A Rendezvous with Grrls, Some Meat & the Gascon Spirit of Sharing…

If you’re my facebook friend or like my Kitchen-at-Camont page then’ you’ve seen the cleaver and board headline floating around for Grrls Meat Camp this month. The event is the manifestation of several simultaneous ideas that blossomed over a year ago, when I explained why it was important to teach and share experiences with other women working in a the meat end of the business. I envisaged a time and place where we ladies could come together and teach each other, encourage one another and share our good works as well as have a good time in the French countryside with like-minded grrls. Last year 12 grrls showed up here.

Informal and fun, outside and with a kitchen, a night of bonfires and stories, lots of good food. That sort of sums of Camont most of the time. I have always thought of myself as Camp Director as students and guests come and go through the revolving French door known as Camp Camont. Grrls Meat Camp is an outreach project of my life here in Gascony.

Earlier this year, some of the grrls kicked around the idea of hosting Grrls Meat Camp in the U.S. to make it more accessible to more, we leaned on Kari Underly and Kathy Skutecki  in Chicago to be our ‘grrls on the street’. After diligent research and an amazing cross referenced Excel file of Camps in the Chicago area, Kathy came up with our camp location. Kari’s been sourcing the meat for ‘workshops’ and planning our Thursday night Rendezvous in Chicago. Fifteen grrls have now signed up, from Alaska to DC, Boston to Los Angeles; This year a few smart sponsors are sending there best grrls to represent them. Some are bringing meat, desserts or wine for the ‘friday night edible show & tell’. I’ll be bringing my Gascony-in-a-Box kit: beans for cassoulet, duck fat and armagnac, of course!

We’ll come together to share our work, learn and en-coeur-age each other in the spirit of my Gascon neighbors who have opened the doors  to the students who have passed through my kitchen doors. This year we are hosting two students on money donated by a former student as well contributions from the Original Grrls. Spreading the word and sharing are part of the Gascon spirit of generosity I invoke as we get together to discover who’s who at this Rendezvous. The rest of the weekend grows from this open place.

For those interested in the Next Grrl’s Meat Camp or would like to help sponsor a grrl to attend, just put your name on the mailing list by making a comment below or send me an e-mail at KatedeCamont (at) me (dot) com.

See you all in Chicago for the Rendezvous!





Midsummer = Fete de St Jean + making Vin de Noix

Midsummer days…

Today is the Fete de St Jean. It is a time for piqune-niques, village parties, birthdays, and blazing towering bonfires.

It is also the time to make Green Walnut Wine. Vin de Noix.

I wrote the recipe in my book and here.  The first thing I will make when I get home on Wednesday is a big batch to fill my old glass bonbons. The walnut trees are laden this year and the Camont crew are a thirsty bunch so I’ll be scrapping together several liters of Gascon moonshine to add to the deep rosé in which to macerate… green walnuts and leaves.

The tannic, spicy mixture is ready by the first cold weather. We’ll wait until winter to taste the mid-summer fetes. I’ll wait until we light our first fire in the Jotul stove this year.

In the meantime, it’s the long light evenings of summer that are calling me and all the village night markets, friends and fetes to come. This is us… just celebrating life in Gascony.

Bonne Anniversaire JAM!

 Summer table at Camont by Ms_G.


French Summer Fun at Camont

What were we doing last year at Camont? It was a big year for cherries, gatherings and a lot of cooking. This year the cherries are less abundant but the spirit of summer cooking makes up for it. We (Felix, Steph and I) are foraging the farthest corners of Camont and finding: some cherries for vinegar shrubs, the last of the elder-flowers for sirops, tender grapes leaves to brine, roses for Turkish delight,  and ever present nettles for tea.

I love these iPhone pics that Kate Fletcher took last year as Dorothy from Jauntsetter  and I made a version of my favorite Goat Cheese Tarte with Olive Oil pastry laid on a bed of grape leaves, topped with olives and walnuts. Like a giant Gascon Dolmas, it fed our ever expanding party accompanied by a pitchers of cold Rose and icy Pastis.

Take a look around your garden or neighborhood and see what you can find. I call it Frontdoor Foraging.  Here’s the schedule of Summer events at Camont!

  • July 2-6         Summer School Basix. Think of Camp-4-Cooks! join a small group each morning in the French garden and kitchen for a few hours of cooking fun. Day Camp or Sleep Over. Just 600 euros per person- for five half-days including lunch.
  • July 13-15     Food, Foto & Fun!  This is a overlapping weekend- our serious Natural Light Natural Food photography workshop with Tim Clinch AND a light-hearted tribute to the Bastille Breakout with Summer Breakfast Camp Cook-up.
  • August 4-5  How to Bake Bread with Em.  This is the only French workshop offered by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou and based on his award winning book. A perfect time to earn your real bread badge.
  • August 11      Kate’s Keeping Kitchen.  A one day introduction to filling your French pantry with summer sun in a jar.
  • Private Day Classes are available each week upon request- for more info click here!






