French Photo Diary #7: Autumn In Brittany

A week off of university meant for me heading down to the French house for the last time this year. While I did have some lovely meals out (a few foodie snapshots in a minute) and did a lot of cooking at home, the week for me was really a chance to catch up and regroup. Or, write essays, curl up in front of the fire with all the the university reading I’ll have to do before Christmas (the perks of an English Literature degree!) and for study breaks, going for long, crisp Autumn walks through the country lanes and the forest by the house. 


Our home (which you can see more pictures of I took this Summer here) is fifty per cent an old stone barn with walls that are over a metre thick. Because of this, when the house as been shut up for a couple of weeks, the temperature has dropped and it is pouring down with rain, when you get there it is freezing cold. We’ve learnt to leave the house with the fires already made up ready to be lit, so making everything warm and cosy is the first order of the day as soon as we arrive. Wood fires are basically Autumn/ Winter for me. 


The change in seasons also means, on the most part switching out white and rose wine for red. A big glass of it and this super snuggly jumper I picked up in Madewell in Los Angeles (they don’t have the colourful ones in store this year, but this pretty grey version is pretty similar) are the perfect accompaniments for my class reading. I’m a big supporter of buying real books rather than reading digital editions, but I find loading class books onto my Kindle app for iPad is great as they are not books I actually chose myself, lots of them I would not be reading otherwise, and it makes it a bit cheaper. Fellow English Lit students in both the UK and USA will tell you the sheer amount of books we have to buy – the price adds up! As well as a couple of post 1945 British plays, I was reading Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov, which I would describe as 1984 (which I would really recommend) after it has been put in a blender. It is odd, but enjoyable; it is for my week on totalitarianism. I also read (and need to finish before class this afternoon Main Street by Sinclair Lewis. I warn you, it is very long, but a very good and enjoyable read. I think it is just as important as The Great Gatsby (which if you haven’t you ought to read!) as a novel that really captures America of that period. 


When you walk down the country lanes surrounding our house there are pretty much only five things you can see for miles. Old stone houses. Trees. Fields. Fields full of corn. And, fields full of cows. These gentlemen enjoyed striking a pose for me as I passed. Seriously, they were actually working the camera like pros. 


Do you know how mistletoe grows? Until I moved to Brittany part time, about five years ago now I had no idea where it actually came from. For those of you who are as in the dark as I used to be about the whole process, I can tell you it grows up in great balls in trees. I thought I’d capture a photo for all of you who were unsure. 


So the food. Because this is really a food blog, right? Well…. I ate a lot of steak, crepes and I drunk a lot of red wine. Nothing I have not really pictured here on the blog before, and all of the recipes I was testing at home are incomplete, so I don’t think I’m ready to share them all with you just quite yet. A traditional Breton galette is not really new for those of you who have read all my earlier instalments of my French Photo Diary, but I wanted to share it with you anyway because it was rather delicious; stuffed with creme fraiche and local slightly cured sausage, and then topped with seared scallops and local cider jelly. Bliss. 


Autumn is the time for nuts. Outside the house we have a massive great walnut tree which we get such a bounty from every year. While I was inside battling Nabokov my Mother was out there with a rake and bucket gathering them up off the ground to dry out and crack. If I get a moment around everything else I’ve got to do (you should see my diary in the run up to Christmas, I’ll be very surprised if I make it to December 25th in one piece!) I might have time to have a little experiment and share some walnut recipes with you all. As you can also see, as well as the walnuts we had chestnuts to gather up off of the forest floor. We only got a couple, but we’ve decided to experiment with making things like chestnut puree and liquor next year, after we had a little incident with one of the ones we collected exploding while we were roasting them in the oven! 


Now, my Mother really ought to know better by now than to allow me to take a camera on a walk through the forest where she knows there will be loads of interesting mushrooms for me to spend ages taking in detail shots of. No, seriously, I think she had to put up with me spending about half an hour crouched down photographing the things. I want to do some research into different varieties, because all the women in the forest we see are always gathering baskets of them, but I’m pretty sure these here are not edible! 


I know a fair number of my readers are also university students, so what did you guys get up to in their reading weeks? I got back from France on the Thursday, spent Friday working at Pilgrims Nook and Saturday out Christmas shopping and baking. As I said, I’m really busy in the lead up to Christmas and this week in no exception. I’m debating for the first time at my university tonight, tomorrow I’m going on all sorts of foodie adventures around London you should look out for the week after, and on Friday I’m hoping to shoot the second instalment of my ‘Borough Market Challenge’, so I’d love some suggestions for seasonal ingredients you might want to see me feature. Enjoy!