Mother Chef in the Tarn

Ladies and gentleman – may I introduce the lady who made all of this possible: my mummy.

Not only my mother and undoubtedly my biggest supporter, she’s also the greatest source of cooking knowledge throughout my life and a humbling reminder that no catering challenge is too much (who else can single-handedly throw a gourmet birthday party for 110 without batting an eyelid?)

In addition to being a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen (not to mention other talents), she’d give Apollo a run for his money in the sun-worshipping department and, on her first morning here at Le Manoir de Raynaudes, she had turned towards the sun and stripped down to a bikini before I could utter “Piz Buin”.  Between murmers of “Uh!  It’s heavenly here” and “Ooh, my wine seems to have gone down rather quickly” (and this from a supposed lightweight), we did manage to fit in a bit of culture (Albi, Cordes, Najac – you know the drill – plus Puycelsi, St Antonin and St Martin-Laguépie) and some lovely food, including a loooooooong supper at our local, Auberge Occitane.

After six glorious days, she was gone, leaving Peter and Orlando in awe of my brilliant mother and me missing her hugely.  I climbed one of our cherry trees the morning she left and, as I remembered the kilos and kilos of cherries she’d stoned for me while she was here and I looked out across the fields towards the Pyrenees, I thought of her oft-used phrase: “It’s not a bad life, really.”  So true.  Come back soon, Mummy.  You fit perfectly into my idyllic little Raynaudes existence.

A taste of home and a bit of culture

Although life here is about as good as it gets, what I really miss are my friends and family, so I was seriously excited about the arrival of my great friend Gaby and her lovely mum – my first visitors since I arrived.  After all the photos and  weeks of hearing about where I’m living, what I’m cooking, who I’m working for (and, let’s face it, the pool I’m scrubbing), it has been wonderful to actually have somewhere here so they can experience it for themself.  And I think Le Manoir did itself proud – I certainly hope so, especially as Gaby was hear to write an article about us for the Telegraph.  So, as well as feeding them to within an inch of their lives, we thought it was essential to fit in a bit of local culture, too…
First stop was Albi, to visit the huge, brick cathedral and the Toulouse-Lautrec museum, as well as lunch at Epicurien, a wander around the old town (confusingly reburbished in the mid-80s) and a browse of the shops.



 




The next day we visited two of the prettiest local bastide towns: Cordes-sur-Ciel in the Tarn and Najac, in the Aveyron.  Amazingly deserted, we had the place to ourselves, which made for an eerily quiet, but very peaceful stroll.











A visit to Le Manoir wouldn’t be complete without a lounge by the pool – and then came the only miserable part of their stay: it was time for Gaby and Dixy to leave.  Rather appropriately, it didn’t stop raining for 24 hours after they left…