The Simplicity of Food

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For me, growing and cooking are inextricably linked. I am a firm believer in the importance of understanding where our food comes from and how it is grown. Perhaps it is my farming background but I feel it is necessary for both us and our children to realise what goes into growing food in order to fully appreciate what is in front of us on the table.

Some of us grow our own produce, some of us might have large fruit trees or friends with surplus goodies. But there are also plenty of us who rely solely on purchasing food from the supermarket or, if we are lucky, the local farmers’ market. However we come by our food, I think it is vital we try to choose produce with the fewest stages possible between harvesting and eating, which in short means supporting our local producers and small farmers.

Don’t worry about being too ambitious, growing food and understanding food takes time. I like to keep my recipes simple, as I think it reduces stress and allows you to enjoy the flavours far more and to recognise each food for what it is. I love seeing fruit trees blossoming in the wild, and I always wonder who, decades ago, planted them or perhaps casually tossed away a seed or stone which then germinated.

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As I wrote in my last post, the importance of bees is paramount and yet we continue to see bee numbers declining at an alarming rate. I prompted myself this week to go back to the hives I found with Izzi to have a closer look, and I got as close as I could to take photos before I felt I had overstayed my welcome and beat a hasty retreat.

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I was delighted to see the hives were swarming with bees and wondered whether this was a farmer who kept bees who had left his hedgerows in a natural state and a relatively pesticide free environment, or whether they belonged to a professional apiarist who moves his hives from location to location, depending on the season. No matter, what, all seemed to be a good health.

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However, it’s sadly not like this all around the country. The French love using pesticides and we all physically wince when we spy a field, whilst driving along, which has been turned bright orange by the use of chemical weed killers. Sadly we see them far too often.

The children have become experts at viewing the many vines grown around here. They note those that have a healthy amount of weeds at their base and those that have that tell tale orange colour once again and not a stray blade of grass in sight. This actually reminds me of the wonderful organic vineyard we visited in the summer of 2015. It was the home of Caro Feely who has today published her third book about her life with her family on their vineyard near Bergerac. I have read all three of her books now. The new book is called “Glass Half Full: The Ups and Downs of Vineyard Life in France” and is available from Amazon. It is once again a compelling read and I really recommend you buy this as I know you won’t be disappointed!

Supporting the locals here means stopping at small makeshift roadside stands.

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Right now it is asparagus season and everywhere there are homemade signs informing the driver that there is “Asperge” for sale, perhaps 1km on the right or perhaps at the next left turn.

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The first spears of asparagus are best,  in my humble opinion,  when simply steamed in a little salted water and then served with a dollop of hollandaise sauce, nestling under a fresh poached egg from our hens.

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Hollandaise is one of those sauces that really can make people nervous, but I promise it is easy; the secret is really good eggs. If you can, choose organic or those that are at the very least genuinely free range.

Separate two eggs and put the yolks into a heatproof bowl.
Melt 100g of unsalted butter in a small pan over a gentle heat.
Put the bowl with the egg yolks over a pan of gently simmering water. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of mustard and whisk well.
Little by little add the butter to the yolks, whisking well all the time.
Once all the butter is added you should have a smooth thick sauce which you should serve immediately.

With Izzi here for the past week she has been experimenting with her cooking and treating us all to pancakes with the addition of bananas and chia seeds for breakfast!

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It’s still too early to have anything to eat from our own garden; our winter kale has finished and we’re at least a month away from anything else. It looks as if we are going to have a bumper crop of plums and cherries but we will have to be patient, I am looking at them longingly but no amount of staring will make them ripen any quicker! For now, we have to purchase our vegetables and fruit from the market. However, as it’s spring and the weather is gorgeous with plenty of sunshine, the local choice is multiplying each day; on offer this week we’ve found artichokes and strawberries amongst other French grown delicacies.

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Some towns have markets with stalls running the entire length of the street or more, whilst other small villages have literally just a couple of stands and they are neither flashy nor pretentious.

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Cooking for our family takes a little planning and part of the task is to produce meals which everyone enjoys. Izzi is vegetarian and coupled with that restraint is the fact both she and I gave up eating all forms of sugar (except those that are naturally occurring in fruits for example, and of course – red wine) a year and a half ago, for no other reason than our bodies don’t actually need sugar. It started out as something of a joint challenge to see if we could do it and it has stuck. I don’t miss sugar to be frank; I used to often feel that typical slight drop in energy mid-afternoon, the classic 4pm fatigue, but I no longer experience this at all and incredibly I have more energy than ever – and trust me, I was always pretty active!

I still bake; I make cakes, cookies and snacks with sugar for the other children, for Roddy, for friends and I still absolutely love making sweet dishes, I have always been the dessert chef whilst Roddy was more the savoury one. However, I just no longer taste, and instead I get whoever is around to do it for me!

This week we have made several batches of meringues. Perfect for using up the egg whites left over from the hollandaise sauce and because we are overrun with eggs! Millie has made chocolate ones,

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Izzi plain ones.

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Meringues, rather like hollandaise sauce, scare some people but there really is no need to worry at all – even the smallest of our cooks think nothing of making them now. The most important thing is a spotlessly clean stainless steel bowl.

Beat 6 egg whites until they stand in soft peaks (usually on a high setting) for around 2 or 3 minutes.
Then slowly add 300g of fine sugar, a spoon at a time.
For the chocolate version also add 1 tablespoon of pure cocoa powder.
Once all the sugar is added continue beating for several minutes longer until they stand in soft glossy peaks.
Spoon onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake at  275F/135C  for 1 hour.
If making the chocolate version, sprinkle each one with a pinch of cocoa powder before they go into the oven.

So as not to be left in the dark in the pudding stakes, last weekend Izzi concocted some little chocolate mousses for us (and anyone else who wanted one). The recipe sounds bizarre, be warned, and when I first saw this I was more than a little dubious, but after tasting it with some trepidation I was completely smitten. It is delicious, a supremely healthy desert that satisfies that ‘need’ for something sweet without the sugar!

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In a food processor mix together 1 avocado, half a cup of cocoa powder, a quarter cup of almond milk and one banana. Serve with a topping of berries – we used strawberries, as you can see.

And whilst we’re keeping things healthy and simple, she also taught me how to make her hummus. As a sidenoteI have to add here that there are many stages of motherhood. I adore babies, and I would happily have had a sixth, except Roddy very wisely said ‘No!’.  I love the toddler stage and the under-tens, and then we get to the ‘tweens’ and the teenagers – I have treasured and am still treasuring all of these stages. Each one is very  different and each has its own special moments and rewards. But now Izzi is 20, she’s our eldest, and she is teaching me things, how wonderful is that?

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Izzi makes her hummus without tahini, and it is simply the best. You can whip this up in a couple of minutes and it will keep in the fridge covered for several days (if it lasts that long, which it never does with us!).

Put one tall jar of chickpeas (we prefer them to tinned ones) and 3 cloves of garlic into a food processor. Add a splash of lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt, pepper, paprika and cumin (the cumin is vital).  Blend until smooth.

It is the perfect dip, with raw carrot sticks, cucumber or tortilla chips, or eat it with a salad – the choice is endless. One day, Izzi spread it on slices of toast and served it bruschetta-style, topped with halved asparagus spears.

