Guest post: Dick Strawbridge, a walled garden, and my need to change…

I would like to welcome back KJ, who last wrote a couple of guest posts in 2013.

Although my partner and I live in Germany, we are able to enjoy British television, compliments of those wonderful discs that sit on our rooftop. One of the shows that I will not miss, under any conditions, is ‘Escape to the Chateau’, with Dick and Angel Strawbridge. If you enjoy good food and French architecture, but have not seen this amazing show, your life is incomplete. They are also two very funny people and down to earth, to boot.

When these two intrepid British souls moved to France, it was to restore an amazing, but neglected, French Chateau, with outbuildings, acres of woods and a moat. Fortunately, Dick is a retired Army engineer and has done most of the work himself, with the help of a few friends and professionals.

Besides building things, Dick Strawbridge’s domestic passion is cooking, and one of his dreams was to find a chateau with a garden, and a walled garden was his ultimate, which he now has, at the Chateau de la Motte-Husson. The secret of a walled garden is how it can be divided into four sections, each one receiving sunlight at a different time of day, throughout the year, allowing for changing growing seasons, in each quadrant. I have to say I have seldom seen anyone quite as overjoyed as he was, when he discovered the garden on the property. Now, he can grow his own vegetables for his kitchen, and he has planted fruit trees, as well as his beginning the cultivation of truffles for his kitchen – and I hope you will have an opportunity to see his restored kitchen.

The ‘my need to change part’, comes from having a body part removed about seventeen months ago (gallbladder), which has altered what I can eat. It was recommended to me that I follow the FODMAP method of eating, which is for persons with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Fortunately, I have been eating in a similar manner, for years. However, there are now some not-so-subtle changes which require an adjustment and I am having to adapt.

First, it is a must that I cut out meat on a regular basis and only allow beef into my diet twice per month, and not on consecutive days. The same for pork and chicken, at this point, as the body does not process meat as well as it did before. I am not a fan of most fish, but, I realize the Mediterranean diet is the healthiest one, so I am going to put a clothespin on my nose and hope for the best. Finding good, fresh fish in the middle of Germany is not easy and I will have to make do with the frozen salmon and such that I can find, locally, for now. The crab meat I wanted for Fiona’s crab cake recipe is nonexistent, in my part of the world. I might try using the prawns I have, instead, as an experiment.

Second, because of the current crisis, the choices in most materials, including vegetables, locally, are inconsistent, much like the paper products, which have been nonexistent for five weeks. Did anyone ever imagine buying toilet paper on Amazon? I’m not saying I did, and I’m not saying I didn’t.

In the photo below, I have gathered the vegetables I am able to procure with some regularity. My challenge is finding ways to prepare them, for either a solo performance, or in tandem with another vegetable, in a ‘new’ way, other than my usual steaming, salting, and peppering – with a dollop of butter. Whatever I do with vegetables, they will likely be paired with prawns, mini frozen shrimp, tuna (canned), or North Atlantic Salmon. All of these I am able to find at our local stores, and I can enjoy, unlike octopus or clams. I have the salad angle covered, with Romaine, one of the sea creatures mentioned, and appropriate additional vegetables. Where my talent suffers is vegetable dishes on the side, in a main course. Ideas are welcome and, if I use your suggestion, proper attribution will be given during the meal. I promise. I may even raise a glass and sing your praise to my fellow diners. That’s a maybe.

15 responses to “Guest post: Dick Strawbridge, a walled garden, and my need to change…

  1. I only really cook halibut or salmon in terms of fish, cod occasionally but that’s breaded, but I can tell you that it doesn’t smell fishy when I make it. I prep the fish with equal parts olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice, then adding salt, herbs, and black pepper over the top. I cook fish at 400 way longer than a professional b/c I am neurotic about not eating under-cooked meat, but I swear it turns out great. Many people have told me my fish is the best fish they’ve ever had and I think it’s just b/c there’s no smell to it b/c I’m not an exceptional cook by any means. Just thought I’d share since you mentioned clothes-pinning your nose :0).

    • That’s great advice for fish-eating non-fish-lovers! And it sounds delicious – maybe the balsamic vinegar is what helps to neutralise the fishy smell? In any case, good news for KJ and his clothes pins!😉

    • Funny enough, that is how I cook my salmon, though I add dill and herbs de Provence for mine, as well as a hit of lemon zest. I have not tried your combination with balsamic vinegar, though. Merci. I will give it try. We had North Atlantic Salmon tonight, with herbs de Provence, black pepper and salt, and a hint of lemon. M doesn’t like a lemony taste, whereas I suck suck on a quarter lemon with absolute pleasure. May I assume your “400” is Farenheit?

    • I did forget to add more to my reply to your message, in that I very much enjoy halibut, mahi-mahi, aahi and other non-fishy fish, when prepared with butter, salt and even some garlic, on occasion. I was once sitting in a very nice restaurant in Laguna Beach, California, after a long business trip, dining on halibut, but with a bottle of Cabernet on the table, not a white. In the middle of my solo meal, a heavily-bejeweled hand appeared on the table in front of me. I immediately stood, to greet the mature woman who was standing in front of my table, and she smiled at me and said, “I admire your courage,” before continuing on her way. I occasionally break the rules, as we all should, on occasion.

  2. KJ – using the vegetables in the photo, I would make a potato and sweet potato purée, adding olive oil and garlic (if just for you) and seasoning with salt, pepper and paprika. I would roast the broccoli, pepper and carrots all together, suitably cut, in olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, adding a few quartered tomatoes towards the end of the cooking time. The wine, I would drink, in moderation of course 😉

    • Your suggestion sounds tasty and worth a try. I may have to make it for myself, as it would seem the garlic is an essential ingredient for taste. As for the wine, with my list of allergies, I am no longer able to imbibe while cooking, imbibe while eating, and finishing off the evening with another glass of the chosen elixir. One before and one during is all I am allowed, so moderation is the rule, today. Thank you for your suggestions.

Comments :-)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s