To be fair, I didn’t really spend two days at a 200-year old French apple farm – I spent two days at an apple farm that is at least 200 years old. And despite some editions over the years, the farmhouse itself was built more than 300 years ago.
Catherine and Olivier, the couple whose children I take care are of, both hail from the north of France, but this week we went to visit Catherine’s family at their charming apple farm. (Is there any other kind of apple farm?)
We arrived late at night after a four-hour car ride from Paris, but luckily there was a full meal waiting for us: arugula salad, jambon persillé and country bread, which we washed down with a healthy dose of red wine. (Or well, I did.)
The next morning we started cooking early to prepare for the birthday party of Catherine’s 11-year old nephew. In honor of the festivities, Olivier made his signature scallops with crème fraîche and mushrooms, which he flambéed with Armagnac. Flambéing is really as simple as take pan off of flame, pour in alcohol and light contents of pan on fire. Who knew!
Note – this lunch lasted more than five hours. We sat down at the table at noon, I took a nap around three and when I came back downstairs two hours later everyone was still sitting at the table chatting over wine. I love France.
The beverages were as good as the food; we drank some of the family’s homemade apple juice as well as some cold and crisp champagne. The family doesn’t add sugar to their apple juice, it’s simply the juice of pressed apples. And it tasted like… apples. And I know this word is starting to become vastly over-used on this site, but it was delicious. As I sipped it my alcoholic mind imagined various ways I could use it in a fall-themed cocktail.
After lunch the birthday boy offered to give me a tour of the apple orchard and barns. As he earnestly explained every detail of how the farm runs, the only phrase I picked up was, “Les pommes sont plus delicats que les oeufs,” or, “Apples are more delicate than eggs.”
I loved learning about their family business, as my dad runs the same company my great-grandfather started in the 1930s. And while gasoline distribution is not nearly as wholesome as apple orchards, family-run small businesses of any kind have a special place in my heart.
The birthday boy then took me to see his 11 cats, though only two kitties came out to say hello.
So what did I do on the farm? Not much. I cooked food, ate food, tasted many varieties of apples and spoke French with the grandmother. And while my French may not be so great, I can say that the time I spent on the apple farm was parfait.