THE DEMISE OF BORIS

I’m really hoping that someone will tell me we are not the only people to have given their watermelons names. However, I rather fear as this is bordering on the totally insane that we probably are, and therefore it’s probably even worse that I’m actually telling you all about it rather than keeping it a secret!

I know this all sounds rather bizarre, in my defence, I wasn’t the one who named the watermelons, it was the children. I promise it was.

You see, we have never successfully grown watermelons before and so when two started to grow bigger and bigger for some reason they got named and during much laughter at supper one night, Boris and Tom were christened! Boris was the smaller one and a deep dark green. Yesterday was the day he finally got taken out of the vegetable garden to the table on the terrace where seven people sat under the shade of the umbrella, staring, waiting, wondering if he would be juicy, wondering if he would be as ripe as we hoped. The truth is he was utterly delicious – our very first watermelon we have successfully grown and eaten. Tom is next but not for a week or two!

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Just to prove we are not completely bonkers, we headed off on our bikes yesterday evening for the very normal and down-to-earth activity of blackberry-picking.  Long warm summer days mean the blackberries are incredible this year, and also very early. For our foraging, it’s vital to find a good source away from any commercial farming where fruits can run the risk of being sprayed with all sorts of chemicals as farmers treat their fields, so we headed down to our favourite place, the Marais; untouched by modern farming methods and away from any mass-produced crops, the blackberries and sloes here are very much as nature intended them to be.

Every time we go there (and it is often, we admit) there is something new to see –  also some things remain unchanged, the three bay mares still come over as soon as they hear our voices.
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It’s awash with insects and wildlife; I’m just an amateur but it is surely a nature photographer’s dream location and I can’t help myself when opportunities arise. The two photos below are of a spotted darter (which seem to be swarming in plague proportions right now) and a yellow-tail moth caterpillar which Millie found amongst the blackberries. We also saw a barn owl out quartering the fields in broad daylight.

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The secret to blackberry-picking I have found is to not worry about filling the basket to start with, because in our family it simply won’t happen.  The blackberries are so sweet and still warm from the sun and for the first half an hour nothing is saved, everyone picks and eats, tongues and fingers turning purple. The bucket dangles uselessly from someone’s arm and  it’s only once everyone has had their fill that the task of collecting them can begin in earnest.  Blackberry-jelly, blackberry and apple pie, crumbles with cream in the cold winter months, or perhaps, as I like best, eaten plain, straight from the freezer with some yoghurt for breakfast.  Thankfully they freeze well; they’re packed with vitamins, organic and free – what’s not to love about them ? The best part of all is collecting them though, as it is such great family fun.

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Of course nothing is ever completely normal with us, and Millie borrowed my camera for some digital therapy whilst I was busy picking.  Going through the results yesterday evening I came across quite a few selfies she had taken and then some great photos of us all, I think Gigi is eating as fast as I pick here!

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and then some more – how on earth did she manage this?  There are some settings I never knew existed on my camera quite obviously, this shot now looks like something from the 70’s…

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and then it becomes a water-colour painting, if only she hadn’t chopped everyone’s heads off!  I can see I have lots of experimenting to do!

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The blackberry-picking and bike-ride was a family affair as always, with Bentley and Evie joining in too. Since Bentley’s offering last week they have finally become friends, and Evie now follows Bentley’s lead on everything he does. In the Marais this involves sniffing scents from a thousand sources and eating delicacies from the local inhabitants!

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When Evie had really walked far enough for her tender age of just 10 weeks, she fitted quite snugly under my arm!

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We had so much fun that we arrived home long after we meant to and we’d totally forgotten about heading to the local grocery store for some supper. As the children jumped in the pool we wondered what on earth we were going to eat. It was up to Roddy to conjure up something tasty using whatever he could find, mostly vegetables from the garden.  Thankfully, though, this is his speciality;  I am so lucky as he rarely follows recipes and loves to experiment, so his absolute forte is coming up with incredible dishes from what always seems to be an empty pantry! Soon delicious smells started filling the kitchen and children appeared dripping in the doorway wanting to know what Daddy was cooking that smelt so good.

Here’s what he did. One and a half onions and some garlic were sautéed in a little olive oil with a mixture of Curcumin, sweet paprika and some mild curry spice. Then he added a couple of small chopped aubergines, and then a diced courgette; last came half a dozen freshly picked tomatoes in quarters.  Once they were gently cooked he bound them all together with a little cream, let it cool, and organized the pastry in a pie-dish. An egg from the chickens was folded gently into the warm mixture and it all went inside the pastry which he folded over at the edges. A few slices of mozzarella and a little grated cheese and it was popped into a hot oven for 20 minutes.  The result was an utterly mouthwateringly delicious far-eastern delight of home grown goodness, washed down with a glass of local red wine – a great way to end the day.

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17 thoughts on “THE DEMISE OF BORIS

    • Thanks Nadia, we’ve seen some amazing caterpillars here this summer, one was about 3″ long and 1/2″ round, rather scary actually! Hope you are enjoying your new life in France:)

  • Well, DADDY’s P I E looks delicious!These are family times that the kids will ALWAYS remember………….YOU TOO!ADore you and the puppy on the bicycle!

  • I’ve never named a watermelon, don’t want to get too familiar when I know that it will be sliced in half with a Japanese cleaver. I prefer to make a southwestern style salad with the melon, using cumin, cayenne, lime juice and cilantro.

    • We love making salads too with watermelon; it’s something our good friend Robin in Florida alerted us to. Here we tend to chunk the melon into a bowl with some quartered tomatoes, cucumber, white nectarines, white grapes and chopped peppers. I like to dress it with a good quality olive oil, salt, pepper, a touch of fish sauce, some mint and basil. I like to add some black olives, crumbled pecorino and anchovies to my share. It’s pretty much a staple summer dish for us !

    • That made me laugh out loud! I don’t think the children quite thought through the chopping, eating aspect! He was very tasty and everyone loved eating him though!!! Love your recipe for the southwestern style salad, will be trying it for definite this coming weekend 🙂

  • Another delightful post! Thank you for reminding me to check the wild blackberries in the forest…it has been so hot that I haven’t been doing my usual noontime walks there with the dogs. Your stories remind me so much of the family that my parents worked hard to create. Your kids, your pets, your husband, you…what a wonderful crew!!

    • Thanks Leslie, scorching hot here too, walks are definitely confined to evenings only now. From your comments it sounds as if you had a truly wonderful childhood, I did too, and that is all I wish for for my children 🙂

  • My mouth is watering with all the beautiful summer blackberries and watermelon and I am ready to try the recipe looks so great and yes a glass of wine. The children are truly are enjoying their summer you make it so special for them, such beautiful photo’s.

  • Hi, I really look forward to reading your blog each week, it gives me a lovely warm glow inside.

    Here in Yorkshire, the blackberries are just ripening and your post inspired me to bake a French clafoutis, but used blackberries combined with fresh figs drizzled with honey instead I’d cherries. It went down a real treat with the family.

    Am trying to convince my husband for us to sell up here in the UK and buy a place in France now that I’ve turned 60. the problem is, he’s reluctant to try anything new, unlike me! We’ll be visiting Charente region in October along with our dog, all being well. Can you recommend a village/small town, homely but not too touristy where we can visit (hopefully I can persuade him to ‘try before we buy’)?

    Thank you once again for the lovely insight into your family life.

    Elaine

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