Aug 09 2005


 Summer Again


A holiday in France in June was a rare treat for us even though the sky turned grey, the rain poured down and lightning seemed to split the heavens in two.. We left the farm in the capable hands of Bryony and drove onto the ferry in Plymouth.  We travelled south to Bordeaux for a few days then up to  La Rochelle and the Ile de Rai finally retracing our steps to our dear friends in Northern Brittany.   I spent a glorious three days talking food, future blogs, and garden design with Evelyne. (see: Letters from Brittany) The restoration of their house is a triumphApril5_036  and their joy in it all a match to the beauty of the place. We had a magnificent time. And the landscape is so strangely familiar!

Back from a grey and cloudy France to a blazing English July I find myself, frenetically harvesting and bottling. I am, as usual, inspired by those fabulous French food markets brimming over in every town.  They never fail to provoke the eternal “why not here” in me as I wander round wondering how I might fill my bags, car, plane, train, with the radiant sumptuousness before me. How often, on this holiday in particular, did I return instead empty handed to a lack lustre meal in hotel or café. It was only with Evelyne and Michael that we ate the really wonderful food of  France. 


      Francefruit_3  Franceveg_1  Francemeat_2

But no sooner had I returned home than I was off to our very own new Dartmouth’s Farmers Market, After a bit of slow start things are gathering momentum, there is definitely a whiff creeping in of the gloriousness of those across the channel places.

First I find Leslie’s “Gara Barton” venison and pork stall beautifully labelled and displayed. The choice has blossomed and Richard’s butchery is “Superbe” as Evelyne would say. Oh, and, there, now, look, Rare Breed Lamb from the Brambletorre flock! I glow with pride sidling up to eavesdrop as Leslie extols the virtues of our lamb to a potential customer. “That lady’s the breeder” she says, grinning as she catches sight of me on the sidelines. The customer turns, “how long should I cook it for”….she buys it, I smile at Leslie, grab a packet of her bacon, and move on, the queue moves up “we’ll speak about beef in the week” she calls .

Next to patisserie, bread,” buffalo products”, Real Meat, Phil Bonds’ Lamb, ducks, guinea fowl. To my delight I find free range chicken that look nearly as good as the ones we used to rear at Brambletorre! Mark Lobb’s fish gleams with freshness in its ice. There are stalls of fresh crisp veg and plants from Fast Rabbit Farm. Not much fruit though, I ponder, where have all those glorious English strawberries and better still, raspberries disappeared to, where have they gone? Been “sent up country”, maybe?. Ah well, I stumble on friends, fill bags with freshness and make for home. Oh yes, it’s getting better! And, M. Chirac we’ve come a long way since your last visit to our shores, and by the way, some, one or two of our meals in France were indeed creeping down to the old British standards you refer to! Alors!


At home I beaver away; apricots from Brittany in elderflower cordial, peaches in Armagnac. Some local duck turns into confit and a goose too, not Humphrey, of course, no. All stashed away for the winter. Pounds of gooseberries sit winking at me in huge bowls in the kitchen while I ponder how to make jam without sugar for a diabetic diet. Broad beans tangled with “holiday” bind weed wait to be picked and potatoes leaves wither indicating the readiness of their crop to leave the soil. Globe artichokes picked and eaten at once for supper are wonderfully sweet and young, and the currant bushes struggle under the burden of their ripening harvest. Oh, such a prolific time of the year for the kitchen and the heat is deliciously sweltering at last. April5_037_2 

While we toured France in the rain it poured here too and the weeds took rude advantage of my absence. They swept through the valley telling me again how close I live to wilderness. Roses turned brown and soggy on the bushes and bind weed galloped triumphantly across the borders imprisoning all in its path. But then the sun came out and I’ve spent days in boiling bliss releasing all prisoners, refreshing and restoring. The peace of the valley is breathtaking, April5_148 just the murmur of the stream, bird song and the occasional crow of a cockerel, bleat of a sheep, eeyore of a donkey.

There is no hint of the Olympic elation or the fast following, shattering chaos and terror of the city two hundred miles away, just the gentle sounds of nature. As I work my mind wanders, drifting here and there amongst the plants It lurches sickeningly back to recent events. Names fly into my head; is so and so Ok, should I ring, or email, no, don’t clog up the vital airways, wait, I’m lucky to know my own are safe. My attention is taken away by some task then swings back to the present. I read the papers, put them down, pick them up again, turn on the radio or the television dreading what I may hear or see. My heart aches with the pain of suffering and loss, of the evil and confusion of the perpetrators but then it’s uplifted by the courage and love that rises from the ashes of such despair. The contrast is profound

I pull my mind back to the garden. Tomatoes ran amuck in my absence too, they weren’t having April5_034any of this neat and tidy on stem business, oh no. They spread their arms like Durga, in all directions. I boiled under glass as I lifted their straggly limbs and supported them as best I could. This sun is bringing forth a wonderful crop again. And just last night our supper was entirely from here; those artichokes, then roast loin of lamb, boned and rolled and wrapped in mint leaves, new potatoes, courgette, broad beans, first runner beans, four pods of peas,( mice ate the rest!), and then raspberries for pudding. Not bad!



One response so far

One Response to “SUMMER 2005”

  1. a+ron 10 Aug 2005 at 10:51 pm

    hi Sal, I wish i had made more of the elder flower coridal !!!
    wonderfully refreshing !!

    I have cut the top of my finger off !! will phone you , after hospital visit tommorow.

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