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Is there any better sight as a mother than quietly watching your children, without them knowing? Silently tiptoeing into the kitchen and seeing our youngest and our eldest, ten years apart, cooking together, giggling and sharing a joke – I clicked away in secret, my heart was truly melting.

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The girls have also made flatbreads and pizzas topped with everything from avocados to broad beans. I suggested this new topping making use of fèves, the broad beans, that I bought at the market and which are very much in season at the moment. I blanched them for 2 minutes in boiling water and then drained them and rinsed them in cold water. Once the pizza base was ready we added some classic homemade tomato sauce and then a good helping of the broad beans which we then sprinkled with grated mozzarella cheese and plenty of black pepper.

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I am no food expert; I am neither a nutritionist nor a chef, but I am passionate about eating as much natural homemade food as we can, and raising our children so that at the very least they have an appreciation of where their food comes from. When they are older they can make their own choices, but at least they will be educated choices. It makes me cry to know so many children have no idea where their food comes from, and that no one ever teaches them. As Roddy and I say, surely nothing is more important as a human than being able to feed oneself, and it surely should be a requirement for every school in the world to teach their children that, perhaps in place of latin, or advanced mathematics ?
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158 thoughts on “The Simplicity of Food

  • Susan, I can’t believe your self restraint in baking & making desserts & not eating them, I wish I had your resolve!! I am going to try the chocolate mousse as I have a really sweet tooth, but hate avocado, although I’m told you can’t taste it. Hope you all have a lovely Easter. x

    • Hi Janet, I never ate that many sweet things, but I did and still do have a very sweet tooth! I thought it would be really really hard, which is why I did it, but it wasn’t! You really cannot taste the avocado at all, and it is delicious. The incredible thing is without eating sugar I do find that my tastebuds have changed and I can really taste every individual flavour in everything. If you try the mousse, do let me know your thoughts. xx

  • Very well written Susan. I think teaching children how to cook and how to sow a handful of seeds and grow a few leaves is of the utmost importance, far more so than Latin. Sadly many education systems put far too much emphasis on grades and statistics and academic studies always come before practicalities

    • How very very true Varsha. Even going back a few years, (quite a few years to be precise!) when I was at school, each of our classes were split into two divisions, Div A and Div B. Div A, which incredibly I managed to be in, were taught Latin, I studied it for five years. Div B were not taught Latin, instead they were taught cooking. I have never used my Latin, apart from impressing the children when I recite the only verb I remember, but I am sure the cooking would have been a great deal more useful and a lot more fun! xx

      • That says it all really doesn’t it. If you are intelligent you learn Latin and if you aren’t you cook, what a very sad, ill informed state of affairs!

      • It did say it all, but that was the 70’s/80’s. The attitude towards cooking has, I am happy to say, changed a great deal now, certainly with the help of TV chefs and cooking shows, it is now cool to be a chef, thank goodness! xx

  • Love your pictures of your family enjoying time with each other. What a wonderful way for them to interact, cooking and sharing together. Memories are made of this. When ever we are in France, we thoroughly enjoy the markets, the quality and freshness is amazing.

    • Thanks so much Susan, I love watching the children all mingling together in the kitchen, lots of mess, but simply, who cares, it is fabulous that they are all together and all love cooking. The French markets are excellent, I think mostly because everything is so seasonal and this is why we enjoy the spring and summer produce so much, it is such a treat! xx

  • I learnt to cook at school, and I am glad I did, I now teach my four grandsons how to cook, and my husband always encourages them to help in the garden. It’s the way it should be but sadly that’s not always the case today. Too many electronic distractions for my liking!

    • Your grandsons are very lucky and I am sure one day they will appreciate it. I do think that once children get away from their iPads and phones and out into the garden they actually forget about electronics and really enjoy themselves! xx

  • Another contentious issue you have raised, Susan! Mrs C is nodding her head wisely at your comments, and although we don’t have a huge veg patch we do make ends meet, even if I do admit to trying to source the spuds elsewhere. They take up some much blooming room, sigh. We don’t do much more than the ‘news’ in that department. And I think you have triggered a little experimentation – I see some exotics in the seed basket this year. I think mousaka will be in the menu at some stage.

    Simon’s comments are disturbing – it shows a trend to towards a future where 1st world societies will be eating nothing but rubbish as they fiddle with their iPhones while sat in rechargeable electric cars, as the third world societies that provide those goods for them will be eating the better, more nutritious food that they grow and cook themselves. How mixed up is that?

    • Yes potatoes do take up a lot of room, but they taste so good. Funny you should mention this as I said to the children at supper that maybe we wont grow potatoes this year for the exact same reason and they all looked horrified and said “no, we love homegrown potatoes!” It is a very mixed up world Phil, I am not sure it will be resolved now, I think fast food has too much of a hold on the market, advertising is too powerful. But I like to think that we do our little bit and at least our family eat healthily! xx

  • In the U.K. Many people try and push forward the homegrown movement but the fast food chains and supermarkets selling ready meals are just too dominant, everywhere there are adverts for takeaways, I don’t like the way any of it is going.

    • I agree, I just said the same thing to Phil. The best we can do is educate our own children. At least I love to eat our own homegrown food! Things are changing in France too, just yesterday I saw a sign for a new BurgerKing restaurant going up! xx

  • Here in the states gardening and cooking are working on their comeback. Even some of the more economically challenged neighborhoods are reclaiming abandoned lots and creating havens for organically grown delights. The struggle is real though for the food wastelands that pepper the nation. I am hopeful that soft drinks and Cheetos, both snack and human :), are racing toward their shelf life end. Thank you for the recipes and great ideas. The asparagus and egg dish looks divine and I will try your hollandaise sauce as I am a brave cook! Also, I too will try the mousse as I know that eliminating sugar entirely from my diet is only a pipedream but I am intrigued at the avocado and since I am in California. They are a staple in our daily diet. Love and appreciation for all you share. xx-hb

    • Thanks so much Holly, I love hearing of neighbourhoods growing their own produce, I actually think kids enjoy gardening and growing, vegetables in particular are always fascinating because they can eat them. I envy you being able to have so many avocados, they are one of the few things that are available year round here but at a price! Do let me know how you like the mousse, I love it! xx

    • You won’t be disappointed Lisa, it is fabulous and I have loved all three of her books. It was such fun meeting her and seeing where it is all based a couple of years ago. I admire her and her husband so much. xx

  • What a lovely post! The photos of the girls in the kitchen are heart-warming. I couldn’t agree more with your views on eating locally and in season and knowing your food sources when possible. Other than bread, I can’t think of any “packaged foods” that we buy and my husband promises that when he retires he will become our bread baker so that issue has a resolution in the not too distant future. I didn’t know about the rise of convenience foods in France. Oh, NO!! Say it isn’t so!

    • Hi Anne, your husband will have such fun baking bread, if ever you come here I will introduce him to our baker, who is lovely and who will, I am sure, let him help for a morning, although it is a very early start, but it is a fascinating process. I am sorry to say that convenience foods are on the rise in France too! I read recently that France is the second highest consumer of McDonalds in the world after the USA! and I am not surprised, when I ask our children about this they all reply that all of their friends eat McDo’s as they are known here, they all love fast food and takeaways. The only difference, they do eat them all together, around the table!! xx

  • Everything looks so yummy. Good for you for giving up sugar. I was under the impression that the French were light on their chemical use. Where I grew up, everyone had a big vegetable garden and there were many farm stands. In response to other readers, we all have to make our own food choices. I raised my kids on home cooked food and water (not sodas) and they prefer that kind of food and rarely drink soda. My youngest came home from college and declared she wanted to eat “clean” which is what they are calling fresh food these days.

