The Good Life

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When we first moved to France, I think we all secretly harboured a desire for a sort of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ existence, for a life that would be one long dreamy ride through quiet backwaters and along sun-dappled valleys until one returned at night to the warmth of a fire in an ancient fireplace set square in the crumbling wall of an old farmhouse.

Sadly, no matter how much we might want to fulfil those fantasies, it is not realistic; there is work to be done, bills to be paid, schooling for the children, homework….the list is endless. As for the dilapidated farmhouse, pah!  We all know that while rattling old windows and creaking doors might be part of the french romantic dream in the height of summer, it is far less pleasant in the depths of winter when a fierce north-easterly is howling outside; as a result our carefully bought old abode has had to have something of a modern day facelift which I will be showing you in another post. But despite the pressures of modern day life, and even if our five savvy high-tech children like to take full advantage of what the internet offers, we all agree without doubt that some of our very best days and hours are those spent enjoying totally organic natural pursuits.

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We know a little orchard not far away, where no one has lived in the adjoining house for several years and no one seems to pick the apples. Year in and year out we have enviously watched the fruits as they have fallen each autumn and rotted on the ground. Last weekend, we passed the orchard on a bike-ride, and despicably we decided to sneak ten feet through the rusted open gate and take an apple; they were the sweetest and best of any apples we have ever tasted, perhaps all the more so for they really were forbidden fruit. Roddy and I felt like naughty kids again as we quickly pedalled away with the children as fast as we could in case an unseen pair of eyes were watching us. Roddy said he’d had a flashback to the early 70’s when he and friend were once pinned to a plum tree by a gaggle of geese when out scrumping one day, he didn’t know which they were more scared of, the geese or being caught!img_2289

Another thing we planned when we moved here was to always grow plenty of our own vegetables and eat our own fruit. We never had illusions of being totally self-sufficient,  and we don’t keep any farm animals aside from the chickens, but we did want to supplement the amount of food we buy from the market and grocery store. One lunchtime last weekend we started chatting about how we would cope for a month if all the shops closed down and we had to live totally off the land. We looked around, sure we would be hungry, but after a few minutes of noisy hearty discussion we realised we would survive. We have eggs, we still have plenty of fruit at the moment and enough vegetables; we’d probably have to go foraging for nuts, mushrooms and berries (just the sort of thing we love doing), we’d all lose weight but it would be certainly possible, a diet rich in vitamins and minerals – a very healthy diet.

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A this point, with the children all excited about tribulations of living off the land, I suggested we should cook one meal that was purely from the garden, just to see how we’d all cope. I don’t think I’d ever done this in its entirety before, of course we’ve had many salads and hot dishes, but not an entire meal with carbohydrates and proteins and absolutely nothing  added. The simple rules meant there could be no bread or pastry, no crusty french baguette, for we don’t grow our own wheat and so do not make our own flour, there could be nothing containing cheese or milk or cream for we have no goats, sheep, or cows. In fact there could not be so much as a teaspoon of anything that didn’t come from our own land. It also had to be something we would all eat and that included the children!

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Yesterday was the appointed day, being a Wednesday there is no school in the afternoon and so everyone is at home for lunch. Our days are still deliciously warm and sunny even if the mornings and evenings have developed a slight chill. I decorated our table on the terrace in preparation for our feast from home.

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Our menu was very simple, but scrumptious.

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Roddy makes the best frittatas any of us know, and he loves to make them to order in some little green pans he adores for this purpose. Normally we all choose different variations, but this time we were severely limited to what we had in the garden, so the frittatas were simply the base of eggs with the addition of some tomatoes and red peppers, plus a sprinkling of our red chilies which we recently flaked. These were delicious with a fresh green salad of mixed leaves, sliced figs and tomatoes. We were unable to add any sort of dressing as we didn’t have our own ingredients for this but the sweet and juicy figs were a perfect substitute. Another month and we probably could have added a little lemon juice from our lemon trees and walnuts too.

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We followed the starter with the last of our potatoes from the garden,

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baked in the oven until their skins were thick and crispy, and served them with lashings of thick and tasty ratatouille. We have made this by the bucketload all summer long, freezing huge quantities to take us through the winter, and although Roddy begrudges the fact we didn’t harvest as many yellow courgettes as last year, there are still plenty of greens to go round. We also had some stored onions and garlic which we had harvested in mid-summer and these went into the mix.

p4880477Chop two onions and four cloves of garlic quite coarsely, and fry them gently until soft.

