The méchoui was finally ready and as the lamb turned on the spit for the last time, it split open slightly and grains of rice and juice from the ratatouille ran down onto the embers. It took two of them to carry it, sliding it off a pole so big that they could have vaulted with it, before cutting it up and serving it to the masses seated in the shade of the chestnut tree. It had been cooking and smelling divine since 5.30 am and even the drawn-out aperitif hadn’t dimmed anyone’s hunger.
“Word’s getting around” said our chef friend and restaurant owner from Rennes. “I’ve already taken a few orders for you for next year” He paused while he helped himself to a chop, unaware that he now had our undivided attention. “Everyone who bought one wants another, and a good few other people are interested too.”
I caught my husband’s eye across the table. He was already the wrong side of a few glasses of wine and given the droopiness of his eyelids, I wondered whether he had reached memory impairment status. Deciding that he hadn’t, I grinned; we would be able to talk about this piece of good news in greater detail in the evening.
The success of our direct selling venture, after so many years of selling lamb at rock-bottom prices, was still bubbling within us, and had become our favourite over-dinner topic. We had reached our initial target, and boxes of lamb had travelled as far as Brittany, Marseilles and Roussillon. Victory had been declared for our trial-run of “farmer to consumer” and we hoped that we had learnt enough from the slight hiccups we had encountered, to double our orders next spring. To top it all, the butcher who prepared the lambs had taken one look at the first lot we had brought him and then offered to buy the entire batch.
As I dug into my ratatouille, I considered that things were definitely looking up. Our over-dinner discussions however, had recently taken a new turn. Apple picking was now only six weeks away, and like the lambs, we wanted to find an alternative to selling them wholesale. Fifty tonnes of apples though was proving to be a different sort of challenge….