    • I think the French use less chemicals than some countries for sure, but they spray, and quite a lot, sadly. Yes, the clean eating movement, our eldest, Izzi, did just the same too when she started college. Actually now she cooks for one other housemates and they eat together most evenings, they struck a deal, the said friend cannot cook but is quite wealthy, so Izzi cooks and the friend buys the food!! Our children only drink sodas when they go to a party or when we eat out, then it’s a treat, but otherwise it is just water and they are happy with that. Each to their own, but I think if they can at least make educated choices when they grow up and know the facts it is better. xx

  • I think latin is more useful than domestic science. Our domestic science lessons were endless and boring. Plus we had to take in stupid baskets on the bus and bring back home the cooked dishes. Hated it.

    Learned cooking from my mum, which, it looks like your kids have done, and a deep addiction to Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Which, personally, I think is all anyone needs.

    But wasting valuable academic time on cooking (or sewing)? Nope. By the time I’d made my obnoxious baby doll pyjamas I’d grown out of them. Seemed everyone else’s mother had a sewing machine and did quick fixes between classes. No use to me at all. I’ve since made loads of Vogue Designer pattern clothes and all my own curtains.

    I think woodwork/metalwork would be far more useful.

    • I did Latin instead of the cooking and I learnt to cook at home as well. However, we did do sewing. I remember having to go back at the beginning of each term with our Simplicity pattern, some ghastly cotton fabric and the hopes of making a skirt or shirt that I never did wear! Having said that, I too have made my own curtains since! I would love to have done woodwork, sadly it was never offered! Having said all of that I think food science is important, if it can be made interesting and not just about making cakes! xx

      • We had no choice. Domestic science was a full two or three hours on Tuesdays. We had simp patterns too. Vogue are much better.
        Discrimination eh? No woodwork for girls. Maybe worth a post 🙂
        Nah. Don’t think food is important. It’s obvious. Common sense. And following recipes is hardly difficult. Interested in Izzy’s hummus sans tahini though. I have always done a mean holl sauce too 🙂

      • But there was so much discrimination! Now my children are up in arms when they hear anyone say, ‘you can’t do this or that, because you are a girl!’ Food is common sense, but if it is so simple it’s amazing how many people cannot cook and have no idea what they should be eating. I think it was a big eye opener for Izzi to go away to Uni, living away from home for the first time, she was shocked to find that none of her friends can cook. They eat takeaways and vegetables, no one ever buys them! I love hummus the Izzi way, give it a go, so so easy! xx

      • I too would have liked to have done woodwork at school but, in my day, that was a ‘boy’ thing not for ‘girls’
        . Very sad for all of those creative females I am happy to see that now for the younger generation it doesn’t matter whether one is male or female, if one wants to do something they can do it. As for food, fresh local foods from the garden or market taste so much better than any fast food out there. I love markets, love to cook and yes, also love to sew. Everyone should learn some basics in cooking and definitely how to sew on a button! I’d still like to try woodworking though!

      • Exactly, woodwork was certainly never offered to the girls, we had to sew or cook or as in my case learn Latin!! My girls get quite upset if anyone suggests that they cannot do something because they are a girl. We have many conversations about this, Roddy will go to carry a heavy bag for them, because that is how he was brought up and the older ones will say they are quite capable and just as strong, Roddy will explain but it is polite for him to carry it, they understand that, but they don’t think it is necessary! Times have certainly changed!!I would love to try woodworking, and I can at least sew a button and make a reasonable pair of curtains! Have a very happy Easter xx

  • I thoroughly enjoyed this post, which brought back lovely memories of Provence in spring. My daughter and son grew up in the kitchen with me, and also spent a considerable amount of time in the kitchen with my mother, their precious Nonnie, who made her own hand-rolled pasta and with my father grew her own tomatoes and other veggies. She inspired my daughter, who is a wine specialist, to take professional chef’s training and my son to love cooking. I learn from my now-adult kids all of the time, not just in the kitchen but in many other aspects.

    • Isn’t it wonderful to learn from our children, as I said I adored them as babies and I adore them as young adults and as teenagers, they are such great company and I find their insatiable thirst for knowledge refreshing, it makes me learn more too. It sounds as if you son and daughter had a great time with you in the kitchen, quite obviously they loved it as it inspired them to go on to what they are doing now which I am sure is equally fulfilling because they are doing something they love. xx

    • It’s another sign of the warmer weather! In the UK very often they are only in the spring and summer too. Here our markets are all year round but we also have an excellent Farmers market which is held every month or so in the spring and summer, in fact the first one is this sunday. It’s a chance for all the local farmers to sell their produce direct to the public, we always buy our wild honey there. xx

  • I like nothing better than sitting in the garden eating simple food bought from the market. My walking tours finish by the market and then I spend a few really pleasant moments talking with my favorite stall holders and going home so h my arms laden. One of our greatest disappointments in France is the diabolical quality of pizza which, when in Italy is a big hit with all our kids. The French pizzas seem to follow the cheese excess attitudes of the big fatty American pizzas. We always make our own, and the flavours of fresh veg on home made bread base seem to sing. My husband and I noticed that every time we had fast food we would wake up with a hangover the next day despite not having drunk alcohol. We’ve deduced that this is due to the quantity of salt in fast foods which leave us dehydrated by the next day. It’s sad how the French are starting to increase takeout food. I hope that they wake up and fight back before france also slips the slippery slope.

    • Very interesting about the fast food, I wonder if the salt is the reason. We are lucky that our pizza van does make great home cooked pizzas on his open fire, but we only use it very occasionally, we prefer to make our own, the bases are so easy as I just pop them in the bread machine to make the dough, cheating, but simple!! How convenient that your tours end right by the market, it’s so much better once you get to know all the stall holders and can chat, I find they often give us melons in the summer that need eating immediately! French takeout food is certainly on the increase, you have children the same age as ours so I am sure they will tell you the same, ours are always saying that the French kids eat fast food and that it is a myth that they don’t. Let’s hope that common sense will prevail! Fabulous weather isn’t it, let’s also hope that spring continues like this! xx

  • Fabulous post Susan. To enter I to the Latin debate, I spent years at school studying Latin, I’ve forgotten it all, I hated it and it was a complete waste of time. I was at boarding school so I never learnt to cook as I was only at home in the holidays and then no one thought of teaching me and I had no interest. When I got married I could recite a Latin verb like you but I couldn’t boil an egg. Cooking would have been far more useful!

