Much of my life at the moment, seems to revolve around watercress - talking about it, collecting it and turning vast quantities of it into soup. It all began in the local cafe a few weeks ago, when my neighbour Arnaud announced that he was going off to collect cresson sauvage. Wild watercress? Naturally, I was all ears. The source, it transpired, was a beautiful grotte or cave, about 12 kilometres from my village.
Arnaud's friend Marco, a retired physiotherapist, wanted to come along too, and the watercress collecting expedition rapidly turned into a day-out, starting with lunch in a nearby routier, followed by a walk with le petit Beef to the cave.
My eyes were on (big, green) stalks at the sight of the beautiful, verdant carpet of cresson. Arnaud, a chef by profession, taught me to pick only where the water is flowing and to avoid certain shaped leaves. Standing ankle-deep in the clear water, we filled several large plastic bags with the superfood, while a deliriously happy little black dog splashed around in the stunningly clear water nearby, stopping to munch on some of the green stuff himself.
On the way back, we stopped at the mairie in Puysoleil to drop off a bag for Martine, the mayor; and then Arnaud did a little tour of the village distributing the lush green harvest, to Jean-Pierre, the owner of the tabac, Marina and Stéphan in the boulangerie, Isabelle la facteuse, and Cathy the newly arrived masseuse from Guadelodupe (who Arnaud has taken quite a shine to).
Apparently, there are only eight more days of watercress left before it stops growing (I'm not sure how Arnaud knows this but he seems quite certain).
It is the most enormous buzz eating the peppery, piquant leaves within hours of picking them. Wild watercress, I've discovered, tastes very different from the kind that you buy in a plastic bag in the supermarket. Meanwhile, there is now enough soupe de cresson in the congélateur to do the Liz Hurley watercress soup diet for a year; and there is another sack of newly-picked leaves in the fridge, waiting to be similarly transformed. So anyone coming to dinner in the near future, can pretty much guess what they'll be having as a starter.