Thanks to the lovely Kate Fletcher for the lovely pictures!

Leave a comment

le weekends at Camont: the friends sessions

Remember those special times when Bob and George and Willie got together and jammed all night? Or the Duke dropped by with his entourage for a mid-summer masquerade fest? How about when your favorite friends showed up with a hamper full of goodies for an impromptu pique-nique on the terrace? Put them all together, pop open a box of cold Pink Wine, and join me in celebrating the French Summer with old friends and new… at Camont!

Pop over for a weekend to bake, i-shoot & can to your heart’s content with some of my best friends. This French Summer I am booking out the Gypsy Caravan for friends only- those mad, special creative and talented friends of Camont.

Le Weekend #2,  August 4 & 5 with Emm at Camont.

 “How to Make Bread”– A 1-day bread making workshop with Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, a.k.a. Em, based on his best selling, award-winning book.

Meet Emmanuel. Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. Just call him Em.

Em lives with his family in Hastings on the South Coast of England. Originally from South Africa of a Greek family, he bakes. And bakes and bakes. And now, he teaches you to bake, too. Join Em at Camont in Kate’s Kitchen to discover the journey of good bread using organic local French heritage wheat and Em’s fool-proof, easy techniques. You’ll go home smiling with the knowledge that you too, can make good bread. Who else is coming over for a weekend? 


it’s all about the buzzzzz: NEW working grrls-at-Camont

Oh Honey!

Beekeeping-at-Camont, Round 2.

A couple summers ago I trapped? caught? coaxed? a wild swarm to move into my waiting hive- la ruche. I savored the summer apiarist antics while discovering the sweet taste of Camont, letting the garden wild up, and learning from my favorite beekeeper- Narcisse Ferronato.

The winter was hard, the swarm was fickle, bee mites attacked and the bees were all gone by the spring. Like many new things I’ve attempted- making charcuterie, growing a garden, and driving an 85 foot barge- you don’t always get it right the first time around. Part of the ‘getting it right’ (or just getting it done) & part of growing up (and older) that I’ve practiced at Camont is learning that once is for dilettantes. Pros work, create, and practice all the time. (Sorry, but cooking once a weekend doesn’t make you a chef!) So at the end of last year, I took my sorry/sad/empty ruche to Narcisse’s small bee farm underneath the Chateau Madaillan and left it with him to over winter for some loving care. Today I picked it up- 3/4 full of fat honey and healthy bees and ready to welcome them back to Camont’s bounty. I am ready to begin again and really learn to keep bees. So what’s bloomin’ at Camont?


Camont: Sunday morning thoughts about a farm- circa 2011

When I was a girl, my mother used to scold me for my messy room with- “when you grow up, you’re going to have to be rich so you can have a maid!” Such prophetic words, Mom. I am the maid. Today, I try to reach those two story cobwebs that sway in the breeze from the cheminée’s draft. Later, the kitchen baking area gets a rehab with a new deeper shelf for storing spices and new lights (enfin!) for over the whole work surface. Then, if I survive this without electrocuting myself, I’ll celebrate by hanging the winter curtains in the doorways… a bit late but better than never!

It’s not all foie gras and glamour down on the French farmette. While we’re at it, let’s set the record straight for those who have never visited me at the Kitchen-at-Camont.  This is where I live- Camont 47310 Ste.Colombe-en-Bruilhois. See that ‘A’ in the center of the map? That’s Camont- circa 2011. You can see the Julia Hoyt, the barge I’ve lived on for 25 years on the canal. But now it’s all about Camont which covers in this new century a little over two-acres of land in the form of a bow tie with the cluster of house, barn and ruins as the knot in the center. The canal and its towpath form the straight line to the north, while each side stretches out to the curve of a one lane road called the ‘Chemin de Picadie’ to the south. The east wing is the shady parc, potager, garden shed, orchard chicken yard and summerhouse; the wild west is a tangle of old ash trees and oaks sheltering the lavoir and cold spring- the fontaine. The whole is surrounded by my farmer neighbors’ fruit orchards- apples, peaches, pears, kiwis, and fields of sunflowers, wheat and corn. Camont is cradled south of the bend of La Garonne that defines the northern limits of mythic Gascony.

[tylr-slidr userID=”49767366@N00″ groupID=””]http://www.flickr.com/photos/49767366@N00/sets/72157625886535002/[/tylr-slidr]

In 1724, Camont was a hard working farm with oxen for tractors and fields stretching to the Garonne River; it sported many barns, stables, and outbuildings as well as a hamlet of river rock and brick houses for farmworkers. Now, the heart of that historic and long gone Camont serves as an extended cook’s potager, herbier and medicinal tea gardens; a living pantry where laying hens, meat chickens, ducks, and the occasional sheep help keep me focused on what it takes to produce good healthy food- work. Camont is a culinary retreat where daily, conscious, and diligent hard work produce good Gascon food. Today, nearly 300 years on,  Camont is my own personal expression of a living pantry, an ongoing design project, and especially, a hands-on celebration of seasonal food… in and outside of my Kitchen.


