My Inspiration: Escape to the French Farmhouse
It all began with a blue and gold settee I spotted under the boughs of a big tree on a busy roundabout just outside of Bordeaux.
I knew that I wanted to write about France again and in particular lavender. When I start writing a new book, it’s a bit like walking into my pantry in the evening and working out what I’m going to cook for dinner. I know the main ingredient, the country I want to base it on, but the other ingredients come later.
I’ve always loved France. From visiting there as a child on family camping holidays in the Renault 14, to teenage PGL holidays in the Ardeche staying in a chestnut forest and sailing in the med, to finally going to work as a waitress there, in a restaurant in Provence. I love Provence. I spent my 20th birthday there, in a pop up restaurant on the beach. A storm blew up and the restaurant pulled down the sides of the awning. The thunder came and lightening too. The sides of the awning flapped and we ate, drank and laughed our way through. It was a special birthday in so many ways, not least that is was the last one with my Dad and he adored Provence. It will always remind me of him.
So, I was going to write about Provence and the beautiful lavender that grows in the region. It’s used in both savoury and sweet cooking but seems to have gone out of favour a bit. I wanted to find out more about how it can be used in food.
I arranged to go to Provence last Spring with my friend and fellow writer Katie Fforde on one of our research trips. The wild rosemary was growing on all the banks either side of the road as we drove from the airport to our little house for the week. The weather got better and better as we were there. Sunday lunchtime, we were sat in the square eating locally produced Sunday lunch and drinking a gorgeous bottle of rose wine. We visited the lavender museum and had a French chef come to our house to show and teach us how to cook a traditional provencal three course meal, and cook with lavender. It was wonderful. Of course we ate it outside, with the smell of the pine trees around us and the sun on our faces. We walked the market and smelt the lavender sold there, tried and bought the cheeses, the salamis and the olives. It was a glorious week.
So much so, I went back some weeks later with my Mum, taking her back to parts of the Provence she knew well, where she and my Dad had stayed, visiting the lavender fields up in the mountains and her old school pen pal’s brother who lived in the area. Again, we ate beautiful meals in little bistros and drank the provence rose wine. It was another week of making memories.
And as I went to write this book, for some reason, the blue settee on the roundabout kept nagging at me and I knew that it was going to be at the heart of this book. A place where the lavender grows, where people come together, look out for each other and a farmhouse where hearts are healed.
I hope you enjoy your trip to the French Farmhouse in Provence as much as I have enjoyed taking you there.
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