Some time ago I watched a TV program about Rock Stein floating down a canal in France on a barge.
I must say, I was rather taken by all the visits to small gardens and little farms in the south of France where so much food is still produced by families.
We’ve lost that, if we ever had it. When I was young, just starting out after leaving Art School, I spent 2 or 3 years traveling around, mostly in NSW, building kilns for potters groups. I saw a lot of the country. I was working mostly on farms, for farmers wives. (They were the potters). Those farms out in the west of NSW were huge. Often 4,000 or 5,000 acres, run by a father and son and the two wives. Broad acre farming using huge machines. Mega 4 wheel drive tractors as tall as a house with tyres taller than me and ploughs and combines so wide that they had needed to install double wide gates to get them in and out of the paddocks. They had an arrangement to fold-up the outrigger arms, so that they could just fit through the extra wide double gates. The harvesters were even bigger. When traveling from farm to farm block on the narrow country roads, they took the reaping head off and towed it behind them like a long trailer.
I loved working on those farms and meeting and working with those straight forward, down to earth people. For a short time I even considered being a farmer. However, at that time I would have needed quite a few million dollars to buy into such a farm. That completely put the thought out of my mind. I would have had to inherit a farm like that. No one could afford to buy one. With long working hours and poor returns, it just wan’t feasible. I was unable to raise a $10,000 loan from the bank as a home loan to buy a few acres. They wouldn’t even lend me a cent. Nothing, zilch. I had to go to the fringe market, and then I could only raise $5,000, but at a premium interest rate of 23%. Can you believe that! The off market interest rate was 23%! Extortion, but that was the reality in 1976. People today are concerned about 6% interest. 10 years later in the 80’s we bought the vacant block of land next door and had to pay 17.5% interest for that. Such is life.
Back to Rick Stein and his French holiday on the barge. I really enjoyed watching that show. It re-kindled all those thoughts of French food and landscape. Janine and I were very lucky to get a few jobs in Europe a decade ago, before Covid. We worked in Switzerland, Germany, The UK and of course France. They were wonderful experiences. I loved the people that we met and got to work for and with, the different foods that we were introduced to and the different landscapes that we drove through. We really loved our time there, so this short TV series of 8 or 10 shows traveling across the South was enjoyable entertainment. I even tried my hand a making the prune tart that he demonstrated in one of the episodes.
We have a load of squash and zucchinis coming on at the moment, so we have to think of ways to enjoy them every few days. This time around I decided to do a zucchini bake with tomato passata, garlic, olive oil and a sprinkling of cheese on top. 20 mins in the oven at 180. I suppose that I should have used Parmigarno cheese, but I don’t have any at the moment, but there is some ubiquitous Cheddar in the fridge, so that is what I use, with loads of fresh picked basil leaves.
It went down a treat with our guest, almost nothing left. It was this image that made me think of Rick Stein. How his director/producer, the late David Pritchard, used to take a shot of the knives and forks being dropped onto the empty plate at the end of a meal. Well, this is my Pritchard shot.
I got interested in Pritchard and Steins working arrangements after seeing a short one show doco of the behind the scenes filming and interviews made by another crew who were on the barge at the same time. Apparently it wasn’t all plain sailing and bonhomie. In fact quite the opposite.
“A condensed look at Rick Stein’s journey from Bordeaux to Marseille during the making of ‘Rick Stein’s French Odyssey’ including his favorite dishes along the route and behind-the-scenes DV footage of the highlights and the trials and tribulations of such an undertaking.”
I decided to read both of their auto biographies.
Having read both books, I didn’t think that much of either of them as people. Wish I hadn’t read them actually. I rather preferred the illusion and the romance.
I looked out the window and there are 17 wood ducks relaxing on the lawn. Peaceful and tranquil. A lovely idyll.
I make a coffee and eat a slice of tart, then I bake some rock cakes, and everything is all right and life is back to normal.