Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Walks in the Cevennes: Sentier des Rouquis

We are having such amazingly gorgeous weather this autumn, it seems criminal not to be out in it at every opportunity. If this is an effect of global warming, bring it on! Unfortunately, work gets in the way for most of the week, so one is restricted to local spots for a daily (or so) constitutional, but at the weekend, one can take advantage of the gratifyingly low petrol prices and wander further afield.

Thus it was that we dug out our pamphlet of walks in the Cévennes and found one an hour or so's drive from home. I packed a picnic (flageolet bean houmous, buckwheat crackers, lettuce, apples) and we drove to the starting point at mountain village of Saint-André de Majencoules thirty or so kilometres south of Mont Aigoual.
Crossing the bridge at Saint-André de Majencoules
Looking back towards the bridge at Saint-André de Majencoules
My DB doesn't like walking on a full stomach, so we packed our lunch in his backpack and set off walking through the picturesque village. It sits strategically on a rocky overhang which gives spectacular views across the valley. You can see the terraces of sweet onions - 'l'oignon doux des Cévennes (AOC)' - which were originally grown for personal consumption but then became commercialised in the 1950s when the silk worm industry died out due to severe winters which killed the mulberry trees.

The village has suffered, like so many in the Cévennes, from desertification. Its population of around 550 today was three times higher in 1913. At that time, it had forty artisans and tradesmen including two blacksmiths (maréchaux-ferrant), six shoemakers, four tailors, three hairdressers and eight grocers.

We were following yellow markers on the 'Sentier des Rouquis' which takes you through a landscape of granite rocks, forests of chestnut, holm oak (chêne vert) and other robust trees; the village of La Rouviérette, and along a crête which overlooks the village.

Looking south towards Pont de l'Hérault
It's a 'facile' walk which means it's accessible for everyone (although they don't mean wheelchair users, pushchairs or those with weak knees, and it's best not to wear flipflops...), is less than 16km and no more than a 400m climb. We are not up to the 'moyen' level yet, which is a shame because the Cévennes Tourist Office organises some really cool walks, like this one on Oct 31 which has as its theme the diversity of flora in the Cevennes. You get a lunch of local products as well as explanations about the plants you encounter as you walk, their rarity and the uses man puts them to.

We followed the deserted road as far as the next signpost where we turned to climb up towards the hamlet of La Rouviérette through a chestnut tree wood. The narrow road, at this time of the year, is strewn with chestnut tree leaves and fallen chestnuts. Anyone wanting a cheap dinner would be able to have their fill! 

We didn't gather them up (we'd have to carry them!) but stopped at a handy picnic table at Combe Croze, a tiny hamlet just before La Rouviérette, and, in the total peace and quiet, enjoyed our lunch. At the entrance to the village, a small girl came running out of a house and asked us if we were going to come inside because someone was playing the piano. Hunger forced us to decline... 

Opposite the picnic table was a staircase cut into the granite which takes you up into the châtaigneraie (chestnut grove) and down to Saint-André. The pamphlet relates the story of one old man who used to work in the silk textile mill further down the valley in Peyregrosse. He walked down in clogs carrying his lunch in a billy can, worked for nine hours and then walked back up at night, presumably in the pitch black.

Combe Croze
The châtaignier was a vital part of the local diet until the middle of the twentieth century along with the potato. Villagers also cultivated chickpeas and wheat.

We learned about the clède which is now a ruined building in the village of La Rouviérette, but was once where chestnuts were laid out to dry. They would be put on a griddle (claie) and a small fire would be lit beneath. When the châtaigneraie was abandoned, the inhabitants started cultivating ferns (fougère aigle) which was used for bedding and animal food.

La Rouviérette is on the transhumance route to Mont Aigoual. Now only a couple of herds still pass through.

La Rouviérette. Is that a sheep shed under the arch?
Still on the road, we came across a collection of five blue tubs, the sort that contain fertilizer. They were connected together in a basic manner by a series of tubes. Another tube guided water that came out of the rocks behind into the first tub. When it was full, the overflow was carried by a second tube into the second tub, and so on. They were all pretty full - it's been very wet.

We came to a signpost 'Les Suels' after a gentle but persistent climb, which marks the col (pass) and the start of the crête (crest). The air was clear and pure, and the fragrances from the damp earth, the herbs and other vegetation were delicious. Les Suels seems to have been a grand old building, now a ruin, which was inhabited up until 1945. 
Ruined hamlet of Les Suels
The girls who lived there (according to the pamphlet) used to go down the path to school which must have been about 2.5km, accompanied by a tame boar that followed them like a dog. It came to collect them at the end of the day too. Apparently there were fewer wild boar at that time and so there were only three or four hunters. We found a fair amount of boar activity along the crest - stirred up earth showing where they slept for the night. They have become so numerous now they are a menace and have to be culled.

