks had natural foods prepared in ancient ways. The food was displayed in the open air. Rugged looking sausages, head cheese, side meat, and cured hams were being carved and sandwiches were being made with baguettes and other fine breads such as I have been trained in making the last couple of weeks. Breads in many shades of brown with seeds, raisins, chocolate, and olives. Delicious breads.

This trip has been an eye opener for me. I am looking at things differently. Our economy can revive and we can survive with or without coal. I think the way forward might lay in looking into the old ancient ways of doing things. We can work smartly and efficiently with new technologies but we don’t have to lose the purity of our products. The closer to the land we can get, the better the ingredients. Farm to table cuts out the middle man.

Gwen Johnson attended the La Fete des Chataignes — Chestnut Festival — in Collobrieres Village in the south of France.

Gwen Johnson attended the La Fete des Chataignes — Chestnut Festival — in Collobrieres Village in the south of France.

Tourism in Collobieres is what we, at home, would call adventure tourism. Biking and hiking in the mountains surrounding the village and across wide vistas with streams and rivers that are quite lovely seems to be all the rage. Tourism allows this small town to support two large hotels.

One remarkable thing I noticed was that folks clean up after themselves and the landscape is not littered as our beautiful mountains are. The absence of chain restaurants was another huge difference. Most of our restaurants are fast food restaurants owned by companies based somewhere else. Locally owned restaurants and cafes were where we had outings and the fare was delightfully delicious and artfully made. Care was taken with each and every dish and loaf to make sure the food was good and pleasant to look at. The pride of giving something to eat that you put your heart and soul into is evident in Collobrieres.

The village has two bakeries or boulangeries. The two weeks I have been here one of the bakers was on holiday. Therefore, the baker I worked with, Oliver, had the task of making bread for the village with 2,000 inhabitants. I was pleased to lend a hand while gathering information to take back to Black Sheep Bakery at home. It was a marvel to watch this baker who worked with skill and pride to feed so many mouths.

Different kinds of olives can be found at the open market in Collobrieres Village.

Different kinds of olives can be found at the open market in Collobrieres Village.

I have not eaten any quick breads here as we do at home. There are no cat head biscuits or cornbread being made that I saw. The French government sees to it that everyone can have fresh bread daily and the price of a baguette cannot exceed 90 cents. There are always other more expensive breads available in the bakeries but baguettes are a mainstay. I now know how to make them. The “Oliver Baguette” will be offered weekly upon my return.

Villages in France, such as Collobrieres, are usually built within the lay of the land and look as if some giant hand threw white dominoes with terracotta tiles on top all over the hills. Colorful shutters complete the picturesque landscape. Collobieres has seven ancient wells within the village. One such well is in the village square. I heard that there is a wine festival during the summer when the fountain at that well runs wine into the basin of the fountain. I would love to experience that.

Sandwiches and other foods were sold at the open market at the Chestnut Festival.

Sandwiches and other foods were sold at the open market at the Chestnut Festival.

Churches and monasteries are built at the top of the villages and on top of mountains as if the ancient sages and holy people went, like Moses, to lofty heights to commune with the Spirit. Holy men and women have always sought the Bread of Heaven to feed the soul on mountain heights worldwide.

Again, my thanks to the good volunteers at home for holding down the fort and keeping the home fire burning while I have experienced a culture than can help us find our way back to what our ancestors came to the shores of North America knowing. The knowledge of self sufficiency had been lost to us as we went about living in the microcosms created by a mono economy of coal and the company (store) being the supplier of all needs.

Don’t forget to come and hang out with us at the Center when you can. We have Wifi now so kids and adults are better satisfied not being cut off from their electronic devices. We also have a playground and a walking track so bring the whole family and visit us.

It’s a hate free zone and you are invited!! Come and linger among friends!!!

Weekly Quote: Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile, and a grateful heart. Zig Ziglar

Schedule of Events:

Oct. 18: Senior Fellowship 10 a.m. John Ng’s Martial Arts 5:30 p.m.

Oct. 19: Bakery opens at 4:30 p.m. Friday Nite Pickin’ with Cross Country Bluegrass

Oct. 20: Bakery opens at 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 23: Senior Fellowship 10 a.m. John Ng’s Martial Arts 5:30

Oct. 25: Black Sheep Bakery opens at 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 26: Black Sheep Bakery opens at 4:30 p.m, Friday Night Pickin with The Right Fork Ramblers 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 27: Black Sheep Bakery opens at 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 28: Shape Note Singing 2-5 p.m.

Oct. 30: Senior Fellowship 10 a.m. John Ng’s Martial Arts

Oct. 31: Halloween Safe Night 5 p.m.

Friday Nite Pickin’: Children get in free when accompanied by an adult. Open mic at intermission. Family friendly environment.

Inclement weather policy: Check our Facebook page for cancellations. Cancellations will be posted at least two hours before any scheduled events.

For more information on events and catering: (606) 671-7023, (606)821-8723

Hemphill Community Center is located at the old Hemphill Grade School building at 2514 Hwy 317 Jackhorn, KY 41825.

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 17:21-23

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