Take 3/4 of your tomatoes and chop them into whatever configuration you wish, and add them to the saucepan. In this case there was about a kilo of them. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.p4880479Add a cupful of water, and four chopped courgettes (zucchini) stir in well. Cover and simmer for 10 mins.

Add two chopped aubergines (eggplants), plus your remaining chopped tomatoes and stir in well. Simmer for a further 15 minutes.

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If you are not cooking strictly “au jardin” then season to taste

Serve in warmed bowls with your favourite accompanimentp4880511

Already quite replete and feeling rather content, we rounded this off with some really sweet juicy grapes, freshly picked from the vines. The white grapes are finally getting as sweet as the red, and a fun game is to close your eyes whist someone else pops a grape into your mouth and see if you can tell which is which, for some reason the children love to do this again and again!

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I cannot tell you how proud we all were, we had an enormous feeling of satisfaction and achievement. Afterwards, strangely, there was some animated discussion about adding a goat to our menagerie. But that’s another story that absolutely will NOT happen; but I do know we would probably have to have some milk and cheese if this became a regular occurrence. I kid you not (pun intended!)

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154 thoughts on “The Good Life

  • It can be challenging to keep a goat away from the flowers. Or the vegetables. Or the low branches of the trees.
    Your meal looks lovely. My grandmother had an amazing garden that was a full-time job for her. The whole family (cousins included) lived off it. Unlike the Midwest U.S., where winter puts a full stop to the garden, here we have tomatoes until Christmas, and could have plenty of other hardy vegetables like broccoli as well. But we already have full-time jobs, so our garden isn’t nearly as big as Grandma’s.

    • I couldn’t agree more, they are very destructive which is why I said absolutely no to goats, I value my garden far too much! We have tomatoes until November usually, (but last year they were attacked by blight and wiped out in October) and plenty of kale and things to keep us going throughout the winter and like you we grew up eating all of our own vegetables, as I grew up on a farm we had a vast vegetable garden and our own milk from a house cow, our own meat in the freezer etc., but still we had all sorts of basics from the store, what made this rather interesting was that for one meal we could not so much as use even a teaspoon of olive oil, everything had to come from the garden! xx

    • No No No!!! Fortunately we do not have enough land so it is out of the question. If the children had their own way we would have sheep, (they are always asking for sheep), goats, cows, in fact we would have a real small holding and guess who would end up doing all the work!!! xx

    • Thank you so much Mary. It was really great fun and terribly easy to do, but we really had to think hard as it is so easy just to add a little bit of this or that, things that live in the kitchen that we take for granted but which actually do not come from our garden at all! Susan xx

  • I loved reading about your experiment, I can imagine how challenging it must have been to not add a single thing, we take butter, flour, cheese and such for granted, but to create something so wholesome without this was an awesome achievement , thanks for sharing

    • Thank you so much Peggy and welcome to the blog, it is fantastic to have you following along and I look forward to “chatting” with you a great deal more over the coming weeks and months. Susan xx

  • I wish I could have joined you for your feast, the table setting is so beautiful and it looks so perfect. You are an inspiration to us all and your children are so lucky, they may not realize it yet but one day they will thank you for this blessed life you are giving them

  • Loved this fabulous overview of your expectations and the incredible outcome! I also picture you all sitting around the table discussing this meal. What a moment in time – truly connecting to the earth – and how things used to be. Enormous kudos to you for the entire “French Oasis”, from your tempting thoughts of moving to France, actually doing it(!), and sharing the entire journey with us.
    Thank you !!!!
    I would get a donkey….just for cuteness……….or a sheep. Can one milk a sheep?

    • Ha ha, yes one can milk sheep and no we are NOT getting sheep or a donkey! There are two donkeys just down the road, they smell in the heat of the summer and they make such a racket! We simply don’t have the room anyway and if we did the children would have a whole range of farm animals I am quite sure and we would have a small holding!!! Susan xx

  • I just loved this post. What a wonderful adventure for you and your family, what wonderful photos. I will be trying your recipe tonight! Thank you for sharing your world. I love your blog!

