Living in Rural France
For this edition of My Story#3 we are going to jump ahead in time, actually to just earlier this month! I promise we will go back and fill in all the interesting gaps but today I want to share with you a story about friendship, building in France and neighbourly love. Earlier this month when I was in France it was a busy time: we built a new garage.
A planned activity…
This was not a spur of the moment decision but rather a carefully planned activity. Our home has not previously had a garage and with each holiday we have said “must build a garage one day”. So plans were drawn up, approval sought and received (over a glass of ‘red’ with the local mayor) and cars measured late last year. Cars had to be measured so that a car hoist could be included in the design to allow two cars to be stored one above the other in the garage and allowing lots of extra space for workbenches and drying of laundry in winter.
It almost didn’t happen…
So then we made plans for our next ‘holiday’ and in May 2016 my husband and I went and built the concrete slab in preparation for the garage. Our friendly French neighbour helped in the process together with our dear French friend Merv who arranged for the delivery of the quick setting concrete. As always not everything goes according to plan: such as when the truck arrives and the driver advises us that he cannot fit his truck down the driveway so cannot deliver his concrete. Well, that was not going to do!
We were on a tight time schedule having now prepared the site and needing to return to Australia in a few days time. Ever resourceful, my husband said ‘lets get rid of the fence and then the truck will fit’. So we ran about crazy getting a sledge hammer and heavy axe and demolished the fence before the driver decided to return to his concrete plant with all our concrete.
So then after getting the truck down the driveway the driver decided once again he could not deliver our concrete because his shute was not long enough to drop the concrete right where we needed it. So faced again with the prospect of not getting our concrete we managed to make him understand we would be happy to shovel most of the concrete ourselves if he could just point the chute at the end of the formed up area. So doning my gumboots and rake I started shoveling while my husband held the small concrete pipe and tried to direct the flow as best as possible. My husband felt terrible not doing most of the shovelling but I was too short to reach up and hold the pipe, and with him standing a head and shoulders above me, this had to be his job.
Our neighbour, feeling so sorry for us came and helped shovel the enormous amounts of sloppy concrete and then even took on the duties of project manager… directing urgent and fast instructions to his two worker bees, as he furiously worked along side us. We were so grateful for his help we just did as told!
Return to Australia…
So leaving the concrete to cure we returned to Australia to resume our work and family lives. The next part of the plan was to have the building materials delivered to the house over the next month ready for our return in August.
Ever helpful Merv and his wife Helen organised for the garage wood to be delivered in our absence and to be waiting for our arrival in August. So the day after arriving in France in late August the building commenced. When on a tightish schedule there is no time to delay!
So you are wondering… where does the Salade Niçoise receipe fit in with this story… yes? Well, read on.
The final stage…
We had wonderful friends who joined us in the build project. Two fellow Aussie families came over to help us for a few days as part of their family holidays so we had a very full house and lots of large meals to make for hungry tired workers. After many extra trips to hardware stores, hiring of trucks, picking up extra food supplies and lots and lots of hard work by everyone, our garage was finished. Yah!
Our neighbours, on the other side of our concreting neighbour, have a large lush vegetable patch or kitchen garden (called potager in French) and this trip we chatted for the first few days in broken French over our fence. Madame Potager (as I named our friendly neighbour) was delighted we had tidied up the garden once again, got rid of the weeds and were building a new garage. As she speaks French with a Breton accent I struggled to understand everything she said and limited my conversation to vegetables, fruit and the food I was feeding my friends.
To show her delight, and I honestly also think she may have thought I was asking for some of her vegetables, she gave us an enormous marrow freshly plucked from her potager. What was I to do with it I wondered. I settled on making a couple of vegetable bakes keeping one dish for myself and giving the other to Madame Potager. I wished to thank her and also I felt badly thinking she may have thought I was requesting some of her vegetables.
So thankful however was Madame Potager for the meal, that we received a huge carefully wrapped linen bundle filled with fresh green french beans the next day, that had obviously been picked whilst we were out purchasing more supplies at the hardware store. Blanched beans fried in truffle oil and garlic where on the menu that night and then we put our thinking caps on, what were we to do with all the rest of the beans… aah Salade Niçoise !!
‘A la Niçoise’ refers to dishes typical of Nice and its surrounding area that contain tomatoes, olives, anchovies and garlic. Have you made this salad before? It is often still debated what should be included in a Salade Niçoise but we made ours as follows:
8 waxy potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
400g small green beans
600g tinned tuna in springwater
300g cherry tomatoes
400g green lettuce leaves
40 black olives
4 tablespoons capers
6 hard-boiled eggs, cut into wedges
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender. Drain, cut into small cubes and place in bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss.
Cut beans into 3cm lengths and blanche.
Drain the tuna, and separate into large chunks.
Cut tomatoes in half.
Arrange lettuce leaves in bowl and top with tuna, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, olives, capers, egg wedges and anchovies.
Make vinaigrette by mixing the following ingredients and then pour over the salade: 1 garlic clove crushed; 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard; 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar; 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil.
This served 8 of us as a generous side salad.
We took a photo of our salade and showed ‘Madame Potager’ who was delighted at both our attempts of Salade Niçoise and the near completion of our garage. Much praise was also given for the choice of paint colour. So, on the day we were packing up the cottage to return back to Australia I took round to ‘Madame Potager’ all our left over food and a number of dishes I had prepared using up our spare food. These ones were ready for her to pop straight into her oven after a busy day in her large vegetable patch. After being invited into the family home and introduced to the whole family, ‘Madame Potager’ rushed out to her conversatory to start cutting huge bunches of grapes for me to take on our journey.
And so farewell…
With much ado and fond farewells we parted once again until we return next time. Fresh produce from earth to table and neighbourly love… this is what living in a French village is all about for me. There you have it, our garage story and the Salade Niçoise recipe. A little taste of living in rural France.
Let me know if you add anything else in your Salade Niçoise, are you an anchovy and olive lover? For more on our story why not read My Story #1 and My Story #2 and follow us on Instagram or Facebook. We would love to see you there!
OUR RENOVATING STORY AS FEATURED ON ABC MORNING RADIO
Our story of renovating the top floor of our house, and building our garage was featured on ABC Morning Radio with Jenny Marchent on 29 May 2017.
To listen to the interview click below:
This post first appeared on a french collection and was linked with #AllAboutFrance hosted by Phoebe @Loumessugo where you will find her entertaining stories about living in the south of France and all the information you will need to stay at her lovely gite located in Roquefort les Pins.
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