Sunday Grasse Matinee- hatching ideas

working girl

I love it when I feel I am in the middle of something. It doesn’t happen often being a bit of a “living on the edge” sort of person- in all senses. But when it does, I feel that delicious “a-ha!” moment welling up out of my back brain and jumping out of my mouth onto The Keyboard.

  • A-ha! Locavorism is my way of being a lazy bum- what’s growing outside the door? dandelions? rosemary? rosehips?
  • A-ha! Organic Gardening is also wonderfully lazy, no schedules to follow for spraying or bottles of poison to sort out by use by date.
  • A-ha! Canning & Preserving in small batches is fast and easy. 4 jars of quince here, 5 jars of salsa there; faster than going to the supermarket.
  • A-ha! Butchering & Charcuterie making on the farm with artisan French butchers is part of the yearly cycle here.
  • a-ha! Farm-to-table does work when you live surrounded by fertile fields in a wealth agriculturally based society. “France” in a word.
  • A-ha! Urban farming works as long as you have Wi-Fi and can Google “mysterious chicken diseases”.
  • A-ha! The Back-to-the-Land movement I joined in the 70’s on Lopez Island, WA never went away, it just got better music.

So when the I see this big kahuna wave swelling around me,  I’ve been sitting on my long French board for about 20 years, it makes me want to start paddling faster and faster. Catch that wave now! And at last, I can be the #1 Surfer French Farm Queen-Dudette in town.

This week’s wave is all over the web on blogs and news sites. Kim Severson writes an article at the NYT  about  some of the of the problems people are having raising chickens in an urban environment. And today, Alex Williams writes about the new “do-it-yourself butchery” taking place around the country in shops, cooking schools and well as bars. Like preaching to the choir, I want to join in and shout Amen! or Hallelujah! After all, I learn by doing, too. And while I want to encourage and applaud these Good Food neophytes, I want to bang them on the head, too.

EF'S piggy snout

Like parents that think Easter chicks are cute- for a week, I imagine those chickens abandoned by someone who found out that a living breathing animal eats, poops and needs attention just like we do.  I think about the wasted meat not cooked from that lovingly raised porker by someone whose stomach was turned by the smell of too much raw meat or the serial killer smell of fresh blood. I know some of that good meat will end up in the garbage uncooked. I know what happens not just because I see it when fresh students and interns show up in France all starry-eyed or because I have years of experience of sheltering the delicate Gourmet-reading gourmand from knowing too ‘much ado about foie gras’, or the ‘truth behind truffles’.   I know what happens because I, too, have been there. And I am willing to admit it.

le Porc

I’ve learned a lot these two decades of eating France. Yet, I still have a lot to learn.  About Charcuterie- did you know that the age of the pig (minimum 12 months) affects the acid level produced in the meat muscle and thus affecting the quality and curing of the jambons, saucissons and chorizo?  I didn’t either until this summer when Camas D., Jonathon K. and I sat down at teh lunch table with the Brothers Chapolard for a Q&A about their pig farm and artisan charcuterie operation.  About Chickens- after a year with my own layers  (11 hens- 1 rooster) and losing a couple to neighbor dogs (including Bacon the teenage gangsta pack member),  I am soooo glad I have chicken-raising neighbors who coached me through my first crisis (one too many rooster) and told JK and me exactly where to stick the knife. The Coq au Vin was as good as any I have cooked and eaten.

Interested to learn more? Not on the web but live and in person with people who love their food and make it too. It’s easy this winter. Come to France (air fares are looking good, children!) this November (read about it here) or meet me in the North West this New Year 2010 as  I pack my Gascon bags with lots of ideas and tons of experience on making cassoulet, rendering duck fat, confit and natural foie gras with Neal Foley on his Podchef Island and Robert Reynolds at his wonderful Chef’s Studio in Portland.

Now about that wave… let’s keep it swelling. There are a lot of delicious rides ahead.

Leave a comment

The Golden Egg- chicken love.

These warm fall days inspire lots of things- flanning along the canal, browsing old magazines, sorting the summer pantry… but real work? No, thanks. I’ll look around and stay outside to do some garden chores.

It’s been dry since April.  I know this fair weather won’t hold much longer. Rain is sure to come. The chicken coop needs some end of season love and weather proofing,  so it’s off to the tool shed, hammer, nails, screws and ingenuity in hand. The best part is getting to spend an hour with the girls, clucking and clicking as they scratch, peck and lay their golden eggs.

