We spent the past weekend in northern France, in the picturesque town of Montreuil-sur-Mer, with the Mister’s relations. His step-mother has a cousin in St.Remy Au Bois whose family have lived there for 20 years and now run a successful jam-making business. Their high fruit content jam is organic and delicious, delicately packaged up in little jars and sent off to the crisp white linen-covered tables of The Dorchester, Claridges, and St.Regis hotels, amongst others. They live and work in a lovely barn conversion with huge windows, open fires, and lots of dogs, in a bohemian whirlwind of paperwork, packaging and sticky jam spoons.
Long before this visit I had been itching to visit and see the jam farm idyll for myself. I was secretly hoping that we would be able to proffer our services in getting in up to the elbows in jam in exchange for bed and board for a summer (or longer).
This is something how I imagined our future might go: we’d prove ourselves to be confiture-confiseurs extraordinares, lending our marketing and new media savvy to the operation, and the distant step-relations would soon realise that we were utterly indispensable. They would start to plan for early retirement, knowing the business was safe in our hands. We could do all of the grunt work, thinking we were living the good life, and they could retreat to St. Barts or Martinique or wherever, living off the spoils of their genius idea to move to France and entice these poor overworked cityfolk to do their bidding and ensure a steady stream of income into their sizeable pension fund.
And you know what? I wouldn’t mind one bit. I would happily work my fingers to the bone to have what they have. Their peace, their independence, their knowledge of working for something they created and love and believe in.
As it was, the distant step-relations were utterly charming and had thrown their doors open to all of their friends that weekend, both local ones and those from their lives in the UK. They listened sweetly to our excitable chatterings about how well their jams would do in food festivals and markets across London, and nodded politely at us, even though I suspect they already knew what we were telling them. They blanched a little at the sound of an idea of ours to sell some jams for them in the newly revamped Brixton Village, but they took it pretty well, considering they probably haven’t visited Brixton since the 80s, and might still think of it as a hub of iniquity. They even invited us back to stay, so who knows? Maybe that pipe dream isn’t so far away. Of course, there’s still the learning how to make jam bit to cover…a minor detail, mind.
The strawberries I tasted there were the sweetest I have ever eaten. Maybe, just maybe, it was a taste of freedom.