    • Ahhh, Latin, seems to have sparked quite a discussion! I suppose I can at least discuss where words derive from but I am sure I could have worked that one out even if I hadn’t spent years studying Latin! I think a lot of the problem is that when schools do offer cooking classes often they are the wrong type of classes and they cook the wrong things. I have heard of many schools in the UK who now have their own vegetable gardens which the children maintain and plant. If they then learn how to cook the things they grow, then that is the complete cycle and I think it is so beneficial. xx

  • Interesting and educational post Susan…My favorite part…the children helping to cook…I feel that I am actually learning from my children when it comes to food. All of them are such healthy eaters…I am going to copy your post (if you don’t mind) and send one home with each of them on Sunday when they are here for Easter Brunch…They will love the recipies.
    The beehives bring back such wonderful memories of one of my “besties” and her father who had them on their farm when I was growing up.
    I of course love the Meringues…the pizza bread looks fabulous! I will try a few recipies once I get past this weekend.
    Speaking about the upcoming weekend… Happy Easter… and may your family enjoy the beauty and love that is always radiated throughout your writings!

    • Thanks so much Stephanie and I would be really flattered if you copy the post and send it home with your children. I love watching all of ours cook, the mess is always awful, they are great chefs but not so good at the clearing up afterwards, but right now it doesn’t matter to me, the most important thing is they love to cook and even more so that, as siblings, they are all such great friends, I couldn’t ask for any more than that. I hope you too have a wonderful and happy Easter weekend with your family, just as it should be. xx

  • Thanks for the simple recipes, Susan. I’m definitely trying some of them. Thankfully, I had a good breakfast of homemade granola and almond milk and I have dinner in the crockpot, so I only had virtually hunger pangs reading your delightful post. I’m longing for the farmer’s markets to open, too, but here there won’t be any until the start of June (when I’ll be in France.) Can’t wait for those strawberries and asparagus. Your shot of the artichokes made me long for some great big ones like that. My mom grew up in California, so even though we lived in Nebraska, we ate artichokes.

    Amazon says the new book won’t be out until September (at least in the States.) The books sound wonderful.

    There’s so much to say about the quality of food or lack thereof here that I won’t get into it too much. I think one great idea is school gardens and another is to allow people to have community gardens in the empty lots of the city (after the soil is tested.) Then have home ec classes where students learn to cook these, to them, unusual foods; invite the parents; encourage farmers to bring their produce into the cities, although the cost can be a factor.

    A couple of good books: “The Seasons on Henry’s Farm” (which will show you why organic food costs more, although that’s the point of the book) and “Real Food, Fake Food”, an eye-opener for sure!

    janet

    • Hi Janet, love the sound of your breakfast! The markets are really starting to get interesting here now, it is good to eat only seasonal food but I cannot deny it is so nice to get to this time of year and to find some new and exciting things on sale! School gardens and community gardens are a fantastic idea I think, your ideas are excellent, have you actually put these into action with local schools? Caro’s book is released here today and in the UK, I had no idea it would be later in the US. Oh well, something for you to look forward to when you return to the States! Thanks for the book suggestions I shall certainly look these up! xx

      • I haven’t done any of these things myself, Susan, but I read about them in several books. I’ll have to find the names and send them to you. We’re not actually in the city of Chicago, which is where this sort of thing would be most useful. We’re in a rather well-to-do suburb, although the home ec classes should be taught everywhere. Too many young people grow up not knowing about food, cooking, how to get a job, taking care of money, voting, etc.

      • I was having a conversation about just this with Millie who is 17 last night. She was saying how school might teach a lot in the form of maths, languages, sciences etc etc but she said it doesn’t prepare them for anything about the world, as you have just said. She is fortunate that she has travelled pretty much the world over and has lived in three different continents, she understands different cultures and she is very outward going, but she has friends who really have no idea of anything other than their immediate home life and a family holiday. xx

  • You are making me so hungry! Love the idea of the tahini & asparagus on bread. We have a couple of good farmers markets here but nothing like the variety you have! I am dying to get to France!

  • Another book recommendation – Never Out Of Season by Rob Dunn. He goes into the history of where our foods came from without a slanted viewpoint. It was very enlightening and gave me a broader perspective on what we eat.

  • Susan ….what a wonderful post. Good food without chemicals is easier to obtain here on the West Coast. I see people who never thought about food sources reading labels and checking packaged goods. Fresh organic food is easy to obtain. As for exceptional bread….

    I know we live in a paradise that many people can not experience. I feel very fortunate.

    Ali xx

    • I can imagine you live in the perfect place Ali for good organic food, if it is so readily available is it still a lot more expensive? The organic produce section in all shops here is growing all the time and at the markets too. I wish I could find a way to allow more people to experience so much about where our food comes from. As for the exceptional bread, well you know, we have an exceptional baker nearby!!! xx

  • What a delightful read and I shall certainly be making the chocolate mousse and the hummus. What I love about your recipes are they are always no fuss, and yet they look so good and so far have always tasted fantastic. I make those truffle balls almost weekly now, I am somewhat addicted, but I tell myself they are healthy so no harm at all!

    • So happy to hear you make the truffles Shari, I shall let Izzi know, she will be delighted! She made some for us whilst she was here this week, of course they didn’t last long, they are my all time favourites and I don’t have to feel too guilty eating them! xx

  • What lucky children to grow up in such an environment. But all credit to you and Roddy, most of the kids I see here in the States argue with their brothers and sisters, it’s good to hear how well yours get along. I wonder what was that shared joke your youngest and oldest were smiling about?

    • Thank you Bev, I have always been so happy that our children all get along with one another. Of course there are squabbles and grumbles, but maybe because there are five of them, there is always someone else to be friends with! I have no idea what they were laughing about, I did ask them later but they couldn’t remember! xx

  • It’s so nice to see your girls cooking together with such an enthusiasm.
    vegetable growing is not my thing but I always buy bio and cook fresh. Educate children in that way is important…
    unfortunatelly many of them are feeded with junk. Will be dificult to change their habits. I think it is also important
    to teach them how to use fresh leftovers from the fridge (e.g. when you have bought too much instead to trash it)
    I also try to use less sugar as possible and it works even in desserts.

    • I love watching the girls all cooking together, the mess is another matter, but it’s worth it! I totally agree with you about leftovers, learning to make a tasty meal out of what we can find rather than throwing it out. Roddy is my leftover king, he is brilliant at looking in the fridge, thinking for a moment or two and then coming up with something quite delicious! xx

  • I think that perhaps the thing I most miss about France is the markets. The stallholders I frequented usually grew their own produce. Not always ‘bio’, but certainly ‘raisonnée’. Here I use a veg. box scheme, which ensures fresh, seasonal organic produce, but ain’t half as much fun as choosing my own at the market, maybe swapping recipes with the person next to me in the queue. As to your family’s hummus – it sounds interesting: I always assumed that tahini was as integral to the final product as the chick peas. I’ll give it a whirl! Happy Easter to you and all your family xx

    • I think I would miss the markets the most too, I like the fact that they are there, rain or shine, all year round. I love the fact that no one is ever hurried along, no matter how long it takes one can discuss exactly what we want and when we want to eat it. It is that personal advice that makes all the difference. The box veg scheme is a brilliant idea even if it lacks the market atmosphere. They do that in France too, we used to belong to a group when we lived further south. I always thought that tahini was a vital ingredient too, but Izzi never buys it, maybe because she is a poor student! Whatever the reason, the hummus she makes is fantastic, a great healthy dip for carrot sticks and I try to always have a bowl in the fridge. Do give it a go and let me know what you think. Hope you have a lovely happy and relaxing Easter too xx

  • I make a mouse wit coconut milk or creame. I take a can, place it in the fridge overnight. The next day you can scoop out the thicker top part and put into a bowl. You can use the watery part left to drink or use in a smmothy. You then whip the coconut, like you would whipping creme. You can add cocoa powder, or I’ve used a little lemon or vanilla. I’ve used a slight amount of honey or stevia to sweeten it. Leave it in the fridge for a few hours aND you have dairy less mouse.

