Autumn is trying to come back, pointing its nose through my window. Time for the ultimate comfort food, perfect with the blackberries I gathered at the back of the house … If I have any left, as I can’t stop eating them, I might gently stew a few and pour over my Breton Pan Cakes!
Choosing a bohemian life, I must say, didn’t come without its challenges. Like La Fontaine’s Fables, full of wit, wisdom, “I told you so” and other Jiminy Cricket malarkey, the moral of one of his stories started to sink in. Shortly after finishing the academic machine, I had decided to dedicate my recently free life to pure troubadourism, shared between traditional music one day to rock’n’roll the other. My friend, somewhat wiser, entered bravely the hard working world of restaurants kitchens to become a “Master Crepier” which is basically the black belt of pan cake making in Brittany… Seriously.
The story depicted in Mr De La Fontaine’s bestiary was the one of an Ant and a Cigale (or cicada, cricket like), that incredible insect that colours the musical landscape of Provence and Southern regions of France. The tale depicts the life of a hard working ant and a bohemian “Cigale”. One is prepared for the winter, making good provisions of the summer’s generosity, the other spent it singing and gallivanting… With a monthly income of £200 then, I had to be clever when it came to feed myself; in case you haven’t come to the punch line yet, I was the Cigale in that twisted yarn…
The other morning, I got one of my blurry “flashback in time” moments, as I too, grew up between farmlands and sea. August was a month for salads and every member of my family had their own signature dish, between Dad’s couscous tabbouleh, Mother’s simply sliced tomatoes with chives and vinaigrette or the amazing – yet groovy – tuna, sweet corn, green pepper, hard-boiled egg and rice special of Grand Ma… Summer was intense with freshness and simplicity. I too aspired to greatness to have, one day, my own designer salad… It’s a Breton thing. I came close several times, but yet remained unsatisfied, like the young buck I was. But I seem, the other day, to have nailed it, a salad that would reflect the Irish terroir of the midlands … Here is the recipe A Chairde, and a picture to speak for itself.
This year marks a milestone anniversary for me, I left Brittany twenty years ago, the land of Crêpes and apple ciders for the mythical “Island of Winters” and black beers. Born and bred in Armorica – The Land of the Sea – I could easily have become a fisherman or a lighthouse keeper; as contradictory as it may sound, they both are a form of a calling, a thirst for peace, freedom… Or escapism. Definitely a thirst though! In more ways than one.