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I’m back

1 Jul

I'm back photo

Who would have thought.  The goddam ‘Kat’ came back.

It’s been a bloody long while, so I thought I might re-introduce myself.

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I am Kat and I live in a region in Southern France called the ‘Minervois’.  I’ve been here for nearly 20 years, yet still feel like the ‘foreign’ Australian marvelling at the exotic sights, sounds, smells and tastes of this part of Europe. Which is just as well, because with family and friends so damn far away, there’d better be something in it to keep me here!!  The exoticism… and the Vigneron.  He’s called Benjamin and he’s French.  He’s the reason why I am here and the biggest reason why I stay here.  Together we have a child, a lovely 13-year-old called Lilas (which in French means ‘lilac’).

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Why did I start a blog?  To keep me sane!  Living in a foreign world with foreign ways and customs can be so exciting, so frustrating. And so wonderful. I wanted to record it all down and the more I shared, the more I realised I loved living here and noting down my days and collecting images of it all was a fun way to keep the diary going that I never wrote.

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La Liviniere, Minervois, France

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jardiniere cooking

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Then it all came to a screeching halt.  Why it came to a screeching holt was not just one, but a few major events that took my mind off me, then back to me… events that came crashing, unwelcomed, into my family’s life.

But I’m still here!  And in this time I’ve never stopped watching and observing – even if at one point, watching like a stray cat after a fight with only the one eye open.

 

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No of course this isn’t me, it’s Ryan Gosling.. giving you an idea of me as the stray cat after the fight

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…this is me, x-ray version

It’s been a way of distracting myself, to watch and admire the beauty and lovely ugliness around me and snap images to hold it all for longer.  I didn’t continue with my diary/ blog, but I became obsessed (call it OCD) with recording visually the places and people around me (they are to be found here).   It’s the same kind of behaviour, you could say, as when I first arrived in France; in not being able to communicate with French people, I was forced to step back and observe.  It was forever tiring and challenging, but in watching and listening, I was taking in the extras that surrounded conversations.  Now, 20 years later, I understand much more of the conversations around me, but my eye has sharpened and I love the extras that surround everything.  Recording all of it has been my way of healing.

first collage 2019

So here you find me many years later, back clunking around on the keyboard, sharing scenes and recipes and wines from the Minervois …back to some hopefully interesting conversations with this diary.

Thanks for your visit!

Kat xoxo

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the locals

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at last… my folks came to town!

31 Jul
the aussies came to town

a visit …all the way from home

They came, they saw, we drank – woohooey!

It was meant to have been a BIG surprise, but in the end we knew.  But that didn’t change ANYTHING in the way of how excited I was to have my parents – for the first time in 12 years!!- come and visit us.

My lovely brother had tried as hard as he could to keep it a surprise until the very last but, with all sorts of things popping up on his end and ours,  had to tell us that he was heading our way with two of his kids and da da da daaaa…  Ma and Pop in tow!

Since we moved here 14 years ago I’ve been enormously lucky to have had so many friends and family stay – and each time is so special as you get to enjoy each person on their own and usually over an extended time (hey, this is no quick side trip on the itinerary – if you’re going to travel from one side of the world to the other you’d better make it a decent trip!).  I adore going back to see everyone in Oz, but it can get hectic trying desparately to catch up with everyone at once.  This way, when people come to stay on our turf, I can relish every minute of their company and not have to juggle with a social diary.

So this was Jan and Pete’s – and Mark, Ruby and James’s turn to finally drop their bags and hang out (in the home that my parents hadn’t seen until now!)

I took them to all the places they’d rememebered vividly from twelve years ago,  dined in a few lovely bistrots, cooked my favourite meals for them, introduced them to our mates and even snuck in a few drinking sessions, bien sur,  with Benji’s wines (yes I’ll make it clear you don’t drink the stuff Mum).

I can’t tell you how good it was to have everyone here at last.   I’m still smiling.  Thanks big bro Mark for making it happen!

ps – a word of warning!  there’s a few pics down below, sorry – but hell, this trip was twelve years in the making!

waking up on the first morning

the view on the first morning

lilas' classroom

showing Ma and Pop the classroom

La Cite - aka Kevin

La Cite in Carcassonne – or ‘Kevin’ as we like to call it.
The original hill site dates back to the 6th Century BC, with the Romans fortifying the hilltop in 100 BC. The Visigoths claimed the land from the 5th and 6th centuries. It was held by various different leaders from the 11th century onwards and underwent a complete renovation in the 19th century.