  • This is a very interesting and informative post! Being a mother, I love the photographs you took of your children cooking together. You must love it when they all home for the holiday. Also, thank you for including some delicious recipes. The two recipes for meringues peaked my interest. Happy Easter to you and your family!

    • I do love it Jennifer, four are still here permanently as the second eldest is only 17, the youngest is 10, but when Izzi is home it is fabulous, all together once more. Do make the meringues they are so easy and so delicious. Millie just made another huge batch now for a party she is going to tomorrow night! A very Happy Easter to you too xx

  • I love it when you post recipes. I always thought hummus was very difficult to make, no idea why, just a misconception I had. I buy it at least once a week and now I discover I can make my own, imagine how happy I am. But I have to ask, this is a garlic hummus, does Izzy make other flavors, red pepper is one of my favorites, I wonder if she had any advice, if you could ask her please. Tell her this middle aged lady in Nevada would be very happy!

    • Thanks Sharon, I was surprised too to discover just how easy it is to make hummus. She has made red pepper hummus last summer, she simply added half a red pepper and blended that in with everything else and reduced the garlic to just one clove. It is delicious. xx

  • What a great article! The photos made me so hungry, I should have read it after lunch!

    I think that a lot of people don’t realize how much pesticides are used in France. Thank goodness for the organic movement. I have heard that farmers there wouldn’t eat what they produce because of the amount of pesticides they use. My husband can vouch for it, having worked in a peach orchard for the summer when he was younger. A very good film to watch is “Nos enfants nous accuseront” https://youtu.be/yrJN-itVZLQ (French version) or with English subtitles under a different title, “Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution”, https://youtu.be/TFZE30cXN8I (for a small fee).

    Anyway, your recipes look absolutely delicious! Time for lunch over here. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, yes it is a popular misconception that there are no chemicals or very few used here. I learnt a lot about them when we visited Caro Feely and her vineyard in 2015, the stories she told us of neighbouring vineyards and the extent of the pesticides they use was quite shocking. I shall certainly watch the film, thank you. Hope you enjoyed your lunch! Wishing you a very Happy Easter. xx

  • I just loved this post! Your photos of all the food really did make me hungry! I too find it so sad that so many people nowadays are out of touch with the Earth, after all we are a part of it and we will one day go back to it! My hubby, kids and I have all been living almost completely self-sustainably for five years now, and we could never go back! Our house is built out of sod blocks, and we keep a very varied herd of animals! A great post once again, keep up the good work!

    • Your life sounds fascinating Josie, which animals do you keep, I am assuming goats and maybe a cow and of course chickens? I wish that we could educate so many more children about where their food comes from as we seem to be getting further away from the basics all the time. xx

  • Sustainable living is the only way forward. When I was last in France, a little over a year ago I was shocked by the number of overweight people, it was winter so not many tourists around and we were staying with friends in Normandy. I have been visiting France since I was a kid. The stereotype of the thin chic frenchnlady just isn’t true any more. Maybe in Paris but out in the country plenty of middle aged women have a vast middle age spread! I am sure fast food and convenience food is the culprit. Great post Susan and very interesting.

    • Very interesting Francesca and yes I am afraid I do have to agree. I think maybe life is very different in Paris and the large cities and chic resorts of the south, but certainly in other areas obesity is on the increase. I am quite sure that fast food is the culprit and also convenience foods, people snack far more and drinking sodas I think is also to blame too. xx

  • Hollandaise is a ‘piece of cake” to make in the food processor and takes the fear away from a possible scrambled egg. Will try the hummus recipe. I always forget to buy tahinni,
    Luckily we live where a local farmers’ mkt runs 52 weeks a year. Some slim pickens in the winter but fresh young salad greens and asparagus has shown up last week. French breakfast radishes as well. Frozen poultry and pork available throughout the year. TN law requires local meat to be sold frozen.
    Great post, thanks.

    • I have never tried making hollandaise in a food processor, thanks for the tip, as it is asparagus season and we are also totally overrun with eggs it will be on the menu this weekend. Thank you. Hummus without tahini is delicious, I promise. Isn’t it fun when a few new things start to appear at the market, it makes my tastebuds tingle just looking at them! What intrigues me however is why does local meat have to be sold frozen in TN? I have tried to think of a reason but have failed miserably, please do enlighten me! xx

  • What an interesting,uplifting post today!Not to even mention the wonderful recipes!
    Thank you for reminding all of us about the importance of exactly what we eat,and also our responsibility in sustaining the farmers and the favorite organics we choose.
    I have found that age has become a big help in moderate diet;we just can’t eat the way we did in younger days,and honestly,we have no wish to.Plus,with gout in our family,many times our menus are meatless.
    (Drooling over your asparagus!Alas,not permitted!)
    When we do eat meat,we choose humane sources and no hormones/antibiotics.
    Here in the U.S.,in many cities we have Whole Foods.Not as good as farmers markets,but a decent substitute.We were so spoiled in France!
    Your posts are always a delight!

    • Thanks Natalia, I think we do have to be more careful with what we eat as we get older, that’s for sure. Teenagers can get away with so much more, but let’s face it we’ve all been there! Plus as you say, once we get to be parents and older I think we do care more about what we eat, although having said that all of our children are aware of what they eat, they just like the additional sweet stuff too!! I have visited Whole Foods when we have been in the States and their is one in London too, their choice is always excellent but very expensive we found! We are spoilt in France! Have a very happy Easter xx

  • Hi Susan
    I also have decided to give up sugar, in the sense that one can with so much “hidden” sugar in our food. Making food from scratch and cooking simply is something my family support as well. In NZ we have a veritable food basket and we have many growers supporting people who want to eat natural food. We have an Incredible Edible movement in our town of Geraldine, South Canterbury, that increases awareness about how to grow and cultivate vegetables and herbs, along with fruit trees and how to harvest produce in season. My husband and I both belong to this group and we enjoy learning and passing on our knowledge to others. Anybody in our community can pick and eat what is grown and we also pass on plants from our gardens to cultivate in the community gardens that surround our town.
    What a difference eating sensibly and well makes!
    Keep up your good work, Susan. Love your blog. A very good read at breakfast these days in retirement!!

    • Hi Sue, and I am intrigued to know do you feel any different for giving up sugar? the Incredible Edible movement sounds fabulous, what a fantastic idea and what a great way to learn, make friends and share things, I have never heard of something like this before, but it certainly sounds as if it is something that people should do wherever they live. I do firmly believe that we feel so much better in ourselves, not just physically, but mentally also, when we eat well. Enjoy your retirement days and your autumn weather. Hope you have a lovely Easter xx

  • How inviting is that fresh asparagus direct from the farmer. I wouldn’t be able to resist this either.

