For the first time since November we had 12 hours of proper, steady, heavy rain which will have done the garden, the vineyards and the water table a lot of good. It looked gloomy, but it was worth it and the sun is out again now.
Tonight’s Cercle Occitan lecture will be given by a historian, Jacques Bonnet, on the story of the zero and how it came into European culture and learning through a collaboration between Arab doctors, Jews and Christians in tenth-century Andalucia, described by Bonnet as ‘terre de tolérance active’, an almost mythical place and time where diversity and difference were valued rather than derided, something which I wish were more widespread today. By chance, it seems an appropriate subject for this week when some intolerant views have been expressed following the tragedy in Toulouse.
As always, the evening will end with a meal – appropriately enough it will be couscous tonight. We’ve all been asked to contribute desserts and I’ve made an Arab-influenced Valencian pumpkin cake from a recipe in Claudia Roden’s Mediterranean Cookery (BBC books, 1987, unfortunately now out of print, but one of my stand-by favourites).
I thought there wasn’t enough egg in this recipe to hold it together, but I followed it anyway and unfortunately was proved right (or proved clumsy) when my trial version fell to pieces as I tried to remove it from the oven tin. It still tasted delicious, though, and I have left the other one in the tin, hoping that when it’s cut tonight no one will notice that it’s a bit crumbly!