    • Thank you so very much, do try the ratatouille, it is delicious and the frittata is always a firm favourite, it makes a fabulous light lunch or quick supper and you can add anything you want. So happy you are enjoying the blog, it is an absolute pleasure to write and such fun chatting to everyone in the comments. Susan xx

  • Ah, that was lovely, from start to finish 🙂
    Love your family making use of the apple tree! We have apple trees and as such, September is pie and galette and cobbler-baking time! But honestly, if we let another, more intrepid family take to the tall parts, they’d double our yield! As it stands, the dog will consume the fallen apples when they are frozen and fermented in the snow. She doesn’t eat them otherwise.
    I’d love to have a goat. I’d wanted a pair for the acre out back, but the city has rules. :/
    What a lovely way to make the most of the garden, and to appreciate the self-sufficiency. I’m particularly taken with the figs. I lived in the southern part of the US for a while and I did always enjoy the fresh figs at the end of summer. So juicy! Fabulous photos!

    • Thank you so much Joey. It’s the one thing I wish we had in the garden, apple trees, but we can’t have everything! I love that your dog only eats frozen apples, how funny is that! It was really quite an eye opener to realise that we really could sustain ourselves if we absolutely had to and it also makes one realise how much we buy that we don’t really need. As to the figs, we are still completely inundated, I have given away bucket after bucket, box after box to all and sundry and still I doubt we have even consumed 10% of them! There are still plenty of green ones and lots of sunshine so they’ll be around for a while yet I hope. Susan xx

    • Monsieur is quite right, you do not want a goat, they are so destructive! I think I would rather have a sheep, we have had our eye on the little black Ouessants for a while, they are adorable, have a look online, you might be tempted!! xx

    • We planted four olive trees when we bought the house, we have olives, we preserved about six jars last autumn, but not enough to make our own oil, perhaps in a few years time. When we lived in New Zealand we had two gigantic olive trees and harvested the olives and took them to a local mill to be pressed, we had several litres of our own oil, it was so exciting! xx

  • This adventure was so much fun to read about and vicariously participate in from afar. Loved the Emma dishes. I’m making your fig jam recipe this weekend in North Carolina. Can you find out who owns the orchard and contact them to harvest some apples?You could add dried apples and canned apples and applebutter to the “living off the land” pantry.

    • Hi Kelly, thanks so much and good luck with the fig jam, let me know how it turns out. Wish I could give you lots of boxes of our figs, we have so many! A great idea to try and find out who owns the orchard, I shall make some enquiries, its a few kilometres away and I don’t know anyone who lives in the neighbouring houses, so it might be difficult but I do hate to see them go to waste. I love apple compote and so do the children, jar after jar of apple sauce on the shelves, wouldn’t that be fantastic! Susan xx

  • I have copied down every item on your menu and I am off sadly to the grocery store as I have only a tiny patio garden to get everything on the list. It all looks so full of goodness, I feel healthier just looking at it so imagine how I’m gonna feel when I’ve eaten it!

    • It really was, I think they were as surprised as we were that we could all have such a delicious meal straight from our garden without adding anything and we didn’t even include carrots or which we have lots. Of course, typically, today I noticed that the fruit on one of our peach trees which is producing for the second time this year are now fully ripe and so sweet and juicy, they would have made an even nicer dessert! susan xx

  • DELICIOUS and DIVINE……….we have thought about the BIG EARTHQUAKE ARRIVING due anytime now and if we could do the same……..LIVE OFF THE LAND!AS you said, we wouldn’t starve completely and a little weight loss would be GOOD!I”m going to try your VEGGIE DISH TONIGHT!

    • It’s an interesting thing to consider, could we survive? A little weight loss for most of us adults doesn’t do any harm and I really think we have enough here that we wouldn’t actually be hungry. Now the walnuts are just about ready so they would be a great supplement too. Hope you enjoy the ratatouille, definitely add some seasoning it will be much nicer! xx

    • Ha ha, that’s just how I used to be and the more I read the more I really wanted to be here, now sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe it really is true! Of course it’s not perfect and some things are much harder than others, but it’s a great life and a fabulous place to raise the children. Let me know when you are moving!!! xx

  • Your photographs are wonderful! Your food looks most delicious! Looking at all this glorious food has made me hungry!

    • Thank you so much, try making the ratatouille and/or the frittata. Both make wonderful easy and quick lunch or supper dishes on their own. We often have frittata’s when there is nothing else in the pantry and we need to go shopping! Susan xx

  • What I really want to know is have your children always eaten like this? I can hardly get mine to eat a carrot let alone a whole meal of greens. I know you haven’t always been in France so is it the French way that they are not picky eaters or have you just got lucky! Whatever please share your secrets I would do anything to ha e a child who actually liked real food.