    There is also a growing trend in Melbourne to avoid sugar, with chia seeds,almond products and so on becoming more prominent along the supermarket shelves. It is a trend, and it will be interesting to see how this goes as a long term stance. I am not a huge eater of refined sugar, but then I’m not sugar phobic either. Sweet baking studs our year’s calendar, birthday cakes, Christmas fare and at other festival times, such as Easter. In a largely secular society, these sweet festive rituals are all that we have left, reminders of ancient traditions and customs. I say this as I mix up today’s batch of hot- dross buns. It is pleasure to offer a guest with a good dessert after the meal. I believe that if you don’t eat sugar snacks, or drink coke or other soft drinks, or eat sweet biscuits and chocolates, an occasional sugar splurge is a wonderful treat. Of course wine doesn’t count, and is included in those new bibles on eating no sugar.

    I have been vegetarian since 1978, though along the way I have added fish to my diet, generally only species that are sustainable here in Australia. This diet is helped along by my own organic garden produce and eggs, something that we have been doing since our early 20s, even midst careers in teaching and law. Eating in this way would be far more expensive if I lived in an apartment in the city, where produce from farmer’s markets is so expensive. I feel very fortunate and thankful that I have access to fresh food.
    As usual Susan, your post has urged me to blabber on too much. I like it when you raise a few modern dilemmas. The roadside spraying of poison is a big one indeed. Thank you once again for your beautiful photos of France.

    • I just stopped and bought a couple more big bundles of asparagus this morning, have to gorge on it whilst it is available, the season is so short! You are so right in that sugar laden foods do indeed mark the calendar with all special events, I have this morning also just bought a vast amount of chocolate Easter eggs! Then of course there are birthdays, parties, it seems if it is a celebration then it has to be sweet! I am sure wine is included in no sugar, those real die hard fans, but then so is fruit and all sorts of things, I just don’t eat any form of refined sugar, but if I accidentally did, I’m not going to worry about it either! I eat very little red meat, perhaps once a month or so, but I do love fish, I could happily be a pescatarian. I think we share much the same beliefs about diet and growing and organic produce. The roadside sprays are awful, some villages around here actually proudly announce they are spray free, but others are awful! Wishing you a very Happy Easter xx

      • Buona Pasqua, Happy Easter to you to Susan. So nice to have the family back for Easter.
        ( No I meant wine is actually allowed in the no sugar bible, something I have always found odd- happliy so.)
        Some herbicidal sprays are extremely toxic, especially the commonly used Roundup from Monsanto. Our local Councils still spray this on the verges and there are very few vineyards in Australia that don’t rely on it for a herbicide. Householders still use these Glyphosate products around their houses, and spray willy nilly with little knowledge about its danger. Things are so to change around here too.

      • Hello Francesca, your thoughts about Roundup are well founded. When we lived in Florida, we became aware quite quickly just how sterile an environment we lived in thanks to the gangs of sprayers that came to clean one’s ‘yard’. We’d see the liquid being sprayed everywhere, along road verges, across golf fairways and greens, alongside public buildings and in public parks. The problem is not the people who spray, for they know no better, often endangering themselves by using little or no protection; instead the blame should be fairly apportioned to management, who should know better.

        Above all, the problem with Roundup is long-term. We know it is dangerous, and that it kills plants. We know it’s a known carcinogen, but we tend to forget that it kills insects and animals too. However, the far greater danger is it kills the ground, the earth that we grow things in, by destroying all the bacteria and micro-life ecosystems that occur in it. As humans we are destroying our earth anyway by overuse, but with Roundup we give it a fatal jolt along the way. At it’s simplest level, if you’re a gardener and like what worms do to your soil, don’t use Roundup. Anyone who does not believe this simply needs to visit an organic garden, and then a garden where Roundup is used. The insect count for each garden will be so astronomically disapparate it beggars belief. The flowers may look pretty, but there is no soul in a Roundup garden, and very few creepy-crawlies (many of whom are your allies, not your enemy).

        I’m not a knee-jerk conspiracy theorist, but Monsanto deserves almost all of the negative press it gets. It’s relentless march towards a goal of seed domination (purely for profit) is a policy that should be countered at all costs, while it’s related development of pesticides and weedkillers is an industry that also threatens far too much. Thankfully the French have banned the sale of this ghastly glyphosate.

        You can read a brief synopis of France’s thinking here, for example: http://www.organicauthority.com/france-bans-monsantos-roundup/

      • Of course I agree with everything!!! But I have to add, France may have banned Roundup, it was in all the press two years ago, I was so happy, I even blogged about it if I recall, but it is still for sale in all the garden centres, so if it has been banned why is it still for sale? And yes, of course I can ask you this in person, lol, but I wanted to point out to everyone who may read this, that it is still, very sadly still available to the general public and still very widely used! Xxx

      • I’m totally with you Roddy. My feelings entirely re Monsanto. Despite the bad press and the scientific evidence, the product is still available here in Australia. I have been an organic gardener for 40 years now and cannot understand those who poison the soil. As for seed control, All my seed have come from seed collecting clubs or are heirloom varieties, which I now store each year. Great to hear a=that things are improving in France in this respect. And, also on another pet topic of mine, great to hear that France has announced a colour coded labeling system for the nutritional value of food.

      • Ahh glad to hear wine is allowed, not that it would change anything for me anyway! I understood that Roundup was to be banned in Europe but it is still for sale in all the garden centres here and people use it without a care in the world. I hope things do change because I truly believe that many people just don’t realise how harmful it is. Anyway, I can relax at least in the knowledge that our children can run around the garden searching for eggs tomorrow without worrying about anything more harmful than an occasionally nettle sting! Xx

  • Wonderful post for the dinner hour! I’ll be making asparagus and poached eggs Saturday afternoon. Tis the season for light, sumptuous foods!

  • Oh, what a perfect recipe. Thanks, Izzi. I wanted to make hummus today and just realized I don’t have any tahini.
    Totally agree with you on the importance of knowing where food comes from — I’ve been hanging out with organics types for a very long time, and was part of one of the first CSA farms in the US. The differences in taste are remarkable, and understanding food origins fosters respect for the land and the environment in ways that no amount of book-learning can.
    But I’ll differ with you on Latin. It is useful, because understanding that helps you understand how English (and French, too) developed, and why. The history is important, even if now much of what I remember is poor old Orgetorix schlepping all those elephants across the Alps.

    • I do want to know what you thought of the hummus without tahini Emm, we love it, but maybe because that is how we always eat it that is why we love it so much! I grew up on a farm so I grew up understanding how food was grown and where it came from, we had a huge vegetable garden and we only ate what was in season. I also spent years learning Latin, although I now only remember the stories about Crassius and Claudius and the fact that they were farmers! Our children have all been given the opportunity to learn Latin at school, they offer it at the school they go to from age 11 but they all opted for a modern third language instead. English is obligatory, obviously they speak French and three of them opted for Spanish and the fourth German, number five will have her choice when she turns 11 next year, but I am fairly positive she won’t choose Latin! However, I do agree that it should still be taught, because it is vital that it is kept up and besides so many medical terms and plant names are in Latin! xx

  • Somehow you have given me ‘shivers and shakes’ with this oh so relevant post! On a Good Friday of all days!! Post-haste I reposted this to a wonderful Kiwi Blogger, Celi Gunther, of ‘mykitchensgarden’ in Illinois, with whom you would not have one difference of opinion 🙂 !!

