These chickens were hatched today at our home in Perigord. The proud father is our cockerel, Sarko, and the mum who sat dutifully on the eggs for three weeks was Angela Merkel, although not all the eggs came from her. In the other chicken coop we are awaiting a clutch of new-born pheasants.
Enjoyed a very pleasant lunch in St Pompont with three new friends, Klaus, Mathilde, and Anna, who have started a company to organise gastro-tourism to the Perigord for English and German speakers.
The trick is that since they all work in the summer months, they are aiming at the low seasons of Spring and Fall.
But they know the area well, know their food, and know their Perigord history and culture. They will include truffle hunts with a friend of mine, Eduard Ayrou. It's a great idea and I wish them well. Check them out on cyranoreisen.jimbo.com
Spring has come to the Perigord.
The blossoms are out on our peach and cherry trees and there are six new- born chicks in the maternity ward of our chicken coop, being watched over by their mum and our pheasants.
Sarko, the old cockerel, is darting around in the big new chicken coop, knocking over the young cockerel every time the newcomer tries to mount one of the hens.
On the sun-drenched lawn, Benson the elderly basset hound is rolling on his back as if he were a puppy, the first lettuce and radishes have been planted and it’s lunch in the open air from now on.
It's always a pleasure at this time of year to visit friends on the Gulf Coast of Florida, where for many years I have given lectures on economic and global affairs to the Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning (SILL).
Hundreds of mainly retired people attend the lectures by authors, academics and public officials and also the musical events and workshops that SILL arranges. It is a hugely impressive operation, a kind of relaxed university for retired people, and all run by volunteers. SILL has also become a haunt of fans of the Bruno novels and amid questions about Putin's politics and the euro crisis, the post-lecture questions usually include queries about Bruno's relationships with Pamela and Isabelle.
Just down the coast from Sarasota and Venice, where I lecture, is the island resort of Boca Grande, the centre of tarpon fishing and the bars and community buildings feature pre-1914 photos of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, fishing together in suits and ties. Boca Grande is also home to the Sleuths, a book club for mystery lovers, many of them Bruno fans, who hosted me at a delightful reception on a beach-side estate as the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico.
After the sun of Florida, the next stop will be the snows of St Moritz, where the Waldhaus hotel of Sils Maria is organising a special dinner menu based on the Bruno cookbook, which gives me all day to ski with family and friends from my German publishers.
Earlier this month I was honoured to be named Grand Consul de la Vinee de Bergerac, the one of the first foreigners to receiver such an honour in the centuries since the organisation - historically responsible for the quality of Bergerac wines - was formed.
I am serving on two juries at the Salon International des livres de Cuisine in Perigueux later this month, one to select the best cookbook of the year and the other to choose the best of the gloriously golden wines of Monbazillac that goes perfectly with foie gras. So I have been deep in piles of French cookbooks, one from the chef of the George V in Paris, another from the great wine chateau of Lynch Bages, others on the food of Corsica and of Provence, two books on foie gras and many more besides. The selection was done at the famous Troisgros restaurant in Roanne, at the invitation of the chairman of our jury, Michel Troisgros himself.
One of the greatest chefs of the day with three Michelin rosettes to his name, Michel is following in the family tradition as the son and grandson of great chefs. His father and uncle won their first 3-stars from Michelin in 1968 and the family has retained that distinction ever since.
After three hours of review and amicable debate under Michel’s judicious geniality, our jury was offered champagne from the Troisgros label and then two terrific amuse-bouches. The first looked like a small toffee apple, and I thought might be a cherry tomato covered with a glaze dotted with sesame seeds. But its savoury taste surprised me. Then came what looked like a small dark chocolate. No. It was a thin case of pastry that had been dyed black with octopus ink. To my amazement it was filled with the most heavenly taste of liquid truffle and chestnut.
The meal lasted three hours. We began with tiny nems of artichoke, followed by salmon a l'oseille. This was his father's signature dish, which helped launch nouvelle cuisine 40 years ago. When President Mtterrand dined at Troisgros with the local Mayor, they decided that in honour of this dish the train station should be painted salmon pink. Michel confided that it came about by accident. His father was poaching salmon and his grandmother was cooking up a pan of sorrel (oseile) as part of the meal for the staff. On an impulse she tried adding the sorrel to the salmon sauce and the result was history.
We then were served saddle of lamb, as pink as a well-fed baby’s cheeks, with a deliberately charred crust, followed by dim-sums of hazelnut and pear. We drank Sancerre from his own vineyard, and then a fine Bordeaux red from Chateau Bois Malet.
Then we went to the garden for some tiny cakes with our coffee, which included a meringue molle with a taste of ginger and lemon within, and an enchanting tarte of panna cotta. Awesome.
It has been an exhilarating three weeks of the autumn book tour, with readings in Austria, Switzerland and Germany, along with three busy days at the Frankfurt book fair.
The highlight of this tour has been the culinary-literary evenings,thanks to the new Bruno cook book, which inspired many of the bookstores to arrange dinners of Perigord food and Bergerac wine to accompany the readings.
There were some notable dinners,at some of my favourite bookshops in Klagenfurt, Oberursel and Olten, and at the Michelin-starred Schloss Leursfeld near Cologne.
There were memorable meals at the Matrkgraf in Neustadt, the Kulinarium in Murrhardt, the Bombay in Offenburg, the Klag-Buhne in Gaggenau and the venerable Wurttemburg Automobile Club in Stuttgart.
It was splendid to see so many old friends among the booksellers and the German readers, Angela Spitzig, Marguerite von Schwarzkopf, Heinrich Baumgartner and Jo Jung.
Now on the last lap, for a reading at another favourite bookstore right by Charlemagne's Dom in Aachen and a second also in Aachen with a dinner dinner in Aachen and then the Braunschweig Krimi festival to come.
The Bruno cookbook came out at the end of September, and by the time the Frankfurt book fair was over on October 9 it was number one on the Focus best-seller list for lifestyle books and had gone into its third printing.
It is not a conventional cookbook, not a product of stylists and studios whose glossy photos could never be produced by anyone cooking at home.
Every photo of food in this book was taken as the dish came out of our family kitchen in our house in Perigord.
The book is organised around the people who produce it, the gardeners and farmers, the hunters and fishermen, the cheese-makers and bakers, the wine-makers and the foragers in the woods for truffles and wild herbs and mushrooms. And it comes with Bruno's cooking tips, with new short stories about Bruno and his friends and neighbours in St Denis.
Usually a writer works alone, but this time I was part of a team with Klaus Einwanger the brilliant photographer, with Kobi the book designer and with my glorious wife Julia, whose idea it was in the first place. And we are all very proud of it.
In Germany for the launch of the German-language edition of the Bruno Cookbook - the English language version is coming soon - I found a poster promoting the book with a giant photo of me. I had to pose alongside my Brobdingnagian likeness...
After a lifetime as a subject of Her Britannic Majesty, I am at last a citizen.
In a very touching ceremony in the town library of Sainte Alvere, capital of the famous black truffles of the Perigord, I was made an honorary citizen of the town as 'ambassadeur de la truffe.' After a speech by the mayor, another one from me and then a smacking double kiss from the charming deputy mayoress, we all enjoyed a vin d'honneur in the courtyard of the mairie.
To my great delight, my eldest daughter Kate was there and took the photo as the mayor was speaking.