    • I guess we are lucky that all of our children really do like vegetables, but I think it might be because they simply have never had any choice! They have all eaten them since they were babies and they are just a regular part of every meal. It is true that French children are more adventurous and less picky than many other children but I do think this is because French parents expect them to eat everything, they are not given separate food, they eat from a very early age just what their parents eat. Susan xx

    • Thanks Jessica, yes it does this evening I was doing my usual garden chores and I felt really happier, happier than usual even, because I knew that the garden had fed us along with eggs from the chickens, I felt extremely proud and it was great fun for the children too xx

  • I am so enjoying your adventures as at this point, it is highly unlikely that I will ever see France. One can always read something about Paris, but it is a joy to be taken to the countryside which was the only part of France that my husband enjoyed during his summer in Europe during college…thank you!

    • Hi Judy, there is a huge amount to be said for armchair travel, so I hope you enjoy every second of it and I will do my best to share as much as I can! How lucky that your husband got to spend a summer in Europe, I am sure it was a great experience. Do let me know if there is anything that you particularly want to know about and I will try and include it. Susan xx

    • I always find myself getting hungry when I look at recipes and photos, I can find myself craving something I hadn’t even thought of half an hour previously! It is indeed the Good Life and it was great fun. Susan xx

    • Thank you Penny, I can imagine how much you have missed gardening, it might be hard work but it is so rewarding, I couldn’t be without my garden. There was no vegetable garden when we bought the house, it was the first thing we planned and added, a vital addition! Susan xx

  • The photography is beautiful this week (perhaps because all the food looks so delicious!). How did you manage to flake your own peppers?

    • Thanks so much Helen, as you say the food was an easy subject to photograph, lots of colour! We picked the peppers a few weeks ago and they have slowly been drying. Once they are totally dry we simply chop them into tiny pieces and then store them in sterilised jars. You can also grind them up to make powder and store them in the same way. It’s great fun and as Millie planted to so many chillies we are making good use of them! xx

    • Thank you so much Katherine, it was a lot of fun for all of us and I think really interesting for the children, the mere fact that we managed to do it without adding a single thing. Have a great upcoming weekend. Susan xx

  • Looks delicious as always!
    To other readers…….they truly do live the dream in this beautiful French village!
    Fabulous photo’s, lovely family time together you all have, we met by renting the gite & cant wait to come back next year……but for 2 whole weeks next time!

    • Thanks so much Yvonne and Neil, we should have done this when you were here, it was great fun. I was really very surprised that we actually did manage to cook everything without adding a single ingredient. Typically today, I realised that the fruit on one of the peach trees are totally ripe, it is bearing it’s second crop this summer and they are so juicy and delicious, they would have made a great dessert! We have more figs than ever, are you sure you don’t want to come back and get another box full!!! So looking forward to next year already xxx

  • I worried a bit when I read, “It also had to be something we would all eat and that included the children!” until I realized that you meant that the children would have to eat the meal too, not that the might become part of your meal. 🙂

    Beautiful photos and yummy looking meal. I don’t think my husband and I would do nearly as well if we tried the same experiment.

    • Oh how funny, do you know I thought the same thing too, I read through what I had written, and I reread it and I thought, it sounds as if we want to eat the children, do I reread it again and I thought, no I’m just being silly! So glad someone else thought that too and it wasn’t just me!!! I was amazed at what we could come up with and secretly really pleased, it was great fun and fabulous for the children. Susan xx

      • Thankyou so much for asking Susan. My oldest is starting to settle in, which is a relief, and the youngest loves seeing all the farm animals around her. We hope we’ve sorted the internet problems too – so life’s good.xxx

        • I am so happy to hear that Andrea, it is always difficult at first and as parents, we worry so much. Now you have the Internet too you are made!!! Hope the sun is shining in Normandy today xx

          • Thanks Susan; we’ve changed providers now as the last one was very intermittent. I’m off now to catch up on your fantastic blog!xxx

          • Very smart. We use Orange as most of our friends do too. They cost a little more than some of the others but seem to be a lot more reliable and an awful lot quicker, our internet speed is totally normal as opposed to the super slow that half of France experiences! Xxx

    • Thanks so much Lily, I think eating together is really of huge importance, it is the time we all chatter, we talk about what has happened at school, we talk about all sorts of things, it’s not just about the food, it’s also a very social time and I it is one of my favourite times of the day! susan xx

