Ok, let’s talk about food.

(because really, if you spend six months in France, that's going to be the general focus of each day). 


For much of our time here in France, we have been living with Vincent’s parents in their home in a town in Les Cevennes, an area of France that is sparsely populated and that is largely national park. It’s in the south east, about an hour’s drive inland from the coast. Food wise, it’s known for chestnuts, honey, small round goats cheese known as pelardon, sweet onions… not so much dishes, but rather produce. 

Vincent’s father René is retired and now spends most of his days working on his several huge gardens. He grows the majority of the food that they eat and in summer each day brings back baskets full of produce that his wife Francoise then cooks up for meals and also preserves for the leaner months ahead. In Autumn, he harvests apples and pears from his orchard, and chestnuts from the copious trees on his land and all around. They forage for mushrooms (an amazing variety called cep) and continue harvesting from the gardens. He also keeps bees and produces and sells honey. It’s a busy life. 

But an enjoyable one and one that is governed by the seasons. Late summer/ early Autumn is the busiest time… most days Francoise is chopping, cooking, bottling, preserving. Jars of tomatoes and beans are put in the huge pot to bubble away in the garden fireplace. Berries, apricots and plums are made into jams and tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplants are made into ratatouille and bottled.

Of course, this is normal practice for rural families the world over and one that is also gaining momentum again in cities like Melbourne. While I love this deep connection to the seasons and the land, what’s also really interesting for me here is the style of meals that we eat. When I’m home in Melbourne and in charge of our kitchen, we usually eat a simple lunch - sandwiches, salads, soups - and then I will cook a “dish” for the evening meal. Pastas, curries, stews etc. 

Here, the main meal is usually lunch. Like many other mediterranean areas, it’s an important and savoured time. In summer, we usually eat outside, beginning with a salad of just lettuce leaves, often picked that morning and tossed with a quick oil/mustard dressing. It’s followed by several dishes made from what’s been recently picked from the gardens. Or one main dish that focuses on one key ingredient. Like a zucchini gratin, or stuffed tomatoes. Small dishes might be carrot salad (grated and mixed with parsley, garlic and olive oil), potatoes fried up and served with a steak, tomatoes chopped and dressed with a simple vinaigrette, whole leeks cooked in a pressure cooker and then dipped in mayonnaise, eggplant or zucchini beignet (sliced and coated in a thin salty batter and shallow fried). Some plain rice or plain pasta (always with butter mixed through mais bien sur) may be served too. 

Dinners are usually left overs, the same dishes rolled out again until they’re finished. A bit of this with a bit of that. 

It’s simple and uncomplicated and dictated by whatever has been dug out of the garden that day. In winter, they benefit from the hard work of summer and open jars of beans, ratatouille, tomatoes, jams and purees. It makes sense. Even without the magnificent gardens that we have here, it makes sense to eat this way, to buy from local producers whatever’s in season and to cook it simply. With butter. and follow it with cheese and wine. ;)


Well I was expecting to have written here a little more than I have, but life in France has been really rather busy. We first had a lovely couple of slow paced weeks staying with Vincent's parents during which we did some much needed re-setting. Breathing slow, eating slow, eating lots, sleeping in (yay for grandparents on hand), gardening and wandering and adjusting to 'la vie Francaise'. 

But since then, things have been turned up a notch. We moved into our little apartment in the old city in Montpellier and each morning I toddle off to my French intensive class. 3.5 hours of overwhelm (introverts are not made for language classes). But challenging as it is, it's great to be doing something that uses my brain in a different way, to see and hear daily improvements, to have some time away from the kids, to walk from our lovely apartment down through the beautiful streets, to pick up a croissant if I'm running late and haven't had breakfast (and sometimes even if I have), to be immersed in life here. 

But the hot and long summer evenings mean that the kids are not asleep until 8.30 (if I'm lucky. ok who am I kidding, it's more likely 9, sometimes later) and then there is the post bedtime clean up, the wash-off-the-sweat shower and then the homework begins. So nights are late, teething one year olds mean that the nights are also wakeful, and life in the street outside wakes me early. I'm TIIIIIRRRREEED.

Still, it's fun. Fun to be living in and discovering a new (to me) city. And a beautiful, lively, interesting one at that. I try and take a different route home each day, sometimes getting lost in the labyrinthine cobbled streets and am often gobsmacked by the beauty of this old city. We complement Vincent's dad's weekly supply of fruit and vegetables and his mum's jams and preserves with daily market goods - cheeses and hams and ok, yes, haribo lollies. 

And then on weekends it's back to the hills for adventures and grandparent hugs. And more garden goodness. 

I have one more week of classes, and two more weeks of Montpellier life and then new adventures lie ahead... until then! xx