While Eve delved Adam watched and criticised..

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Overshadowed by Eve’s magnificent crop of lavender sits Adam’s humble bowl of wild rocket. The difference in effort and application is clear, but the paltry handful of leaves garnered by  Adam’s scissors produced a fiery summer salad whilst the tumble of lavender still awaits a purpose. On the other hand, lavender is scented and looks wonderful……very like Eve.

Posted in 70's, Cooking, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Garden, Gardening, Herbs and Spices, lavender, Photography, photography course, Rocket, Still life, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 51 Comments

looking for somewhere nice to go for a drink?

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Within a few paces of the garden gate lies a peaceful refuge in the true chauvinist spirit of France. In the baker’s dozen of years that I have passed in this hamlet I have yet to see a female in this “cave”. This is a fact that needs no apology as there is no exclusion, just a distinct lack of interest or desire on the part of the distaff side of this tiny community. It would be similar to excluding me from a football ground as the only way that I would consider entering such a place would include dragging and wild horses.

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On hot days, or indeed cool and rainy days, a conversation started with my neighbour could very well end in the cool of his “cave”. In the cluttered peace of this comfortable shambles we will not talk of sport, tits or politics. We might discuss the level of alcohol in the “épine” that is macerating in a large black plastic dustbin in the corner into which he’ll plunge a small glass and draw up a slightly cloudy pale pink draught for me to taste. We’ll talk of today, yesterday and tomorrow. The racks are full of bottles of nothing particularly special…samples of his friends’ distillations and wines for the most part. Boxes of wine, of the supermarket variety, fill the spaces between trays of apples in the old fridge and are piled up on shelves behind the newly constructed bar. Aside from this simple selection of wine, we have chairs, a table and a lead square on the floor for playing “palets” which leaves very little wanting save for Omar’s loaf of bread and thee.

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Posted in 2014, aperitif, apples, Art photography, Digital photography, Drinks, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, French countryside, friendship, Fruit, harmony, lifestyle, Photography, photography course, Uncategorized, Vendee, Wine, wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

the smell of the cooking, and the roar of the cook….

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I’ve had a quiet day cooking on my own. The cooking was quiet but the peace was spoiled by someone talking to himself. Being alone in the house does not spare me from myself. My mistake lies in turning on the radio which allows uninvited opinions into my kitchen and mind. I very nearly wrote “wireless” which terminology used in relation to our wire strewn house would have been as far from the truth as the opinions to which I was allowing myself to listen. In company, it is polite to consider the worth of another person’s opinion but, when engaged in solitary cooking, there is no right opinion save for one’s own and how invigorating that is. It can be very difficult listening to these misguided opinions over the volume and vigour of my onanistic diatribe, but as each presenter becomes progressively more enraging I have to spur myself on to keep up the tirade. How I love the hiss and boo of one sided argument. In the midst of this onslaught my cooking mind remains calm and focused. Should there be another person, incarnate, in the kitchen during these outbursts, things can go badly wrong. As long as the people remain ethereal I can continue my philippic without burning the cakes.

Today, there were no cakes to burn. Summer cooking eschews cakes, or it eschewed them today as I had a kilo of cherries that seemed hell bent on getting stoned and throwing themselves into a light syrup of  rosé wine. This is a wonderfully simple dish that can be served warm or cold, in crystal or in an empty glass yoghourt pot, and which never fails to please. I have been told by an old wife that cherries are good for gout, so I shall be eating as many as possible. I didn’t confer with the old wife as to whether cooking them in rosé could reduce their anti gout properties…..I knew her opinion would only get me going again.

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This is a very delicious recipe from the pen of Mary Cadogan
Cherries in Rose wine

Posted in 2014, cherries, Cherries in rose wine, Cherries in rose wine, Cookery Writers, Cooking, desserts, Digital photography, Drinks, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Fruit, Humour, Mary Cadogan, Photography, photography course, Recipes, summer, Uncategorized, wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 52 Comments

saying the C word loudly…..CLUCK, OH CLUCKING CLUCK

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I can well understand the clucking of hens a laying and I am in awe of the stoicism that prevents them from declaring more stridently.Just considering the concept of a life spent passing objects the size of one’s head ( one being a hen at this point) is enough to make one, certainly this one, scream “Cluck” at the top of my clucking voice.  Should I have bent gender and ended up in chickens’ shoes, the scarcity of eggs would only be equal to the market saturation of hens’ teeth. However, putting this heartfelt sympathy smoothly aside, there is nothing I enjoy more than a hard boiled egg from time to time. That is not quite the truth…..there is nothing I enjoy more than the idea of a hard boiled egg from time to time.

