The dentist needed more of our money so today I took, sorry, dragged, Benj to Guéret to have something or other done to his long suffering teeth. The dentist started trying to straighten them up about three years ago, but went a bit far when he burnt a hole in the roof of Benj’s mouth to pull down an extra tooth lurking there. This traumatised Benj who refused to go back for over a year. So, instead of getting the work finished while he was still at lycée in Guéret, we are having to fit visits in whenever he’s back from Uni in Limoges, which isn’t often and isn’t easy. OK, end of parental dig at offspring!

Caiti came along for the trip so we pottered around the town centre while Benj was tortured. We’d seen a sign up saying there was a Marché de Noël on, but we didn’t find it. We did find the knitting shop and I confidently marched in and said I wanted 2.5 mm needles to knit shoes with. Yup, after five years of living here, I’m still getting chaussures (shoes) and chaussettes (socks) muddled up. Caiti rolled her eyes in the way only teenagers can and the shop assistant managed to keep a straight face. I assumed my moronic ‘I’m a foreign idiot’ expression and carried on regardless. I have a thick expat skin these days.

A half-knit chaussette and not a half-knit chaussure

You know, it’s not such a bad thing to be able to retreat into foreignness and let it all wash over you from time to time. It’s an expat escape mechanism for when things get too much or, more usually and more shamefully, you just can’t be bothered. For example, it comes in handy at committee meetings when they’re looking for volunteers for various roles. Simply smile a ‘I haven’t got a clue what’s going on’ smile when they catch your eye and you’ll be left safely alone. It’s also nice being able to switch off the background chatter in cafés or shops – or in meetings – by simply choosing not to try and tune into French and so slip away into English thoughts. I’ll have a real shock when/if I do ever go back to an English speaking country. To be able to easily understand what everyone around is saying may cause a brain overload after so long away from it! Yeah, it’s cool being an expat.

Anyway, back to subject. After hitting Halle des Chaussures (not chaussettes!) and stocking up on wellies (we get through a lot of pairs each a year, we should buy shares in a boot company), we did a food shop at Carrefour. By now I had two grumpy kids – both hungry, one with a cough and one with a cold and sore teeth. Not a good combo. I had to threaten to knock their heads together at one point, I think it was in the biscuit aisle. Benj defiantly said he’d like to see me try but I icily told him to respect his mother. Hah, I still have the upper hand! From now on, one child at a time on shopping trips. Better still – none!

Now all this is longwindedly leading to the fact that I bought my first ever navet. Chris wistfully asked for a parsnip to go with Christmas dinner. I didn’t hold out much hope of finding one for him – you just don’t seem to get them over here. We usually grow our own, but hadn’t done so this year. However, browsing in the veggie section, I reckoned a navet was near enough and bought one.

Not a smooth skinned parsnip but a long, thin turnip

Le navet – originally navot – is French for yellow turnip. So it’s not a parsnip at all, despite appearances to the contrary. As this cookery website  nicely says,  navets have been eaten in France since there was a France! The one I bought is probably the variety ‘le Nantois’ since it is long and thin like a parsnip. You get round purpley navets too.

The usual way to eat it is to peel, cut and mash it, and then cook it with a little milk, butter, salt and pepper. It was a winter staple in bygone years since it stored well in chilly cellars. It involves a bit of work, though, to prepare it so modern day softies generally resort to pre-peeled and diced navet in the freezer section of the hypermarché.

So we’ll be having turnip with our turkey on Christmas Day. Not our usual but let’s dare to be different! And on the subject of turkeys, tomorrow is T-day for the remaining four …