I don't know if they were looking for mushrooms, but we certainly found quite a few. We didn't pick them though as we know nothing about mushrooms.

Cevenol fungi spotted... but not gathered...
Up on the col, it was amazing how the sound of the traffic on the main road some 600m below rose up as a constant drone. We were following the Rouquiers path which runs along the crest and then goes down to the south side of Saint-André. The descent is a lot more brutal than the ascent; the path a perilous track of loose rocks, hidden tree roots beneath the fallen leaves and large boulders that need careful navigating if one is not to twist an ankle or go careering off over the side of the mountain. Is it really the path taken by those girls, in the dark of winter mornings and evenings?
Tricky path of ankle-twisting loose rocks hidden beneath the leaves
One false step on a dark winter's evening and you'd be over the edge in a jiffy.

We arrived back at the car after nearly 6km of an exceptionally pleasant trek - gorgeous views, lovely smells, peace and quiet, pretty villages, and interesting history.
Happy me enjoying the Great Outdoors wearing a back-to-front bumbag and my zumba outfit.
We finished off the day back in Montpellier with an exceptionally delicious bottle of red from Domaine de la Jasse - the Black Label cuvée. Smooth, beautiful and elegant, it was a fitting end to a fabulous day. Cheers!

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Windy Palavas and the Foire de Montpellier

Palavas beach 12 Oct 2014
This was the beach at Palavas yesterday on a day when the wind blew in strong gusts, whipping up the sea which deposited branches and bits of reed in untidy piles. It was an incredibly warm 25°C with what must have been almost 100% humidity, so walking along the front made me feel sticky and sweaty.

Today, it was calm, and a number of John Deere tractors were out tidying everything up. The contrast was remarkable.

We had popped down to the beach in search of a sandwich for lunch. My DB and I had spent the morning at the Foire de Montpellier, a commercial bonanza of Italian leather sofas, ceramic pans, and double glazing. Everywhere you stepped, you got accosted by a desperate sales person. The place was closed yesterday because of the weather, so they'd lost a whole day of potential sales on one of the busiest days - a disaster.

We were drawn in to one spiel at what looked like a vacuum cleaner stand. A short and sparky lady showed us this wonderful cleaner which wasn't just a hoover, but a combined steam cleaner. It hoovered up, steamed cleaned tiles, shampooed carpets and dried the lot in seconds. Lovely. We asked about the price. She said we could pay as little as 40 EUR per month. "A vie?" asked my DB? (For life?). She laughed gaily and said it was so nice to meet people with a sense of humour.

After a suspiciously long time, she finally got round to giving us the price. Don't faint (we were sitting down by this time, just in case...). It cost a snip at 2500 EUR, with a 'special' event price of 2100 EUR.

Of course, she said we could pay it off interest-free in as many months as we liked, up to 48. Can you imagine still paying for your hoover four years later? We told her it was far too expensive, so she suggested we pay less per month. It was difficult explaining that it wasn't the monthly payments that posed a problem, but the total amount which was far too expensive for such a gadget, nifty though it was.

Then she said we could take the display model for... 1700 EUR, or if we were a business, we could get a VAT-free new model for the same price. She was doing her best, but even 1700 EUR was about 1000 EUR more than we thought the hoover should cost. Getting a little desperate, she then gave us the sob story about being closed the day before, and so she couldn't make four potential sales like she did the previous year on that day.

By this time, we were getting a little weary and not a little hungry. I had had my eye on the Italian hall with the intention of nibbling my way through lunch, so we made our excuses and left. Ouf!

After a tour of the Italian hall sampling the cheese and charcuterie which was all delicious but very expensive (pork 30 EUR/kg), I was still hungry so we went to the food court which was also expensive. That was when we decided to leave and go elsewhere, and ended up in Palavas with a tasty baguette sarnie by the canal sitting in the sun (25°C).

The weather is not a little amazing this autumn!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Motorbike and Boats

After the storms of the beginning of the week, the end of it promised sunshine and warm weather. My DB suggested we take advantage of it with a bike ride down the coast.

I made some hummus and packed some buckwheat crackers and a couple of apples and we set off for beach. The temperature was perfect for biking in a leather jacket - not too hot nor too cold. The sky was blue and it felt great to be out and enjoying the advantages of living in the south of France.

