Poultry Feed and Memory Lane
Why the Poultry Feed? – A Strange Shed in France
When I was fourteen my school decided to organise an exchange with a school in France. I was very excited to take part. I enthusiastically completed the personality profile that would be used to pair me up with a French student and then waited to see what would happen.
A few days later my teacher informed me that I had been unlucky. Whilst everyone else would be staying with families who lived in the town where the French school was situated, I was to be sent to a distant village. I would be cut off from everyone else for most of the trip.
My teacher was a fool because she hadn’t done her homework! This was to be one of the luckiest breaks of my life.
The Loire Valley
I arrived in the Loire Valley to discover that my new friend was the daughter of hoteliers. Their country hotel featured a highly regarded restaurant which was popular with celebrities. There were certainly worse places to have been staying and, in fact, most of my fellow students were staying in them! Just to put the cherry on the icing on the cake, the grandparents were wealthy and lived in an amazing house with a huge estate. This included woodland, open fields, a lake and a large area where they grew fruit and vegetables for the restaurant.
The grandparents were also the proud owners of two dogs, several sheep, a peacock and a lot of chickens. I stumbled across the chickens on my first visit when the family and I popped over to collect green beans and strawberries. There was a large shed close to where the sheep were grazing and curiosity got the best of me. When I looked in the shed I could see a mountain of poultry feed and beyond this another door with a lot of clucking coming from behind it. No prizes for guessing what was in the far reaches of the shed.
Little did I know that the poultry feed would play a significant role in this and future trips. I ended up going back year after year and worked part time in the hotel. It became one of my jobs to collect the eggs from the grandparent’s house and to take them back to the hotel for the chef. I was also tasked with chicken nutrition and I really quite enjoyed laying on the poultry feed.
When I first heard that the family collected the eggs to use in the restaurant I was a little bemused. I didn’t know much about anything then and to me eggs were cheap things that you bought by the dozen in the supermarket. Surely there was an easier and cheaper way to get eggs in bulk than farming your own chickens? All that travelling to and fro, the time spent feeding the chickens and gathering eggs not to mention the cost of the poultry feed. How could it all be worth the hassle?
I soon found out!
After that first encounter with the chickens we returned to the hotel with the beans, the strawberries and two trays of eggs. It was lunchtime and the rather belligerent but undoubtedly brilliant chef made me a mushroom omelette using the fresh eggs. When I tasted that omelette everything became abundantly clear. There is nothing quite like the taste of the freshest eggs and I still miss it
to this day.
If I ever see chickens, a coup, poultry feed or anything associated with poultry I have a sudden rush of nostalgia and I can feel my mouth watering. I have vowed that one day I will have chickens in my own garden so that I can eat fresh eggs again.