I moved to France last November, so this has been my first summer in the Charente. Before moving here I lived for many years in a top floor apartment on the edge of Stirling in Scotland. We had fabulous views of the mountains and the volume and light in the flat, created in an 1830s textile mill, was fantastic.
Moving to France gave us the chance to live in a traditional Charentaise “long house” with a garden and a “potager” (a vegetable plot).
Here’s a photo of yesterday’s harvest. We don’t have a large potager, but look at this!
What a photo can’t convey however is taste. The taste of vegetables straight out of the garden is something else. The yellow courgettes are a relevation to me. I could really take or leave courgettes up till now. These fresh yellow ones are like something I’ve never tasted before.
We’ve tried a range of varieties of tomatoes this year and they sure would all fail the supermarket standards of shape and size but, wow, what the supermarkets are missing out on! Turns out flavour trumps size and shape by a long, long way. I didn’t know tomatoes could taste this good. I didn’t know tomatoes could taste this different!
Finally, look at the huge, red chilli peppers. For some reason, fresh chilli peppers are not easy to find in this part of the world, and we were advised that whilst they might grow outside here, they wouldn’t have much taste. The advice was correct in that they sure do grow outside here. Our chilli pepper pland has produced these beauties in abundance, and there are many, many more just waiting for a bit more sun to turn this glorious red. But the advice was definitely wrong about taste. They could blow your head off! Zinging with spice!
My general theory of a good diet has been pretty similar to Michael Pollan’s food rules – “eat food, mainly plants, not too much”. But one of the things he misses in those rules is flavour. And is there any better reason to eat something than that it delights your palate?
So, what I’d add in is, try to eat food which has traveled as short a distance as possible from where it grew to your plate. When you do that, you get the following –
- food which is the freshest it can be
- food which has had the least amount of processing
- food which has the greatest variety of sizes and shapes
- food which is most likely to be seasonal
I reckon that, depending where you live, you might not manage this “rule” – let’s call it “advice” – too often, but you know what they say – “every little helps”.
Oh, the other thing I think that Michael Pollan’s food rules miss out on is where you eat and who you eat it with. There’s more to food than “fuel” or measurements of constituents – so much vitamin whatever, such a percentage of protein, fat, carbohydrate, and so on – food’s to be enjoyed, savoured and shared, as well as digested!
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