We cruised from Villeneuve-les-Maguelones to Marseillan where I saw a flock of flamingoes flying east. Would they be spending the winter in Palavas-les-Flots on the shallow lagoons, or would they be taking a right turn and head further south? They made a magnificent sight in their V formation flapping purposefully en route to their destination.

We, on the other hand, didn't have a destination. Our goal was the journey. Journeys give you time to think and reflect. My DB wanted the opportunity to think about projects and plans which he does best whilst riding. I let the scenery impress itself on me, living in the moment, breathing in the smells of the sea and warm pine.

Along some of the coast, it's so built up and fenced off for camp sites, it's quite tricky finding a place to stop at the beach. Eventually we stopped for lunch at Marseillan Plage, having spotted some concrete picnic tables along the canal near a desolate-looking hotel called Le Richemont. Several people were fishing, and some of the tables were occupied by visitors enjoying al fresco eating. It was not a particularly attractive spot, but it was the best we could find that was near the sea.

Best we could find for a picnic, canal on the right
After lunch we rode on to Valras-Plage where we found a tiny road that gave us access to a beach for a snooze. It looked like people had fenced off plots of land leading down to the sea, but because they were designated as non-constructible, they had installed caravans in amongst the trees. With time, the caravans aged and so it looked like a glorified dump of decay in a beautiful setting. The smell of cooking fish was strong too.

The car park was tiny. Obviously the beach was supposed to be a well-kept secret and available to residents and the odd stray visitor who happened upon it by accident. Storm damage was evident in the detritus that was collected on the sand, from whole tree trunks to strands of reeds and other bits of wood.

A right mess after the storm

After our snooze, we carried on, hugging the coast where possible or following the green roads inland for a while in the Massif de la Clape near Narbonne. From flat and wild scrub, they took us through some rugged hills and sweet-smelling forests. The view of the blue sea between the trees from on high just before the road descended to the coast was spectacular.

At Gruissan, we decided to look for a hotel. Unfortunately, the only one we could find that was open, not full and not a dump was at the casino. It was a busy weekend because there was a jousting competition going on. So we tried Gruissan-Plage where the film 37°2 was filmed amongst the cabins on stilts. It was a little eery all closed up except for the odd weekender tending to his garage. We retraced our steps back to Narbonne-Plage where everywhere was full. This we hadn't expected - the first weekend in October, and not a room to be had?

Gruissan-Plage chalets, location for the film 37°2
Eventually, with Trip Advisor and Booking.com suggesting the only place with rooms was the casino, we headed back and took a very pleasant room overlooking a lake. It was slightly confusing taking a shower though as the taps had been plumbed in the wrong way, so there I was, wondering why there was no hot water...

View from hotel room
That evening, we didn't go for a flutter in the casino, but walked into Gruissan to the port for dinner. There were lots of places open, so it was hard choosing, and we walked up and down several times before I chose one place where we could eat outside. It turned out to be the restaurant of the hotel that was full, the Hotel du Port. My fresh daube was delicious, its flesh soft and creamy and enhanced by citrus slices. My DB had a tasty salmon tartare which he said was just what he needed after stuffing his face with barbecue flavoured crisps earlier. The staff were very friendly, and we were the last to leave just as it started getting chilly. It was a lovely evening and the port was alive with people enjoying one of the last balmy evenings of the year.

The next morning, we woke up refreshed from the extremely comfortable bed, and walked to the port for coffee and croissants. It was extremely lively with a rowing competition in full flow. Teams (both men and women, and even mixed) in heavy wooden boats rowed 50m or so up to a buoy, then turned around it and rowed back cheered on by enthusiastic onlookers. It was extremely windy and I should think it was exhausting rowing the final straight into the wind.

We ate a couple of croissants before my DB decided to look up the number of calories in each one. Did you know a croissant has 406 calories? I thought it would be about 200! We needed the walk around the port after that to burn them off!

Gruissan port is huge and very busy with sail boats in every berth. The architecture of the flats is very 70s although they made a bit of an effort with the rounded tops, but the actual construction is pretty crappy. Still, there are lovely views over the port. We walked round to the dry docks where there were many different types of boats on supports including an old grey landing craft. The rigging clanged and thwacked in the gusty wind. We had to battle against round but I could feel those calories burn right off.

Quite a variety of boats, from sleek modern to traditional wooden. 

A landing craft incongruous amongst the other boats.