  • Susan, I love your lifestyle! Your children are precious and they will so benefit from your back-to-the-land way of eating. I would love to come and visit! Sigh! Your American friend, Yvonne xo

    • Thanks so much Yvonne, I think the children really do appreciate fresh home grown fruit and vegetables, we often find them sitting on the grass eating grapes straight from the vines or sun warmed tomatoes. I would love for you to come and visit any chance that you might plan a little trip across the pond? There would be so much to show you! Susan xx

  • Hi Susan, everything looks so luscious ! Roddy he is a keeper…..his cooking is magnificent. And all this is a reminder of why I really can be a vegetarian. When I was a child I grew up With my Italian straight from Italy grama and she could take any vegetable and turn it into a wonderous meal always accompanied with a loaf of fresh Italian peasant bread. Don’t throw your squash flowers away they are wonderful fried with a light coating, she made them as well. Happy eating to you and your family Lisa@ Sweet Tea N’ Salty Air

    • Thank you so much Lisa, I think Roddy is a keeper too!!! What a fabulous way to grow up, I would normally have added a crusty french baguette to eat with the ratatouille but as this was just from our garden, we couldn’t. Our eldest daughter is vegetarian and when she is here during the school holidays we always tend to eat at least 50% vegetarian meals, I find it a really enjoyable way of cooking and eating. I’ve read about cooking squash flowers and have never done it, you have persuaded me, I’ll ask Roddy to do it!!! Have a wonderful upcoming weekend susan xx

  • A fantastic idea! And what you must realise is just how much this experiment will have taught the children. It will certainly have made them think about exactly how much food they really need. Maybe you should agree to try and do this say, once a month or something?!! A day where you eat nothing but what you can forage/grow/collect from your garden or the local hedgerows. It could be a new family tradition!!
    We are nowhere near growing our own veg yet as still lots to do to build raised beds etc. but next year… We also have no eggs at the moment as little Boo, our first (and still only!) hen to lay, has gone all broody!! Any tips? We don’t have another run yet so she has to stay. We lift her off the nestbox and shut the coop door for a while and she does eat and drink a bit, but not as chatty as she was. But as soon as we open the door again, in she goes to sit on an empty nest! Poor Boo.

    • Hi Marian, what a great idea, I love it, I shall chatter to the others, but I think it would be great fun to do this once a month and see what we can find, certainly if we can forage a little too. Next year you will have lots of wonderful homegrown vegetables hopefully! I had to laugh that Boo is broody already, welcome to the land of chickens! We have a broody hen at the moment too, she permanently sits on an empty nest but it doesn’t seem to bother her! I have found the very best way to try and break them of their broodiness is to lift them off the nest and put them with the others, they will eat a little, drink a little and then run back to their nest, I don’t shut the door, I just let them go in and whenever I remember or am in that area of the garden I lift them out again, at least 10 times a day, it’s tedious but it does break them somewhat quicker than letting nature take its course! Hope the others start laying soon xx

      • Thank you for this info Susan, very much appreciated! It’s good that you sound so relaxed about it. I shall follow your advice, which we sort of are at the moment, but I shall try not to worry so much!! Have a great w/end and glad you like the ‘new tradition’ idea! That’ll be one post sorted each month or so!!

        • Marian, there is absolutely no need to worry I promise you, she may be broody for weeks, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, however the more you lift her off the quicker you will break her broodiness. We seem to have spent the entire summer with at least one broody hen. They often sit right in the main coop, on nothing in the favourite nesting box. We have four boxes, but one is firmly the favourite and when the others want to lay there they just sit right next to the broody hen and lay! Broody hen is more than happy, she then gets some eggs for a few short hours until we remove them and her! Hope you too have a wonderful weekend xx

    • Thanks so much Barbara, it was great fun but much harder than it looks, it’s amazing how we take for granted things like cheese, flour and milk. The children loved it and I think they were as surprised as we were that we actually succeeded! xx

    • Hi Pat, our eldest daughter is vegetarian and so we are really used to cooking this type of food, when she is here during the school holidays we don’t eat much meat at all. I am not sure if the French eggs and veggies taste better but they certainly do taste a whole lot better straight from the garden! Cannot quite believe it is very nearly October already. Susan xx

  • What a great exercise in self-sufficiency! I read a blog for years until she went private about a young woman who moved to France with her husband and after a few years decided to live off the land and spends no money on food. She forages, or barters with other people in the town, or browns her food and preserves it. I love reading your blog, thanks for sharing your life and adventures.

