The next day, I drove back to the restaurant to pick up my two “boys”.

“What’s that?” asked Chef.

“Your taxi!” I replied coolly.

“It’s a heap of metal in a horrible colour.” he replied. “Does it actually go?” “All the way from Brida, near Perpignan. And I drove the scenic route too.” Maurice came to my rescue.

“A remarkable old girl. Your car, I mean.” Well rescued!

”Chef, you get in the back. Maurice, you need to navigate me to this place you are abducting me to.”

“Driver, take as to La Rochepot.”

“But I just came from there!” I protested.

“Where are you staying?” Maurice asked.

“At the Chateau…”

“You mean Arnaud’s place?”

“Yes, why?”

“He does a good wine.”

“I know. Been there, done that. When I arrived.”

Chef said, “Have you met the ghost yet?”

“Only in my dreams, after a bottle of wine.”

“Most unladylike.”, said Maurice.

“Have I dropped in your esteem of me?”

“Not at all.”

“Tell me, then. What would you do if a bottle of wine and a corkscrew await you in your room?”

“The same as you, of course!”

“Well then. It’s OK for the boys, but not the girls?” “Touché. You win.”

“Of course.” I smiled at him, “I always do.”

We finally arrived at the farm. While we were waiting for Jean, I walked around a little. I saw the cows grazing in the field and, just behind it, the castle. Amazing! Happy cows?

Jean crossed the courtyard towards us. A balding man, about 45 years old, wearing blue jeans, a jumper and a sleeveless vest. Everything was accompanied by a big, authentic smile.

He greeted Chef and Maurice. “Chef has new wheels?” he joked.

Maurice grinned. ”No, Jean.” he said.

”This is the new taxi service.” said Chef, “The driver is this crazy woman here.”

”Jean meet Vicky, a « traiteur » from somewhere in the south-west.”

”Where?” asked Jean.

”Brida.” I replied.

”Oh, you are the person who blogged about les rossbeefs and their cuisine?” ”That’s me, yes.” I replied.

”Well, that is excellent. Really pleased to meet you.”

”Likewise.” I replied a little overwhelmed that I would actually meet a reader of my blog.

”So, the farmers know more than the experts?” asked Chef.

”You have to go with the flow. Keep up with the developments.” answered Jean.

”But les Anglais don’t know anything about haute cuisine…” said Chef.

”Then you must read Vicky’s blog. What would you like to see here, Vicky?” he said, turning to me.

”Well, Jean, despite all his prejudices, Chef did actually make a reasonably good Beouf Bourgignan for me yesterday. So, I wanted to see where it all came from. And Chef, before he knew about my taxi and my blog, very kindly decided I should visit you. So here I am.”

Jean turned to Chef and ordered, “OK Chef, you speak with my wife about this week’s order, I will take Vicky and Maurice under my wings and give them the grand tour.”

Chef sighed, “OK, as long as I get my coffee. Is your wife still the charmer she was last week when she made me buy so much?”

Jean smiled, “That’s your problem. Come on, Vicky, let’s go on the grand tour.”

Jean took me to a meadow, before I saw the cows, I was distracted by the castle in the background.

“Oh, so you have a castle here.” I said,

“Jean, yes, it’s the La Rochepot castle. But it was sold, and now it’s closed to the public. So impossible to visit.”

“What a pity.” I replied. “I would have loved to explore it.”

“But, I thought you wanted to learn more about the meat I produce.”

“Of course,” I replied. “You have my undivided attention.”

“I joined my father in 2003 and when he retired in 2016, I took it over completely.”

“How big is the farm?”

“250 ha, of which 163 ha are meadow, 80 ha for cereals and 3 ha for wine and the rest for our buildings. I have a deep respect for nature, so everything is organic. Every year, we have approximately 85 calves, which spend their days in the beautiful meadows, outside in the fresh air. And of course, a view of the castle. I also believe in short food miles, something we started to introduce in 2012. All of us in this area strive to make sure that everything is kept local, and that the meat is mostly consumed locally.”

“So, if I want to buy some from you directly when I am at home?”

“If I have some excess, then perhaps, but usually, everything we produce is sold locally.”

“How did the pandemic affect you?”

“People have to eat, but like many others, we also introduced “click & collect.” But for us, it wasn’t that much of a change. We have been selling to locals since 1996. What is new, is that last year in 2021, a group of about 15 of us got together to create a local producer’s market on our farm. I have the infrastructure and the space. We also work together with the local schools to show the kids where their food really comes from and the way from the calf to cow to the shop. It stops them thinking that the milk comes from the TetraPak.”

“Would you like a coffee?” he asked.

“Yes, good idea.”

We strolled back to the house and found Chef in earnest conversation, laughing a lot with Jean’s wife.

“Your wife is a good saleswoman.” he complained.

“No.” Jean said, “Look at it differently. You are an excellent customer. Aline, this is Vicky, the Rossbeef blogger from the south-west.”

Enchantée”, Aline smile broadly. Are you already registered in our client file?” “Aline”, cried Chef, “you are impossible!”

I decided to go for the attack. “Well, Aline, there seems to be a bit of a problem. Brida is too far away for your “click & collect” and for your client base.”

“Nonsense,” she said, “we can always find a solution if we know that the client shares our values.”

And with that, I was included in the family.

“I looked at my watch. Boys, don’t you need to be somewhere soon?” I said, smiling sweetly

“Chef looked at the clock on the wall. Yes, back to the grindstone.” he grumbled.

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