the dunny

an elegant entry to the dunny

inside Kevin

inside Kevin

outside the Cite walls

outside Kevin

buying turkish delight

buying ‘Loukoum’ (Turkish Delight) at the Olonzac market

Acca Dacca rules

the Aussies at the Olonzac market – with a bit of Aussie culture thrown in

l'estagnol

lunch at L’Estagnol in Narbonne

in the cloitre in Narbonne

after lunch stroll in ‘le cloitre’ (the cloister) of the Cathedral of ‘Saint Just et Saint Pasteur’ of Narbonne – built during the 14th and 15th centuries

view from le cloitre

view from le cloitre (cloister)

2CV in Narbonne

a happier Citroen 2CV in Narbonne

dad and junior at the stove

Dad and ‘Junior’ at the stove making the family favourite, Osso Buco (YES Phillip, one more time!!)

mark, lilas and pop

Mark, Lilas and Pop (keep working Mark)

AOP St Chinian

Benji’s juice, Nicki’s artwork…

working hard

working hard on the terrace with Who and the Australian Woman’s Weekly, direct off the plane from Oz

going where?

off to Minerve

minerve

Minerve – this fortified village is perched above the Brian and the Cesse rivers and earliest writings on it date back to the 9th century. It is famous for being a Cathar stronghold until the early 13th century.

Chateau Minerve

Chateau Minerve

dunny view

one of the best views in Minerve – located from the cafe’s dunny.
Love the wallpaper

romeo and juliet on the bridge

Romeo and Juliet on the bridge

fruits of the season

a wine producer selling some other fruit!

swimming in Minerve

a great way to finish the visit… swimming in Minerve

canal du midi

one of the folks’ faves, the Canal du Midi

family portrait

happy campers

Philippa’s Oven-Baked Asparagus

1 Jun
it's almost gone!

oops, missed the photo opportunity this time round – it is THAT good!

I want to share a little recipe with you.  It’s asparagus season here and every year we eat tonnes of it and the way we’ve normally prepared it, is steamed until al dente and served on a platter with boiled egg scattered over the top and then washed over with a mustard vinaigrette (essentially an oil-based sauce with vinegar – to which you can add lemon juice, salt, pepper, mustard etc,  whatever you feel like!).

asparagus olonzac market

asparagus at the Olonzac market

another asparagus grower at the Olonzac market

…more asparagus at the Olonzac market

asparagus carcassonne market

asparagus at the Carcassonne market

We’ve been eating it for years and I’ve never considered preparing it any other way, I like it so much!  That is, until I ate Philippa’s oven-baked asparagus.

Philippa and her partner John have a winery here in the Minervois – Hegarty Chamans – where they make a great range of organic and biodynamic whites (I love their Marsanne Roussanne!) and reds.  Their philosophy of how they make their wines follows into the kitchen.  Philippa is an amazing cook and meals there are a real treat.  It’s like a celebration of fresh produce (often from their ‘potager’/ vegie patch), colours and aromas.   There’s no messing around, just simple, pure flavours blended beautifully together.  And it all feels so healthy! (if I leave my wine consumption out of the equation).    This dish in particular is a beauty.  Thanks Philippa, I’ve been hooked ever since you served this entree of asparagus!

oven-baked asparagus

Oven-Baked Asparagus

Philippa’s Oven-Baked Asparagus

(Yum!  and great served as an entree…)

ingredients:

2-3 bunches green asparagus

olive oil

a good cup full of grated Swiss Gruyere (my favourite cheese EVER) or Parmesan

3-4 dried chopped dried chillies (or 1 or 2 fresh – very hard to find around these parts!)

salt and pepper

method:

chop the ends off the asparagus spears (I never really peel the ends), then rinse and pat dry in a teatowel

pour olive oil into bottom of a good heavy baking dish and swirl to spead the oil

place the spears, then top with the cheese, then the chillies, drizzle more oil and then add salt, pepper to taste

bake in moderate to hot oven (in my old gas oven I cook them on ‘7’) for 30 mins ( or for however long you want, depending on how much crunch you want to leave in the spears)

et voila!  so simple and so delicious!

…and a note on the wine!  Asparagus is a difficult thing to match with wine.  But if you really can’t resist, go ahead and eat them with a dry but fruity white

What the Aussie girl drank

16 Feb
some of the wines drunk

And this isn’t all of them.

‘Oh you’re her father’s girl!’ people always said while I was growing up.    My dad grew up in a country town and was one of ten, 8 boys and 2 girls.  He and his brothers played a lot of footy, took a lot of girls to the local dances (he met Mum at around this time) – and the band of brothers learnt the ways of the bottle pretty early on.  There are many parts of me that are Dad and they’re not all liquid-related  – but let’s just say there’s a tradition to uphold and an annual trip back to Australia requires some catching up.   Thankfully I’ve acquired a bit of Mum in me too in the last few years, but hey, it is Summer and it is once a year.

So yes, I think I am still officially Dad’s girl.

My delicious journey’s list will follow!

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