A man fishing for his cat?
The wind was actually a bit of a problem as my DB didn't want to ride the bike in the strong gusts. He negotiated with the hotel for us to stay until 1.30pm when hopefully it would have died down somewhat.

We left on time in a more subdued breeze and headed back to Montpellier via a north-easterly direction following the sat-nav's idea of scenic routes, and those green roads where possible.

Tiny single-lane track of the scenic type
We passed through the villages of Aude and Hérault, some barely bigger than they were fifty years ago, others expanded in sprawling estates of new boxy houses on the outskirts.

Boxy houses at the entrance to charming old village
We crossed the Canal du Midi, still magnificently lined with plane trees... for the moment.

Canal du Midi
The previous day we had crossed a bridge where on one side the age old (diseased) trees were still in place, and on the other, they had been cut down and replaced with young trees. One side was shady and atmospheric, an historic waterway listed as a world heritage site, the other was glaringly open to the elements, and... just a canal.

We made it back in good time to find the house relatively clean and tidy and no evidence of anything untoward... like wild parties or extreme cooking.

Friday, October 03, 2014

A Kitchen-Sink Post

Here's a round-up of odds and sods.

It was my eldest's 18th birthday last Sunday (28th). He went out the night before, blew most of his birthday money and as a result had a quiet day on Sunday which included a mega treat of a KFC take-away lunch... He decided on a birthday dinner of roast chicken at 4pm despite me asking him regularly since the previous day (Me: "Do you want a birthday roast chicken dinner?" Him: "Dunno, I may eat out."). Naturally, not having already obtained a response, the organic chicken was still in the freezer. I got it out, chucked it in the oven on 'defrost' mode, then prised it apart to cut into pieces, chucked them in the microwave to defrost faster, and actually managed to dish up a fully cooked roast chicken (pieces) by 8pm. I was sorry to treat it in such a cavalier way, but 18th birthdays don't happen every day...

Montpellier under water. Photo Midi Libre
You may have seen on the tele the torrential rain and flooding in Montpellier at the beginning of the week. We got five months of rain in three hours. On Monday lunch time, I took my son to the tram station to go to lectures. Mistake. It was already pissing down and the roads were awash. I had very little petrol (35km worth) and had to get to work so really didn't want to be travelling much. I got to work after a very scary drive only to hear not long after that all lectures were cancelled and he was stranded in town because the buses and trams were no longer running.

Luckily it was the end of our fiscal year at work and manic, so I couldn't go to his rescue even if I'd wanted to, and a good thing too, because the roads became rivers and people were having to leave their cars stranded where they broke down. I would have been caught up in all that, and been stranded too.

In the end, he walked with a friend to the tram station where I'd left him, in the pouring rain, and got a lift back. His new computer was fighting for its life overnight drying out... It hiccuped to life the next day, thank goodness.

Vitamin D
The world wide recommended dose for vitamin D3 is 1400 to 2000 UI per day, with a maximum of 10,000. In France, it's 200 UI. Why the difference? Because of a calculation error by the Conseil (not so-)supérieur d'hygiene publique de France (CSHPF), the people tasked with deciding on the dose. Instead of fixing 10,000 as a maximum dose (like in the rest of the world), they calculated it as 1,000. D'oh. The result is that vitamin D3 is only sold in capsules of 200 UI which means you have to take at least five to get the right dose.

It's important, because three out of four people are deficient in vitamin D, and this is a shame because vitamin D helps prevent and treat some cancers, auto-immune diseases (multiple scleroses, diabetes I), depression, fractures, and infections like the flu.

I've just ordered some vitamin D3 for us all in the form of drops because it's easier to take five drops rather than five capsules.

Food supplements
I'm very excited because they have all been ordered and are due to be delivered from tomorrow. I had to wait until this month to order them due to the financial strain of September. The ones I already had have been excellent in improving the quality of my sleep (rhadiola and magnesium). I've been eating a quarter of pomegranate every day for my breakfast too as their juice is very good for balancing women's hormones. I'd eat more, but they cost a fortune each!

My naturopathic doctor gave me a recipe for rice flour bread which I decided to try the other day. It contained rice flour, buckwheat flour, some oat flour, olive oil, an egg, bicarb, and water. She said to put it in the oven at 130°C for half an hour. I was dubious but followed her instructions. Well, of course it wasn't cooked and it tasted quite disgusting. I'm sure there's an error in there somewhere... must email and ask!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I went to see a naturopathe

(To the tune of 'Half a pound of tuppenny rice')
"No more eggs and no more Pills
Hello steamy hot flush
Down below's a no-go zone
I'm menopausal"

Since reading Sherrill Sellman's book Hormone Heresy: What women must know about their hormones I've decided that I have to find a natural alternative to Hormone Replacement Therapy. I'm already not keen on medication, and the idea of pumping my body with a cocktail of synthetic hormones yet again (since I stopped the Pill) does not appeal.

