In early afternoon sunlight, a huge hare loped across to the woodland from the edge of the lake. It seemed strange that the approaching vehicle had not disturbed it, but that it only moved because we had climbed out of our car. We were investigating a site for our Christmas Day picnic. Despite the symbolism that I have now read about hares and their association with disappointments and disaster, I sennsed that the site had been hallowed by the hare! Hares are also a symbol of rebirth and renewal. The symbol of The Three Chasing Hares has been used from East to West of the World and the Three Hares Project offers very interesting reading material.
On Christmas Day the freezing fog was lifted by the warm sharp sunshine, creating crisp, clean, breathless blue skies. The ice on the lake was several inches thick.
Our picnic menu consisted of
Crevettes with Mayonnaise Sauce
Beetroots with a Vinaigrette dressing and Watercress
Pot-Roasted Biche and Roasted Potatoes
M&S Luxury Christmas pudding flambéed with Armagnac with Crème Anglaise Sauce
Chocolates, Clementines and Armagnac
With the starter and dessert we enjoyed a chilled white wine
Muscat Domaine de Grand Crès Pays d' Oc purchased from La Caviste à Loches.
and with the main course we enjoyed a glass of red Chateauneuf du Pape 2005 kept warm by the hot water bottles and our cauldron fire!
The deer had been studded with garlic, and marinated overnight in flavoured oils, lemon juice, a little red wine, salt, pepper and Herbes du Provence. It had been wrapped in cling film with the juices and refrigerated. Then it was seared on all sides for several minutes. The carrots and shallots (sliced lengthwise) had been sautéed in the juices of the meat. The vegetables were arranged in the braising pan with the meat on top and a little more red wine and any remaining juices from the marinade and pot- braised (with lid) in the oven at180°C for about an hour; It was sliced thinly, served with vegetables and roast potatoes.
Normally we have an alternative festive pudding but this year M& S luxury won the day. It was an excellent pudding and I could not have made a better one!
We took all the hot dishes in their pans inside a haybox! When we arrived at the site we made a barbecue fire and a cauldron fire to keep the food and ourselves warm. The table was laid with festive decorations. We toasted our absent friends and family and thanked France for the glorious lakeside view in front of us. It was as if we were in a film! There was no one but ourselves. Magic!
Moorhens waddled. Robins and wrens tucked themselves between the bulrushes. A coypu shuffled across the ice. Two buzzards mewled and quartered the field, woods and lake for their prey. The donkey brayed. On our journey home Mr Reynard with his blackened brown brush sped across the lane. However, as we completed our Christmas meal, the beating wings of two swans attracted our attention as they flew westwards into the setting sun. Around the lake, the yellow, orange and red hues of the willow and dogwood were in contrast to the bare branches of the trees. All were reflected in the steel blue muted shades of the ice and water.
However, the same hare or another was a corpse on the ice not far from our picnic place. We had not known this. She did not stir. Her vibrant, magical life had been mysteriously abandoned. Death had come and we imagined how her soul mate had sat by her side trying to awake her, nipping at her fur and sprinkling the hairs around her like white petals of a Christmas rose or like a dusting of snowflakes. Hare had mourned beauty and magic. Hare had disappointment, death and yet we hoped rebirth and renewal.