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This “idea” that gives me so much pleasure springs from early morning visits to bars whilst shopping in the markets of France. Standard fare is a small, chilled glass of Muscadet and a hard boiled egg. Conversation continues unabated as eggs are tapped on the zinc and the mazy, fractured shell is carefully picked away to reveal the ivory tear. Teeth slide through the containing soft coat of white to reveal the golden yolk within. Egg yolks in this “idea” are deep, wet yet set yellow in the middle and crowned with a halo of chrome yellow flakes. It’s the precision of the detail in the “idea” that prevents me from making or eating hard boiled eggs lest they should be less than the “idea”. Eating them blindfolded is a thought, but I’m still left with another problem. There are very few virgin foodstuffs that I find unpalatable but egg white in a boiled egg, hard or soft, is one of them yet I still dream the dream.

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Posted in 2014, Boiled eggs, Breakfast, cafe, Cooking, Digital photography, Dreams, Drinks, Eggs, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Hard boiled eggs, Photography, photography course, Uncategorized, wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

a little peach on peach action…..

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Pêche de Vigne, as a name, would not be out of place on a burlesque billboard.The annual appearance of the flat peach is an event to which I look forward and by which I have never been disappointed. Before moving to France I had never encountered this exotic hybrid of the peach family but I have no doubt that this relates to fashion rather than to rarity. This is a peach by name but not by beauty….to the retailer, that is. To add to the retailer’s displeasure was the fact that this toothsome beauty is very delicate and doesn’t travel well. It does appear that bad science has found ways to make it more readily marketable as I am now accustomed to seeing plastic boxes filled with nonperishable, long life versions of these fruits. It is far too early in the season for local pêches de vigne but I gave into temptation and feasted on some of these delicate fruit which had, no doubt, traveled in an atmosphere of inert gases from points much further south. The taste was a pale representation of the fruit in its full pomp, but it was a good reminder of what is to come.

Having spent some time with these peaches, what I had noticed was the condition of the skin of the peach. “Skin like a peach” is a well worn phrase suggesting beautifully smooth, soft skin. The skin of these peaches was definitely wanting in the smooth and beautiful departments. In the pictures above you will see, on the left,  the skin of the peche de vigne as it is on the shelf. I have applied frequency retouching, as in a cosmetic beauty shot, to those in the picture on the right. Strangely enough I appear to have created a peachy Adam and Eve that I have put into a Michelangelesque version of finger touching creation…how the pêche plate became a pêche phat.

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I can’t wait for the real thing to arrive, in nature’s good time and without the addition of inert gases.

Posted in 2014, Digital photography, Excellence, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Fruit, peaches, peches de vigne, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Photoshop, Retouching, Still life, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

les jolies fesses de l’été….

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When coming out to play the sun takes care to put on its hat but Mother Nature is less coy. The sensual fruits of summer are short lived so their pleasures should be wolfishly enjoyed before their bloom is replaced by putrefaction. Apricot is delicious as a word, a work of art to behold and a sorcerer’s ingredient. When simply heated in a pan with some sugar and a few tablespoons of water they transmogrify into a sweet, sharp  compote to be eaten alone or with creme fraiche or with soft goat cheese. Sometimes I will make a deep cut along the cleavage and put them in a low oven until the fruit opens, releasing the stone. They can then be put into a pastry case on top of a layer thick creme anglaise and glazed with their own sweet syrup. These are fruit to be selfishly gorged on when they are perfect and to be avoided if they are not.

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Posted in 2014, Apricot jam, apricots, Cooking, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Fruit, Photography, photography course, Still life, summer, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 65 Comments

Peaches and dream..

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Something as delicious as a bowl of peaches in the sun is to be sniffed at. The scent that rises from peaches drinking sunlight intoxicates as the flesh beneath their velvet covering softens and melts with the suffusion of nectar making the first bite a hurried hungry affair, often without time or thought of removing their delicate covering.