    • I bet that was fascinating, I know I would find it nigh on impossible to do on a full time basis, we would have to add a lot of things to make it sustainable, but it was great fun for a day and extremely interesting. Hope you have a wonderful upcoming weekend xx

  • There is nothing more satisfying than harvesting your own food and for some reason it always tastes better. Your sneaking in to the empty plot for apples reminded me of doing just that in the Pyrenees with walnuts! The place was abandonned, overgrown and deserted and we’d collect baskets full in late August! Guilty pleasures!

    • Guilty pleasures indeed, it makes them taste so much better! I love fresh walnuts, ours are just about ready to harvest here and we seem to have a lot this year, another week to go. Have a great weekend, Susan xx

  • Late to the party as always – what a feast! I think something that produces milk would have to happen for us, Susan – cheese is too big a part of vegetarianism for me. And think of the yoghurts! You’ll have to send a child out to do a Brebis making course! Great post as always, and as someone else remarked, your new camera is certainly delivering the goods… can’t wait to see next month’s foraging adventures. It must be time to think of mushrooms where you are?

    • Thanks Simon, if this were to be a permanent thing, which it won’t be, yes we would have to add a sheep or a goat or two. But, we are far too busy to go down that route so for now we will leave it as a fun experiment! Mushroom season is very nearly upon us, I have not seen anyone out foraging yet, it’s been so dry that I wonder if that will affect things, you can be sure we will find out! Susan xx

  • I am so glad for your children – not the best school in the land can give them this kind of an education! You call your home an ‘Oasis’ . . . Thru’ your words I DO hope a lot of people reach it . . .

    • Thank you so much Eha, I think they call it a good all round education! I hope so, I was so lucky growing up to appreciate good home grown and home cooked food and that’s all I really want for our children too, to be able to experience this relatively carefree lifestyle. You are too too kind as always and I really appreciate your support. Susan xx

  • This is freakin’ food porn. I’m breathing heavily now and may need a cigarette–and I haven’t had one in over 15 years! I’m going to be dreaming about those figs tonight! The apple picking was epic. May you be blessed with more of that forbidden fruit!!!

    • Forbidden fruit and guilty pleasures, anyone would be forgiven for thinking this is something quite different to the simple French lifestyle blog that it is!! Wish you were closer and there wasn’t that great big pond in the way, I would send you some figs. Hope you have a great upcoming weekend, Susan xx

    • It was Eliza and it was also great fun. I think we were all quietly surprised that we managed to have such a delicious meal without adding anything at all, there was no need for bread or cheese or butter or flour or all the usual things in the pantry which get used. I am not saying we would eat like this every day but it was certainly an eye opener even though we always eat well and with a lot from the garden, this was a first! xx

    • Thanks Emma, it was really great fun and we were all amazed that we pulled it off and didn’t miss a thing, it just shows how we don’t really need all the extra ingredients added to everything. The children loved it which made it even better. Susan xx

  • I’m very new to your blog and am enjoying your wonderful writing and gorgeous photo’s. What a great experiment and a delicious meal to have made from your garden. I often make ratatouille to freeze but how much better it must taste when you’ve grown it yourself. xx

    • Hi Chris, welcome to the blog and I am so glad you found me. I adore ratatouille and yes there is something very satisfying about growing the vegetables. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, I shall look forward to “chatting” with you a lot more over the coming weeks and months! Have a lovely upcoming weekend, Susan xx

  • All I could think of is how much so many children would hate this meal! You’ve done your kids a great service, teaching them so much about fresh and local food, and engaging them in the adventure of making and eating it!

    • You are so very right, so many kids would very sadly hate the salad and all the vegetables. Ours are not particularly enamoured by lettuce leaves but they eat it! They do however love picking tomatoes fresh from the vines and eating them whilst they are still warm from the sun, they will stand and eat endless fruit and vegetables this way, they don’t really think about it, they just sort of eat! Susan xx

  • It sounds like a fun and delicious experiment…you did quite well with all the nice ingredients from only your land. This is a meal that would make me happy.