    I SO believe in what you are doing tho’ have been an inveterate foodie throughout my life, thus, daresay, ‘requiring’ a great deal more from what I cook for myself and many, many friends on any day 🙂 ! Actually being a nutritionist and still studying this at tertiary level in my ‘older’ years, I cannot imagine being without the excitement, variance and continuing learning, in my case specifically SE Asian and S Asian, Middle-Eastern and N African. At the moment am immersed in Myanmar [Burmese] and Ethiopian fare much to my and friends delight – but, oh very much yes – the provenance of the food and it being natural very much comes to the fore!

    Sugar – I have not ‘baked’ for over three decades and have absolutely no desire for any: one kilo per annum is more than enough for my tastes . . . why cakes and unhealthy desserts when so much other beautiful is available 🙂 !!

    • How fabulous that you are learning about foods in so many different cultures. I actually think we can learn a lot from the Asian diet. You will have to come and visit, Burmese and Ethiopian food sounds too too good, I can imagine how happy your friends are! We share just the same thoughts on sugar, I can happily bake for the children but it’s not difficult, I truly never get that longing to eat sugar, it never even occurs to me any more, I find fruit sweet, sugar I am sure would be horrendous and I do find that one tastes so much more without the addition of sugar. My father, who has farmed all of his life, always believed one should never eat sauces, no dressing on salads etc., because he said it ruined the taste of the actual food. There is certainly something to be said in that, I am rather like him, I don’t eat many sauces either, a tiny tiny amount and only the merest hint of dressing on a salad if any at all, like father, like daughter! Have a very Happy Easter xx

      • *big smile* Most courteously somewhat disagree with your father Love sauces, hate ‘gravies’ – methinks there may lie the difference!! Don’t ‘douse’ my salads, but love a good dressing also! And since I have a most beloved English expat blogger friend living north of you I so want to visit, I most certainly shall come and cook, and laugh, and learn at your table sometime . . . enjoy Easter . . .

      • Certainly! Although he didn’t like gravy either!! So happy to think you will at some stage come this way, I am not so sure you will learn anything at our table, certainly not about food, you sound far more of an expert than I am, it’s simple food around here, but we’ll laugh for sure and talk and discuss a great deal I am sure! Have a very happy Easter xx

  • Wonderful post! Your blog brings back many memories for me of when I lived near Montpellier . We are starting to to get more markets here in NZ now, Our town has 2 each weekend , an up market Farmers Market on Saturday (really for the Wellingtonians who drive over hill to ruralise!) and a down market one on Sunday for us locals! It is so wonderful to see children in the kitchen cooking. I do a variation of your daughters Hummus by using roasted kumara and pumpkin with a clove of roasted garlic, just mash it up and add to the chickpeas with a smidgen of oil and lemon juice. We had roast lamb for dinner and I added extra kumara and pumpkin, so guess what I will be having this week!

    • I shall certainly try your hummus Sharon, we all love sweet potatoes, or kumara as you call them. We lived in NZ, our youngest was born in Auckland, although we lived in the Bay of Islands. We had an excellent weekly farmers market in Kerikeri which was all year round. Fabulous local food, both home grown and home made and quite a social event too, one of the best markets we have ever been to, despite the fabulous french markets we still miss our Kerikeri farmers market on Sundays! xx

  • Great post, your blog brings back memories of when I lived in Montpellier. We have two markets in town here(NZ), one up market on Saturday for people who drive over the hill from Wellington and a downmarket on Sunday for the locals, often the same stallholders!! I love seeing children in the kitchen. I do a hummus adding roasted kumara and pumpkin to the chickpeas instead of Tahini. Have a great Easter.

  • Fantastic post Susan and such great recipes too. I’m passionate about home cooked too and countryside living has inspired me to cook more. When my boys are here we all love cooking and sitting to eat together. Lovely to see your girls enjoying making healthy food xx

    • Thanks Amanda, you really have to come and spend a weekend at the coast, it would be great to meet you, I think we share many of the same passions! Fabulous fabulous weather isn’t it, time for eating outdoors and bbq’s! Hope you have a lovely Easter xx

      • Thanks Susan I would love to meet you too. Trying to juggle guests and visitors and then we both have ops! We might manage something in June, fingers very crossed! We are back to cutting the grass every 4 days but lovely to have the sunshine back and the lovely flowers.

      • I know what you mean about juggling guests, doing just the same, plus holidays and a zillion other things! We are mowing like mad too, but everywhere looks so fantastic, loving these warm sunny days. Hope the ops go well and wishing you a very happy Easter xx

    • The asparagus spear on the hummus was absolutely delicious, I just bought two big bundles of asparagus from a local grower again today, guess what we will be having this weekend! Hope you have a lovely Easter xx

    • Meringues are perfect, they are simple to make and they keep well so you can make them in advance which is always a good idea when entertaining! Do try the chocolate ones, the flavour is very subtle and they look so cool! Served with some whipped cream and fruit and a chocolate sauce if you want to go the whole nine yards! Hope you have a lovely time with your family and a very happy Easter to you xx

  • It’s often easy crops that are not grown locally because the financial reward is low. But the reward in growing that same thing yourself and having the full fresh flavour is immeasurable. For example, tomatoes, potatoes, mange touts, runner beans, sweetcorn, courgettes, etc. are all simple and delicious. If you can’t eat them all, neighbours will happily assist 🙂

    • The reward of growing something is everything I agree, that taste of warm tomatoes straight from the vine or grapes that are almost hot, there is nothing quite like it. I always plant extra of everything because it is such fun to give it away, that for me is half the pleasure and then friends and neighbour’s do the same, whilst we might have a glut of one thing they will have an abundance of something else and so we all do rather well! Hope you have a lovely Easter, the weather is beyond fantastic, so it looks like being a good one! Xx

    • Anytime you are in France you are most welcome to come and sit at our table. Our vegetable garden is just getting started now, last year was an ok sort of year, nothing out of the ordinary and no bumper crops at all apart from the grapes and figs, because of the wonderful long hot summer, but Spring was cold and the vegetables seemed to suffer a little. Hopefully this year will be much better and a good one for all of us! Have a lovely Easter xx

      • Last year was the worst year I’ve ever had in the garden. I’m hopeful this year will be better. Happy Easter to you and your family as well.

      • It seems it was a bad year both sides of the pond for gardening. We had the most perfect summer, long, hot and hours of sunshine, very little rain, but we coped thanks to our spring fed well, the lawn suffered but the vegetables were well watered. However, the cold spring meant nothing really got a good hold, coupled with a very mild winter, fruit trees blossomed too early when there were no pollinators around, we had hardly any plums or cherries, or at least not enough to share with the birds and so they won! I shall plant everything out in the vegetable garden this week and keep my fingers firmly crossed that the weather stays warm! Wishing you a very happy Easter xx

  • Just HAPPY EASTER / JOYEUSES PÂQUES for now…. Kisses for all, even the dogs, happy egg hunt for the kids 🙂
    (And yes, more to come, but when?)

    • Don’t worry about more, Happy Easter is more than enough, time seems to not be on our side, yours or mine! The garden is another job at this time of year, longer evenings mean we can stay outside more and time at the computer is severely limited! Wishing you a very very Happy Easter and big kisses from everyone here, two and four legged! Xxx

  • Hi Susan, could I ask a quick question please. How long does your Hollandaise sauce last for? Is it something you make fresh each time or can it last a week or so in the fridge? Love love love your post.