At the first sign of menopausal symptoms (hot flushes, dryness you-know-where), I rushed to my doc. He advised HRT or I would be in danger of aging rapidly - find myself suddenly dried out and an old hag in a couple of years. There was a definite hint of 'your partner won't find you attractive any more and will probably dump you for a more luscious alternative because what can you do with an old prune?' Fun...

He prescribed estriol (a form of oestrogen) for down below, and, to his credit, instead of imposing HRT on me, suggested I ask my buddies about HRT, and to do some research on the internet. So I did. Well I did the internet bit because I don't have many friends who have hit menopause yet.

I discovered that HRT is not all it's made out to be, and that some women have disastrous reactions to it. Instead of taking it and risk becoming oestrogen dominant which is not a good thing, I wanted to balance out the hormonal imbalance between oestrogen and progesterone in my menopausal body as naturally and side-effect-free as possible.

Dr Sellman suggests seeing a naturopathic doctor, and as luck would have it, the Pages Jaunes for Montpellier threw up two: a man and a woman. I looked at the woman's web page and noted she has 25 years of experience, and, from her photo saw that she has very probably gone through menopause. It seemed an obvious choice to select her rather than the man who did not have a web site and thus was just a name on a page.

Today was the day when I had my appointment. I took along my blood test analyses (usual stuff plus FSH which determines whether you're in menopause or not because it's a reproductive hormone - I am) and found myself in a little outhouse in the doc's garden.

She started by looking at my eyes. Apparently you can tell a lot from eyes. Before she looked at my blood tests, she flashed a torch at me and asked me whether I had some intestinal issues, and some joint problems, and said I have an excellent 'hygiene de vie' which means I'm in roaring good health.

I was pleased to hear that because I have made a lot of effort in the past year, and it's obviously paid off, not that I was abusing my health before, but I'm taking more care now (organic fruit and veg, less meat, dairy and bread, sport).

I do have a little intestinal problem (she said it was some inflammation) and my joints get tired when I walk a lot, so top marks the doc! I also wake up too early which annoys me. We had a chat about my eating habits and she decided to prescribe a number of food supplements to rectify my hormonal imbalances:

  • Houblon which is like oestrogen
  • Salsepareille which is like progesterone
  • Bourrache (borage) oil which, from what she said, is like an elixir of life
  • plus a bit of Hydra 7 which will help things along
  • Optiflore to get my intestines sorted out
  • Rhadiola Rosea and Magnesium Marin to improve the quality of my sleep and help me relax.

I was in there for an hour and it cost me 65 Eur which should be reimbursed by my mutuelle. I have to get most of the supplements on the internet, and she indicated where I could go because there's such a variety out there.

I'll be chucking out the estriol which had revolting consequences.

In the same vein, I started doing a local yoga course this evening. It was a trial session, and although there was some noise from the other activities going on in the communal centre, I found it relaxing and pretty promising.

Then I came home and had sausage and spuds, broccoli, and a glass of wine for dinner. :)

Got to keep my strength up for all this healthy living!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Birthday Vendange

I have never felt so knackered on my birthday! Instead of going on a bike ride to Spain, to stay in a nice hotel and eat out, I responded to the SOS from Christophe of Domaine Puech to help with this year's vendange.

We've had some truly atrocious weather this last week. Torrential rain pounded down, dumping several months' worth of rain over one day, so the ground was squelchy and soggy. The grapes had to be picked quickly before they started rotting in the still warm weather. I rushed out to buy some wellies as I'd thrown out all my old shoes recently and, call me vain and superficial, but I didn't fancy wrapping my shoes up to my knees in a bin bag and string.
Domaine Puech grenache vines

Dinky vineyard tractor and trailer which had to be filled with grapes
I joined the pickers several of whom were from our electoral team, for lunch after an hour's zumba (not sure that was such a brilliant idea as it turned out...). Everyone was gathered for an apero and then sat at one of those classic long tables under a huge tree to eat cold roast chicken, Mme Puech senior's excellent chicken liver pâté, and salad, with the Domaine's own olive oil and vinegar. It was simple and tasty. The talk was about the Scottish referendum vote, with general satisfaction expressed about the result.