    • Thanks Karen, it was harder than we thought to eat only from the garden with absolutely nothing added, but it was truly delicious and we all got an immense satisfaction from it! Have a wonderful weekend Susan xx

  • What a wonderful post, Susan. I love the way you and your cook threw things together. That’s my sort of lunch, though alas I think mine contain a few more carbs. I’d struggle with being a vegetarian though – I could do without meat without too many problems but I love my fish and shellfish way too much, and dairy would have to be part of the diet too (not a lot beats some Welsh Rarebit with a poached egg on top on a dark winter’s day). Great idea though and look forward to the mushroom feast!

    • Thanks Phil, it was great fun just to see if we could do it and also quite a bit harder than we imagined not to add a single thing. Mushroom season is knocking at the door, so you won’t have to wait too long!! xx

  • Susan, your vegetarian home-grown feast looks delicious. Nothing tastes as good as food you have grown yourselves, especially tomatoes… the shop bought ones are tasteless. (in the UK anyway) I used to have an allotment and had gluts of courgettes so ratatouille is something I’m familiar with and love. Your figs are making my mouth water, funnily enough I bought some today but I bet they will not be a patch on the ones I picked from the tree in France.
    Am I correct in thinking that the French don’t generally pander to children’s finicky eating habits unlike many parents of small children in the UK?

    • Hi Fiona, it was delicious and great fun too and yes I agree, nothing tastes better than homegrown food, perhaps it is because we are literally eating it within a few minutes of it still growing. Tomatoes are sweet and juicy and fabulous, even one of our daughter’s who hates tomatoes will eat ours straight from the vines although she won’t touch the shop bought ones. You are totally correct the French just don’t allow picky eating habits to form in the first place, children are expected to eat, for the most part, what their parents eat from a very young age, they are introduced to a huge variety of flavours and tastes and I am quite sure this is why they are not picky. Hope you enjoy your figs and have a lovely weekend xx

  • Found you on throwback thursday and I;m drawn to your pictures here. It’s amazing to have a garden of your own produce and cooking only that. Maybe it’s a matter of time before you grow your own wheat and keep goats – never say never! 😉

    • Hi Ann, I am so happy you did find me and welcome to the blog, truly great to have you following along. It is fabulous to be able to grow our own vegetables. Alas we don’t have enough land to grow our own wheat, and goats are a definite no, I value my garden far too much!!! I am a farmer’s daughter and we grew a lot of wheat but never once did we make our own flour! Most of all this was just really interesting that we could actually feed our family a healthy nutritious meal that everyone enjoyed. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and I hope you have a lovely weekend, Susan xx

        • Ha ha, if the children had their own way we would buy some additional land and have a real small holding, sheep, goats and a cow and probably another 50 chickens!! It’s way past my bedtime, but lovely to ‘chat’ with you. xx

  • A very interesting experiment. Since the only thing I’ve been able to grow with any consistency is basil, we would surely starve if we attempted an experiment like this 😉
    I have however given some thought recently to our ability to survive for an extended period on just the stuff we have right now in the house in the pantry and freezer. We would certainly miss the fresh vegetables which are a big staple of our meals, but we could survive with all the dried legumes and frozen goods.

    • Yes you would struggle to live on Basil alone, funnily enough it’s just about the only thing we struggle with here! I don’t know if it is too hot, we have tried in the shade, in part sun, in full sun, but nothing works! I always feel much happier when the pantry is full of staple things like dried legumes and plenty of rice etc., it must be a subconscious thing but I hate it when the shelves are bare! Hope you are having a lovely weekend, Susan xx

  • Hello Susan.I love frittata and how patient of your husband to make individuals. Your veggies look gorgeous. I have to agree that it is great foraging here too. One of the dogs escaped to play with the farmer’s dog and I discovered another walnut tree…happy nutty days ahead!

  • Good Sunday morning, and thank you for another superb post. You have touched on many things – one being the idyllic notion so many have when moving to France – often forgetting that no matter where we live on this planet, work and indeed food needs to be provided for, plus in a this day of high technology….internet connections, etc. Renovations to charming ancient abodes sadly cost money….however, when one tallies the positives against the negatives…there’s no question that the lifestyle you have chosen is by far the best.
    Your experiment in providing a meal from your garden is the best…..This should be something that every school child should be able to partake in. This is how we learn about our precious resources and how important it is to sustain one’s living throughout a year. I went to a wonderful school in Kent after WWII. Each class was made up of what had been an army hut…set in the middle of bluebell woods. Each hut had a vegetable garden surrounding it…and every week one class was responsible for collecting and preparing all the veggies for lunch. Again, wouldn’t this be a fantastic thing for children to do today.
    By the way I think the idea of a goat or maybe cow for milk is a good one. I know that when I move to France, I will definitely have a veggie garden, chickens, etc…..and by the way thank you for reminding me of some of my favourite child hood memories of, Scrumping:) Enjoy the week ahead, may it be filled with all sorts of creativity…janet. xx

