Rainy Days and Scary Kitchens

It has rained every day since arriving at our third Wwoofing farm in Pleyben six days ago.

Mary-Therese is our host's mother who tends to the hostel-like home where all of us volunteers stay
(we don't stay in the host's home), which has about 12 beds. If you go up the stairs loudly after 10pm, the next morning, you will receive a surprisingly acrobatic charade-like demonstration from Mary-Therese about how the sound woke her up.
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·       Work begins at 8am every morning, six days a week. Hours range from 5-6 hours a day.
·       Added to this, volunteers must prepare their own meals and the meals for our hosts.
·       There are about 12 mouths to feed at any given time.
·       All meals are completely vegetarian. 
·       The only time we can use the oven is during bread-making day, on Friday.

Now, let's have a look at the kitchen:

There are five main ingredients provided upon which we can base our meals:
·       Last year’s wrinkled and sprouting potatoes
·       Zucchini
·       Pasta
·       White rice
·       Quinoa
       (There are a handful of other random additions to help you plan a meal, notably last year’s   
france goat cheese
Teaser photo! This might be an image of the endless goat
cheese that we make and consume...
       onions and six seasoning spices)

On the bright side, there is an unlimited supply of at least seven wonderful things:
              ·      Olive oil from southern France
              ·      Raw goat milk and cheese (!)
              ·       A variety of homemade breads
              ·       Apple compote and peach jam
              ·      Lettuces from the garden
              ·      Red lentils

On the not-so-bright side, there is a relatively nonexistent supply of the following:
·       Eggs
·       Vinegar of any type
·       Anything spicy
·       Fresh fruit
·       Tomato products
·       Garlic

The refrigerator, you may guess, is essentially bare, and visits to town are difficult with the rain, a lack of free time, and the 45 minute round trip ride on one of two rickety, rusty bikes. We are lucky to sometimes come upon some random items that previous Wwoofers have left behind.

I am in a sort of paradise. And it doesn’t make any sense. But it’s true.

You see, John and I arrived on a scene in which 12 mouths need to be fed, but nobody really likes the idea of actually cooking for 12 people. Hell, it’s intimidating. It’s intimidating when you have a fully stocked kitchen. This was beyond intimidating.

Enter, Chowgypsy.
garden slug
Trust the gal who dresses like slugs and then tries to kiss them
It didn’t take long for me to worm myself into the position of honorary head chef, and the real beauty is that the volunteers seem to be so tired and despondent from  excessive intake of mashed potatoes and vegetable soup that I really doubt I could go wrong. But nevertheless, I aim high.

I’m going to show this bare-boned kitchen who is boss.
You and me, olive oil, we can do this.
artichoke on the stalk
Artichokes, I invoke thee
So, in the passing of six days, with the only variation in the aforementioned ingredients being a few surprise stand-ins, not a single meal in 12 has been repeated (this is excluding our bread, jam, and cheese breakfasts). And you know what? The food has been quite good. Having a kitchen full of able-bodied and diligent fellow volunteers to help, this is the closest I’ve come to being a small-scale chef, and boy does it suit me.
bretagne wwoof
Why wouldn't you trust us with your meals?

But the best part is my sous-chef. In the time I’ve known John, he’s shown his ever-augmenting ability to read my mind in the kitchen. He cuts the blasted onions. He senses oncoming mental implosions and prevents them. He washes the stupid, stupid dishes. And on top of that, he’s quite the chef himself. The guy has a palate. 
I couldn’t survive this farm work and this kitchen duty without him. I would crawl into that oven (you know, the one we’re not allowed to use) and while away the hours thinking about gratins and baked chicken thighs, probably shedding a tear every hour or so. It’s not that the farm is so bad, it’s just that I need good food if I’m going to be volunteering 30 hours of my life per week. I need good food when I'm not volunteering at all. Life is too short to not eat well. 

Getting caught up in the hubaloo of mealtime, I've forgotten to take pictures, but managed to snag a couple so far.
zucchini salad
Zucchini "ribbons" and thinly sliced  turnip with sesame mint dressing
red white and blue
Red, white, and blue pancakes for 4th of July!
The white is our faithful friend, goat cheese.
Stay tuned, because this is going to get interesting. Bread day nears, which means we have one day to squeeze in some oven-friendly meals while making about 30 breads in the huge brick oven!

I'll leave you with some pictures of our lodgings, which are adorable.
france wwoof
Up to the storage loft, where undoubtedly you will find lots of wool
cat bretagne
Gratuitous cat photo

The view from our bedroom window of the various "barns" that are used for storage and animals
wwoof domaine bio de kerjean
Our bedroom, I must say, is quite lovely

So there you have it. Would you survive a kitchen like this? Do you have any special meals you'd make in the situation?


  1. I love reading your blogs, Meggan!!!

  2. Oh, this is Amber Wilson by the way!

    1. Yayyy, I'm so happy that you're reading! I had a dream last night that I met up with you at a beach somewhere! Maybe that means you and Whit should come learn scuba diving from my boyfriend this winter on the red sea in Israel?? We'll be there Sep-Jan!

  3. Even though youre a hamster, it would seem a vocation is on the horizon?

    good on you to cook miss meggs! (and with such rudimentary equipment and lack of ingredients)

  4. I was thinking slave labor didn't sound so bad after all....until I read no garlic.

  5. Diced potatoes flash fried in olive oil with sea salt and pepper sprinkled with parmesan and cilantro. Sophisticated foodies have been know to survive for months on this healthy dish.

    1. 40% of those ingredients do not exist here...come on Uncle Mike...

  6. Whoa! The slugs are neon orange in France?

  7. What would uncle jesse do in a kitchen like that?

  8. I'm pretty sure I left some:
    -Almond meal
    -fish sauce
    -chili sauce
    -real soy sauce

    hanging around in that kitchen. Go looking for it! If all else fails, cook up a big batch of rice in morning, and let it sit in the fridge without a cover for the day. In the evening chop up all the veggies you can think of (there should be ginger... if not, tell J-Y to buy some), sautee those suckers, and throw the rice in. Mix some of Michelle's tahini with some of the soy sauce... and shBAM you got yourself fried rice for 12 hungry wwoofers. And Michelle can eat it too... provided she's still eating these days.

    We also did well with gnochi of all sorts, (you can make a cream sauce with all the herbs in the garden... do you know where the sage, thyme and rosemary are?), making curries with some of the freshest cheese mixed with fresh milk to thicken the sauce, and green bean casserole...of sorts...on fridays.

    good luck!




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