Friday, August 28, 2009

SETTING THE SCENE

image We all know the scene already..... an early morning cup of coffee, summer mornings gardening before the heat sets in, breakfast outside in the garden, a few jobs to get done before lunch, neighbours calling in, letters or emails to write, cooking, cleaning, a bit of watering in the evening and so the days go by in a pleasant rhythm. This could describe almost any domestic life anywhere in the world, from China, Japan and Singapore to Rome, London, Adelaide and New York. It could be the life of many African villagers,  rural South Americans or city dwellers in Adelaide.

But when you move from one side of the world to the other, there are so many differences.... some hilarious, some obscure and some very strange. I have moved from a place where seeds sown need daily or twice daily watering to ensure germination, to south west France where a bag of opened compost gets wetter because of the humidity and seeds sown in the shade need no watering even when temperatures reach 37C ! I even sowed some radishes in the full sun and forgot to check them for 2 days, when I found them happily germinating, the topsoil still damp, even though I was wilting from the heat.

Humidity also means that, unlike in Adelaide where food stored  in or out of the fridge always needs covering to stop it drying out, here vegetables go soggy and mouldy after only a few days of such treatment and are best left uncovered. Clothes can hang all day on the clothes line in 30+ degrees and still not be dry! Pots of herbs and flowers abound in this part of the world because of the humidity and our array of potted herbs is flourishing with little care. The grass is green even towards the end of summer but whereas I see it as lush and beautiful, Ian sees it as coarse and sparse..... something we only just discovered yesterday as we sat under a magnificent horse chestnut tree, having lunch, chatting. I have bare feet all the time just to feel the green grass on my feet whereas Ian asked me how I can stand walking on the poor, sparse grass! Compared to Wales, this lawn is a disgrace, evidently, but compared to late summer in Adelaide it is heaven!

image Shopping is very funny here and deserves a whole post of its own. As far as I know this is the only part of the world where absolutely everything except restaurants, closes for 2 to 4 hours over lunchtime. It is peak tourist season and millions of people crowd the villages from sunup to sundown daily but beware! If you want a sandwich or a drink you must buy it before 12 noon or have to eat in a restaurant or wait several hours for the supermarkets or bakeries to re-open. It is no good thinking you will pop into the garden centre or hardware shop on the way home unless you are aware of the time, and don't expect the check-out operators to be in a rush to get you through before closing time either..... here there is no rush, except on the roads, but doors close at 12, promptly, and may open later..... or not. Opening hours are brief and impossible to understand for me. How can a shop advertise "open 7 days" and then not be open for 3 hours a day and not on Sunday afternoons at all, or on Thursdays or any other time they decide to take a holiday? C'est la vie, it seems.

This is the home of slow food and nothing is as important as food..... quality is number 1 and absolutely everyone discusses it at length.... men, women and children. Local is paramount and the only good food is that produced nearby.... the French are fiercely proud of the quality of their local food and will tell you, while throwing their hands in the air, that such and such is produced elsewhere but is inferior. Even the enormous supermarkets mostly stock French foods and very local where possible. Small producers rather than huge agribusiness are the main suppliers here of fresh fruit, vegetables and even meat. Everything is labelled with not just country of origin but also district.

There are two things completely lacking though, here in beautiful south west France. One is online facilities for bill paying, looking up local businesses and products etc and the other is flywire screens! Is this because there are no flies? NO! How can such a civilised place be so uncivilised about flies? Either you keep the windows shut from early morning until night or you put up with flies buzzing around the kitchen and beetles and moths bumping into you while you sleep! Luckily, having stone walls over 18 inches thick and lovely, old tiled floors means the house is always cool so it is not too much of an issue..... yet!

image A few days ago we had a BBQ for about 20 people, for Ian's birthday. I saw octopus in the supermarket seafood display and thought it would be something Australian I could cook, and very cheap..... so I asked for a kilogram of it. The girl serving picked up the whole octopus and said it was 1.6kg..... well, there didn't seem to be any choice so I took it.

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The finer details of shopping in another language are hard to work out! I marinated it in olive oil and lemon juice and we cooked it on the BBQ to the delight of the visitors who had mostly never had it before. I also made humous and a peach tart and have requests for the recipes which is very nice, especially knowing how great the cooks are who came to the BBQ!

The vegetable garden is coming on a treat and we are picking from it every day. See the photo at the top. I will take photos of the garden soon to post here, Christie, and I am not sure why I haven't done it yet. The days just seem to be full of .... well .... living .... and being here is enough just now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

SKIPPITY DOO

It is time to start my new life and new blog but the first post is a scary one! Do I start with why? Or where? Or just launch in? I have picked fruit and veg from my new garden and sown seeds already too....

OK..... in the next few days I WILL do it.....for sure ..... then there will be no stopping me!