    • I totally agree with everything you say here Janet, I do think people need to move to France or any country lifestyle with their eyes firmly open. Would love to hear more about your school sounds fascinating, where was it? If only they did things like that nowadays indeed. Alas, we don’t have nearly enough land for a cow or a goat really, it’s all garden. But the chickens are a very permanent fixture. We are lucky that the climate is mild here and we are able to grow some vegetables all year round which certainly helps as well as the more exotic things like figs, grapes and persimmons, it makes for a great variety. Have a lovely Sunday xx

      • The school I referred to ‘The Camp School’ was set in the middle of bluebell woods not too far from Faversham, Kent. It was torn down around 1960 and a smart new school was built. Sadly it was never the same….but I have such fond memories and still have friends from that school. Enjoy these lovely autumn days…janet. xx

        • What fun, I went to the same school all my life and am still friends with people I first met when I was 6! Especially now with Facebook we have all reconnected with lots of people, lifelong memories! Xx

  • That looks like a good haul of veg! We’ve failed miserably with our veg growing attempts. Partly because our garden is away from our house and has no water supply apart from a water but that is mainly dry throughout summer due to lack of rainfall! But we did get some tomatoes and we have plenty of friends with fruit trees including figs (which I love) plums and apples so we have lots of jam and chutney. We too have dreams of one day being way more self sufficient with more animals (other than our chickens) but for now we’ll settle for what we’ve got!

    • It has been so dry this summer, our garden has struggled hugely. We have a well which is spring fed and kept us going, we watered the vegetable garden constantly, it is way down at the end of the garden but we run a hose all the way down and the pressure is good so it works! Everything else just had to cope with the drought! I know we could be a great deal more self sufficient, but we don’t have the time, I am quite happy with the chickens and our fruit trees and the vegetables that we grow. xx

  • Wow – what beautiful pictures of all the food (and the table settings), and what a nice account of your work to ‘live off the land’. I was glad to be reminded, too, of how special Wednesday afternoons in France can be with the children out of school and all day left to take on a meal like this. Thanks!

    • I love Wednesday afternoons, we all get to eat lunch together, there is always sport, but in the spring and autumn we usually try and take a bike ride too, it’s a great way to unwind mid week. xx

  • Lovely story, especially fun about picking that ‘forbidden fruit’. I guess all the unpicked fruit gets enjoyed by the wild animals though… Annette #AllAboutFrance

    • A certain amount will certainly go to wild animals, but three is far too much, it rots down into the ground. We are going to try and find out who the owners are to see if we can pick them legally! Xx

    • I would love to lay claim to them all, they were so delicious. We need to find out who the owner is and see if we can pick them legally, but would they still taste as good I wonder! xx

  • I love the fact we regularly have food that is pretty much all our own and just wish I cold produce our own olive oil! I try to add something home produced or foraged to every meal I eat so breakfast today will have our own raspberries atop my porridge, lunch will probably be courgette soup and dinner something from our left over lamb … possibly ratatouille as, like you, I make loads! #AllAboutFrance

    • I totally agree with you, it is the best way to eat. In New Zealand we produced our own olive oil. We had two enormous trees and picked many many kilos, the trees were so tall we had to hire a cherry picker to get to the top, of course it would have been much cheaper to go and just buy oil, but nowhere near as good or as much fun. We took them to a local olive farm who pressed them for us and had about 25 litres of oil. We have planted four trees here, last year we harvested enough to fill about 10 jars, great fun preserving them, but nowhere near enough for oil, yet! xx

  • I love this experiment and any meal involving such juicy ripe figs is a feast for me. We have several wild fig trees in the garden but they don’t produce fruit, it’s so disappointing. If we tried the same experiment we’d starve as we just don’t have green fingers when it comes to fruit and veg growing. I think our almond tree gave us 12 almonds, the cherries were all eaten by birds, the olives aren’t abundant enough to merit picking, the one lemon is a sad affair and the apricot tree hasn’t produced any fruit for 3 years….do you see where I’m going…?!! Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance sorry I took so long to comment but I did warn you all that this month would be #allaboutvietnam!!!

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