With Julia preparing some winter crop beds, we’ll turn the flock into the potager and let them give us a hand. Should be a slugfest frenzy!

[tylr-slidr userID=”49767366@N00″ groupID=””]http://www.flickr.com/photos/49767366@N00/sets/72157622500601322/[/tylr-slidr]

One Comment

Playing summer games- the new Kitchen Game.

X's and O's tic tac toe

New site, same old blog? I hope not.  For me as well as for you, this fresh clean site for the Kitchen-at-Camont is as much a sign of the time as the Julie & Julia film. Old world cook meets new world cook-sort of.  My old world tilts a little. The French Kitchen is now my new world- the Kitchen at Camont.

What’s changed? Why the change? There is a new game afoot. A fast paced, catch-as-catch-can game of virtual tag & twitter, of who’s in front, who’s on first and who the heck is following me?

I began my early blog as an exercise in writing, a way to share these French days and a seduction for those looking for a French kitchen adventure.  Whereas none of the above has actually changed, I am imposing a new set of rules for the game dictated by a new hunger, a craving if you will, to focus on the close at hand, the impossibly ‘close to the earth gastronomy’ , that surrounds me as I write.

Summer Pitchers

The hunger for a sharper view, a singular depth of field is sometimes inspired by the photographs I love that blur the edges of real life and leave the mouth-watering detail seducing our palates.  Where the  early French Kitchen was as broad and inclusive as its namesake, rambling across a map of recipes, musings of all things French, the new KITCHEN-AT-CAMONT focuses on this very French dirt surrounding the 18th century farmhouse called Camont, one hectare (2.4 acres) of  heavy river bottom silt, clay and stone, and the concentric circles that radiate out from here, the beating heart of the kitchen, to include the Lot-et-Garonne department, the Gers, Gascony, the Southwest. It’s a game of who plays what where.

Games We Play at the KITCHEN-AT-CAMONT

potager squared

Tic-Tac-Toe. Even as I describe my ‘hood, I picture a game board of circles and diagonals, a rural tic-tac-toe (or naughts & crosses) that begins in my Potager Carre’ where the vegetable  are planted in 8 square beds surrounding a center square. In the center of this square, now late summer overgrown with weeds and grass, is a circle table where tools and seeds spill onto the gravel and topped by a X-crossed pergola struggling to be overgrown with shade giving grapevines. This is where the planting game begins every winter as I plan the season to come in my own version of the potager game- where to plant the too many tomatoes, the curling beans, the slender leeks for winter soups? There are other games here, too.

Jacks. I remember the toss of palm-pinching  metal spikes and bounce of a golf ball as I pick raspberries into my palm. The thorns prick my palms as I cradle the ripe berries and try to keep any from falling off to the jungle underfoot. I win when I gather a cup before breakfast or enough for confiture without cutting up my summer brown arms. I was always good at jacks.

Raspberry Jacks

“Up periscope!” “DIVE, DIVE!” 11 year old David Holland and I shouted as we held our breath and blew invisible bubbles. Growing up at Pearl Harbor we played submarine while hiding in an orange tree. Here, at Camont, I am more likely to hide in the ‘canned ham’ of an office, my 70’s trailer turned gypsy wagon, listening to Bacon snore while I tap at creating a new kitchen game.

Hide & Seek, played on hot summer nights in Phoenix when the temperature often rose after midnight and the neighbor kids rushed to find a place to squat and disappear into the scary dark, now becomes Hunt & Peck as I tap out the stories and recipes that fall in my lap from a neighbor, a fete, an inspired idea.  I still wonder how long I must wait until someone finds me crouched behind the keyboard. Ally, ally, oxen free!


Summer at Camp Camont begins this week as the sleeping tents unfurl and the Gascon croquet hoops are staggered amongst the orchard trees.  The bbq pit is ready, the pizza oven is hot and the herbalicious popsicles are freezing. All serious food will cease and desist until further notice with only playful, summer fun food allowed.  Haricot verts are free for the picking, tomatoes eaten at every meal and ice cream mandated even after eating fish. (Sorry, Grandpa Hill!)  Bacon insists on pork every day and who should know better.

bacon plays too Bacon

Summer Fun begins at Camp Camont August 14th. There is room to camp under the trees, bring a tent, share some food, tell some stories. Woofers and couch surfers alike are welcome. Bikes, hammocks, kayaks and rowboats all need a good scrub and some heavy duty play.  I’ll be hiding in the ‘gypsy wagon’ playing a game of  Chutes & Ladders as I string the Chinese lanterns for the summer evening boules tournaments.

Eugenie's lites

PS. I haven’t tossed out all the old blog posts. They are now archived at the katehill.blogspot location.  But don’t forget to change your feed to this new URL and subscribe to the Kitchen-at-Camont blog by using the widget on the sidebar.

Leave a comment