  • What a beautiful post. I don’t think I’d want to give up sugar, but it’s inspirational that you and Izzi did. I’ve just come home from a workout at the gym with my daughter, who is my oldest child, and I have to say that I enjoy her every time we get together. She’s 25 now, so it only gets better from 20. Enjoy them all.

    • I enjoy spending time with both our eldest and our youngest and all of them together, and I can quite appreciate the fun you had with your eldest, it is so fabulous to do things with our children. The sugar thing is just one of those things and I don’t miss anything at all so I kind of think why eat it again! Have a great week xx

  • Hope you had a lovely (if not weatherwise… but soul-wise) Easter weekend and hopefully the egg-hunt could be produced even if the sun didn’t shine all the time!
    I love how you talk food and produce. If you love the bees and honey as much as I do, you MUST have read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue (!) MOnk Kidd – what a treat and a phenomenal joy to read, to taste and to digest….I came to this book AFTER I’d read her next one called The Invention of Wings – I was absolutely spell-bound but also bottomless sad about ‘what went on’ in the Times of slavery. I seem to have really led a very protected life!
    Anyway, I do miss the green asparagus; here we don’t see them very often, whereas in Switzerland we get mainly the green ones they are cheaper too. I never serve them with Hollandaise, as nice as it is, I find it too heavy. Living in France taught me to make a ‘sauce’ with fromage blanc, ‘seasoning’ it very generously with cut up roquette (rocket leaves, aragula in the US of A), with fresh herbs from the garden, I squash up a bit of garlic, a bit of salt, pepper et voilà, a LIGHT and lightweight (calorie wise) dressing is ready – I love, love, love asparagus. Sometimes I give ham to accompany it, sometimes Serrano or any other dry cured ham, I also love a spritz of fresh lemon juice into the pan to give it a bit more ‘umpf’, I already had several times fresh juicy and nearly exploding red radishes, toms which tasted like real tomatos…. what a great great time spring is!
    We also put on the heating once more – I have a niece of ours here with her girl friend and they are coming from (over) well heated appartments in Switzerland – I couldn’t let them freeze in our stone house. But soon enough we will wail again because it’s going to be too hot!
    The tulips I cut from my garden are lasting ‘forever’ and are so much more beautiful than the bought ones – My Easter basket of some 30 mini-narzissus is shooting up as if they want to be skyscrapers…. la vie est belle and tastes great!
    Much love from me to you, K

    • I have not read either of these Kiki, but I will have done soon, thanks for the recommendation and I know Roddy will read them too. I like just a small amount of hollandaise, I can’t stand everything smothered in it, but just a little taste is nice, but your dressing sounds delicious. We havent had to put the heating on but it has certainly been chilly. The days are actually fabulous and the sun wonderful, it’s the chilly easterly winds which have lowered the temperature so. If one can find a protected area it’s gorgeous! The winds have actually knocked over so many of our iris, I have been going around the garden today propping them up with hazel sticks! Our tulips are all over, I adore them in the house but we never have enough to cut. We’re enjoying the scent of lilac everywhere in vases. What a fabulous start to spring. Returning the love xxx

    • Love that you are so honest Lisa, I just happened to watch a programme this evening where they made chocolate mousse with sweet potatoes!! It seems there are lots of ways! Hope you have a wonderful end to the week xx

  • What a great post Susan. Made my mouth water! I agree totally about teaching children to cook and about food and where it comes from. Not all Mums and Dads are able to teach their children if they are working full time, helping with homework, getting them fed and washing done etc, but I do think it should be part of school teaching, all through school, with the children of the last years cooking a whole three course meal with produce they have grown or bought at market. It could be a special meal for parents perhaps. Doesn’t have to be complicated, but cooking, along with basic budget management, is, I believe, so important for all children to learn so that they can manage when they spread their wings. As you say, rather learn those life skills than advanced mathematics or more and more IT. Sadly, I can see the powers that be rolling their eyes at our suggestion!!
    This year, we are at the point where we can make our two small raised beds so we can begin growing our own veg. I can’t wait! It won’t be a huge amount, but enough for us. Plus a couple of Miniarette fruit trees and the runner beans will be grown at the back of the main flower border!! I’ll let you know how we get on.
    Love your Wisteria by the way, you are a bit ahead of us in UK, the Wisteria buds are coming and some flowers poking out, but it’s turned a bit chilly lately, although sunny, so everything has slowed down again. Have a lovely rest of the week.

    • Hi Marian, Sadly we live in a world where many people just don’t have enough time to appreciate food any longer and I can fully appreciate the predicament so many people are in. It’s one of the great things about living here, the vast majority of people do still eat as a family and do take the time to enjoy their food and preparing it, having said that, fast food is becoming ever popular here too. So exiting for you with the vegetables this year, you will have so much fun. Or wisteria has been flowering for a month now. Here too it has turned much cooler, if one can get out of the wind it’s gorgeous, but the chilly easterly winds have certainly lowered the temperature this week. I believe it is meant to go away here on Friday! Hope your hens are being good girls and still providing lots of enjoyment. xx

      • Hens not good girls! all gone broody!! Keep putting them out for food and water and then Florence goes back to sit at the top of the ladder looking longingly at the pophole!! Little Boo will come out at the slightest shake of the corn dish and when had her fill, go straight back in!! All 3 sitting cuddled up in the nest. I’ve actually had to buy eggs! Hrrrrmph!! x

      • It’s the warm weather we’ve had! We have two broody hens too, although one of them is sitting on 7 eggs, our first home fertilised eggs, so it should be a full cycle, very exciting. Maybe this cold snap in the weather will get their hormones back to normal quickly! Otherwise there is nothing you can do but continue as you are doing and sit and wait!! Xx

  • I have to share this story about my 4 year old grandson.
    Last summer while playing outdoors at my house, he would go to the pots at the edge of the driveway and help himself to cherry tomatoes when he got hungry. If he was ready for another snack, he would hit the strawberry patch. He could play outdoors all afternoon and never have to go inside. Of course, I would provide cold water for him to drink.

    This Spring, the first nice weather day we had he was playing outdoors at my house and must have been ready for a snack because he headed right for the cherry tomato pots and was very upset to find them empty. He just assumed they would be right there waiting for him to pick when he needed a snack.

    I guess I need to work on educating him some more about exactly how gardening works.

    • I love this story Kim, this is the best way for children to learn to love their fruits and vegetables, nothing tastes so good as it does when it is freshly picked. Last summer if ever we lost our 9 year old we knew where she would be. Sitting cross legged under the grape vines, happily eating her fill! Soon it will be tomato time again and so many other things too. We’ve had a gorgeous spring but a cold easterly wind this week has lowered the temperatures. Your grandson sounds absolutely adorable. xx

  • Wow
    It’s almost all I can say!!
    Gorgeous food, children, home, yard, nature …all of the most important things….in harmony.
    I’m agog… simply put

    Thank you!!!!! For sharing the recipes!!!!!! off to make hummus now!!!

    • Hope you enjoyed the hummus, it is so easy and so delicious, we are quite addicted! A few carrot sticks, some cucumber strips and we have the perfect snack, healthy and just can’t get enough of it! xx

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