After cheese and dessert, we drove to the vineyards. The vines were heavy with multiple bunches of grapes.
Grenache grapes
We joined a number of other pickers who were there to be paid. The rest of us were volunteers.
Grape pickers
I had taken my gardening gloves and a bottle of water which proved to be an excellent idea as it was very warm and I sweated buckets. I had sweat dripping off my brow and onto the grapes. If there's a salty taste to this year's wine, look no further for the culprit! We worked the rows two people at a time, one on each side. I was paired with another volunteer who very kindly carried my bucket full of grapes to empty it into the tractor and thus gave me a short break.
Christophe Puech's photo of me busy picking
As you can see, it's back-breaking work. I spent a lot of time squatting to save my back, but of course I was forever having to move along the row so had to keep standing up. The next day, I rediscovered the muscles at the front of my thighs... with a vengeance.

At the end of three hours I looked like this:
Note air of exhaustion
Everyone knocked off at 5pm and I was invited to join the team back at the Domaine for some refreshments. I followed two tractor trailer loads.
Tractor full of 1 1/2 hours worth of picked grapes

Another trailer full of grapes, picked by the sweat of our brows

The grapes were emptied into this big container and pushed through the screw that separates grapes from stalks.
Grapes being screwed :)
On the other side of the wall, a machine separates out grape juice from stalks and pips, and this is collected in containers. I'm not sure what it's used for - compost I would think. I forgot to ask. If anyone knows, please comment below.

Stalks and pips being dumped into containers
Meanwhile, the juice is pumped into a huge vat. There was a lot of juice, and this vat was getting pretty full.

Vat full of fresh grape juice
Before heading home to a refreshing shower, Christophe called us volunteers into the cave and gave us each a case of six bottles of wine. This was a lovely surprise as I hadn't expected as much - a bottle perhaps - and I chose to have their red wine to herald in the autumn.

It was definitely a memorable way to spend my 51st birthday!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Enemies of the Body State

Healthy eating comes in many guises. You can go from eating lots of standard fruit and veg plus meat (if you're not a veggie) from the supermarket to eating more and more organic produce and better quality meat, to eating totally organic. For some people, a vegetarian or vegan diet is the healthiest; for others, including meat is essential. Some even decide to adopt a totally raw food diet.

Never one for extremes, I like to pick and mix, but I'm becoming more and more aware that eating gluten and dairy produce is not good for you. This morning, I got an email from a newsletter I subscribe to (SanteNatureInnovation) which convinced me even more.

According to Dr Jean Seignalet, a dairy-free and gluten-free diet can relieve ninety-one major illnesses: auto-immune (psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, poly-arthritis, etc.), allergies, asthma, headaches, depression, insomnia and gastric/intestinal problems.

Apparently, giving up dairy and gluten for three months can be a life-changing experience for those who don't know they are intolerant. They regain their energy and morale; sleep well, feel good, and lose weight. Their hair looks better, and their pains and fatigue disappear.

Historically, people turned to wheat and dairy because they were not expensive, so they incorporated them into as many recipes as possible. Unfortunately, humans can't digest lactose in milk very well, and the protein casein provokes intolerance and allergies. As for calcium, only 30% is absorbed, so it's not such a brilliant body-builder after all! Wheat is poor in nutrients, containing starch (sugar), and some protein of which mainly gluten which 15% of the population is intolerant to, and a bit of fat in the germ.

Those who are intolerant to either or both know just how bad it can get (like this professional ballerina). The intestines get inflamed, become porous, and let proteins pass into the blood which set off inflammatory and auto-immune reactions throughout the body.

I'm not particularly intolerant to either, although I do burp after I eat bread (and it's probably getting worse), but I'm interested in what I can replace them with. I've started using different flours (buckwheat, chickpea, rye), in muffins, tarts and cookies, but I want to know more, and I don't want to spend (even more) hours finding out.

The newsletter invites us to register for a cookery course called Naturacook given (in French) by Benjamin Dariouch, founder of Naturacoach. It teaches the secrets of tasty eating gluten- and dairy-free, and how to use properly the different flours that are available. It's on for four months and is delivered through videos which can be watched and re-watched, plus pdf versions of the 120 basic recipes, the possibility to ask Ben questions, and how to transform normal recipes to gluten-/dairy-free.

I was asked recently to find out about cookery courses for an American couple who wanted to come to Montpellier for a couple of weeks. I was quite surprised at how much they cost. This course is €37/month for four months which I reckon is a good buy. I'll let you know how it goes.