Renovation, restoration, alimentation….Fresh trout from the river, vegetables that taste of something, cherries, peaches and naughty patisserie, home made ice cream, cuts of meat that you would not normally touch even with a robot arm, a drop of violet or chestnut liqueur in the bottom of your blanquette glass……………..
Food here in the Languedoc Roussillon is an adventure, encompassing local flavours; and classic recipes like cassoulet and the best goats cheese salads I have ever eaten are mixed and served up with Catalan cuisine and Mediterranean fare.
Of course, if you are sawing wood, laying tiles, pointing acres of stone wall or creating complicated paint finishes you develop a ravenous appetite and sorting lunch and dinner becomes a critical part of the daily routine!
So what do you do? If you have been organised enough to throw something together in the electric slow-cooker (which comprises my current kitchen as I have no oven, hotplate, grill or barbecue) and a delicious daube or pot-au-feu is gently simmering away (because you remembered to plug it in and no-one has accidentally unplugged it in favour of the drill or the hairdryer ..HA!)- then you take a bowlful up to the terrace and enjoy the sun and the sound of the rushing river below.
If you didn’t plug it in or you decide to blow the enforced economy drive and eat out, then you scrape off a few layers of ingrained builder’s dust and undercoat and scour off as much of the grout under your fingernails as is possible with an impatient man in a clean shirt tapping his watch and rubbing his rumbling stomach within audible distance.
One of our favourite local restaurants presents as a pizzeria from the outside with a rather noisy and riotous bar underneath; but upstairs is a revelation. Cool, calm, perfect service, great fresh food, (chic & charming lady’s powder room furnished with antique ceramics and furniture..)
We take my five year old grandson out to dinner. We have had a long and energetic day out and about and he is starving.
The waitress takes our orders, and we are certainly hungry enough for three courses. The grandson selects from the menu enfant. He normally behaves with perfect decorum in restaurants and likes to use a little French with some prompting. He declines a starter, hoping for double-pudding, but when the the waitress brings our chevre-chaud (warm toasted goat’s cheese) and walnut salads starters she brings him a small green salad so he won’t feel left out.
Nel looks down at this plate with an expression of stunned disbelief – he turns a peculiar puce colour and promptly bursts into tears….
“That’s not MY tea!!” he wails “There’s no MEAT in it!!”
Our horrified waitress comes running over and I explain with some embarrassment that it has been a long time since lunch and he is a big animal protein fan. Five minutes later she is back with his “special” main on a giant plate. As well as the steak hache he ordered there is small mountain of pasta with a comprehensive meat sauce steaming on the side. She is rewarded by his best smile and a heart felt “merci beaucoup madame”