In the vernacular, the state of peachiness is a superlative which suggests that warm, scented peach eating has been setting minds lasciviously racing since post-Adamite man chose to eschew the mundane apple and give in to the more seductive temptation of peach plucking. So it was with my breakfast today in our small garden of Eden.

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Posted in 2014, Breakfast, Digital photography, Dreams, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Fruit, Garden, Mediterranean food, peaches, Photography, photography course, Sex, Still life, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

Not fooling with my cherry….

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Ripe, red cherries remove my will power and, at the first bite, stir old memories of climbing ladders into cherry trees laden with fruit that looked like jewelry, of finding that all cherries were not red, of delighting in the beauty of nature’s packaging, of hoping the next cherry that I ate would not have a sour note like the last one and the moment of delight when that wish came true but most of all, for me, of realising that however cleverly I cooked them, they always tasted best when eaten in their natural state. I have eaten them in warm puffed up, sweetly sugared clafoutis, poached and served in chilled glasses of rosé, in cobblers, pies and tarts but none taste more ravishing than when taken naked and unadorned.

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Cherries are as delicious plucked directly from the sun warmed branch as they are when eaten chilled, from a bowl in the fridge. Cherries, after a long and arduous summer journey, will still be firm, juicy and in one piece on arrival at the picnic site, the combination of which qualities will not be shared by guest or sandwich. On reflection, “still juicy” is not a quality desired in either guest or sandwich, but is definitely one that is required of, and is unfailingly supplied by, the travelling cherry.

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Eating a bowl of ripe cherries in the shade of a tree on a sunny day is a good moment: such a moment is hard to improve but a cold glass of something along the lines of a German Auslese will certainly not be detrimental. Black cherries are very good too, but more about that another time.

Posted in 2014, Art photography, cherries, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Fruit, Photography, photography course, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 40 Comments

Early days for early walks..

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Early morning walks with my camera are back in my routine. That is to say that I have done it once this summer. Being as it is only the second day of summer this unique outing still rejoices in the title of “routine” which is hard to contradict…..until tomorrow. The light on the morning in question was soft and clear. Summer seemed to have arrived, save for the frisson of chill that loitered in the shade keeping overt optimism at bay, whilst the warmth from the early sun had awoken every perambulating alarm clock whose job it is to discredit the concept of the “peaceful countryside”……whilst laying eggs.

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The hand that penned “Old MacDonald had a farm..” must surely have been guided by a head that was out and about on such a morning. It was with a “moo moo here, and a cluck cluck there” that I meandered along a winding path bordered by hedgerows stuffed to overflowing with fresh wild flowers. The sublimely elegant disorder of nature is soul subduing in its complexity. Looking intensely at tiny pockets of this natural tour de force is one of few times that I get an inkling of what infinity may be.
flowersEach turn of this lane, that encircles the small piece of land in which we now live, reveals something new and fresh to me although I have passed that same spot so many times before. It may be that I pass the spot without seeing or, more credibly, am foolish enough not to invest more of the time apportioned to me in looking in the hope of seeing.

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Posted in 2014, Chicken, Digital photography, Duck, Eggs, France, French countryside, Landscapes, Photography, photography course, Poultry, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

A well turned leg…

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“He’s looking at my legs again…” is the frequent bleat of  attractive young lambs. Having your legs checked out, as a lamb, will mean one of two things: you’re about to become the plaything of a lonely shepherd or you’r changing your name to G.Igot. With blood stained hands I mulled over the misfortune of being born a lamb and carefully reconsidered my stance as a near vegetarian. A near Miss could be defined as the subject of unsuccessful gender changing surgery but there is no doubting the equivocation in the term near vegetarian…certainly in a lamb’s mind, which are apparently delicious too. And so it was that the apologist for aubergines was wrist deep in dead lamb. Racked ( that’s quite a lamby term, I thought) with guilt, I collected bunches of fresh rosemary and thyme from the garden and created a sort of aromatic Viking pyre upon which to settle the lost limb of lamb. Cloves of garlic were crushed with olive oil in a pestle and mortar with the resulting unctuous paste being spread over the skin together with a seasoning of sea salt and black pepper. The wonderful scent of herbs and garlic that filled the kitchen made me completely forget about the little chap in the field trying to balance on three legs.

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Posted in 2014, Cooking, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, gigot, Herbs and Spices, Humour, Meat, Olive oil, Photography, photography course, Rosemary, Thyme, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments