Lherm, France was one of Brunyfire’s first stops in her overseas sojourn to re-connect with family and friends and to seek out yet more clay cooking pots for the Bruny Boathouse. This quest obviously featured an awful lot of food – shopping for it (painting by Stef – check her out on Callaghan Prints)…….……..preparing it (chef Mea Callaghan preparing gourmet dinners for English guests within a group of French chalets near Lherm)…….……….eating it and watching it grow. Stef Callaghan is an artist in her own right and a great cook – she’s also Brunyfire’s sister and has the greenest fingers of anyone in the family.
Stef’s garden – just a stone’s throw from Stef and George’s home in the centre of the quaint town of Lherm – is an oasis of fertile production despite the intense heat at the time of visiting. Brunyfire had landed in Bergerac (from Stanstead in the UK in July) to a blistering 40 degree heatwave and if it wasn’t for Stef’s dam, her crops would have suffered severely.The dam features a clever series of rafts, all loaded with various potted plants and herbs which can be hauled into shore for harvesting, all of which are watered from the dam itself by solar powered mini fountains. A small generator services a pump that allows the beds below to be watered by hose. A bed of spuds and sweetcorn – the tomatoes were rampant, and every evening after watering, copious amounts were picked each night, and these would be turned into lunch for the following day.Stef’s garden isn’t just awash with fecundity – chillies galore, the last of the eggplants, a whole new batch of sweetcorn, an experimental patch of potatoes, cuttings in the greenhouse, all requiring plain, hard graft – it’s also a place of repose and creativity. At the top of the hill sits an unassuming little chalet that is used as a sleepover for guests or family…….……..a regular Hansel and Gretal and so cosy inside as to be almost edible.And down below, the remains of an original stone barn is reinforced, part of which is a an outdoor kitchen and dining area. It is in the outdoor kitchen that Stef wields some of her culinary magic…….………from a re-salvaged and ancient cast iron stove where there’s always a welcome cuppa brewing…….……..or a batch of freshly made pikelets and coffee ………………or the latest seasonal greens freshly gathered……………..all of which sit amongst a variety of interesting French kitchen pots.The notion of creating magic in the kitchen, of food as alchemy, is perhaps influenced by the ancient Greeks who used the same word for ‘cook’, ‘butcher’ and ‘priest’ which was mageiros or ‘magic’. Even in the most basic of meals, the most ordinary ingredients can be turned into something else that can tell us about geography, time and place, about culture, history, but best of all, about family.
How magic is that……..