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The Independent Culture
BECAUSE we arrived here at our French house in the middle of the night, we had hardly any food in. But I never eat in the morning, not even with all the delicious baked goods over here, and for breakfast I had two large cups of black coffee. It was a roasting hot day and we spent it gardening; our neighbour at the farm up the road has decided to teach me to grow vegetables. Nothing fancy, just good hearty beetroot, radishes, potatoes, cabbage, onions and carrots.

At lunchtime I walked up the road to our neighbour's vegetable garden and picked two lettuces and some radishes. I drizzled some olive oil and salt on the radishes and ate them with the lettuce, fresh french bread and butter and some apples. To drink I had a couple of glasses of red wine, and some mineral water as well.

When I took a break from the gardening in the afternoon, I relaxed in the sun with a large cup of tea. I never snack in between meals, but make sure I always eat two proper meals a day. Even when I'm working on a book, I always stop and have a meal. I think that this comes from my French background, and from living here for part of the year. I love the whole tradition of people gathering together for a freshly cooked meal, laying the table and eating by candlelight in the evening.

I made a wonderful supper, just with the staples we had in the cupboard and a few vegetables: round circles of polenta baked in the oven with a little olive oil, onions and tomato, together with dried mushrooms in a fresh sage sauce. I must have had at least half a bottle of red wine with the meal. Food is a great passion of mine and this comes across in my books, where it features a lot in my plots. It's partly because I grew up as a Catholic where the whole idea of gathering around a magical food is central to the religion. I also find it fascinating from a woman's point of view as mother and nurturer. For most women,food is a source of both great pleasure and anxiety.

Strangely, given my background and where I spend so much time, French cuisine isn't my favourite. I much prefer regional Italian cooking and Middle Eastern food.