One of the benefits of taking time off from daily work and obligations is reconnecting with passions which all too often fall off to the side of our lives. During my summer holidays in France, I get the chance to rekindle some of these passions. Gardening, lace-making, and cooking are three hobbies I’ve long enjoyed. But here in France, where so much of the culture revolves around food, my passion for cooking goes into overdrive.
I’m inspired by open air markets with their stalls of fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, meats, and cheeses. Everything beautifully displayed, fresh as can be, and seasonal. The merchants beckon me with cherries gleaming like jewels, bouquets of artichokes, bright orange melons, and offers to taste bits of cheese and exotic sausages. So many things to choose from! I flit about from vendor to vendor, filling my market basket with beautiful things until it’s full.
And then the magic happens. I begin to create mouthwatering, aromatic, eye appealing meals. Mussels in white wine sauce and leeks vinaigrette. Roasted rack of lamb and green beans with shallot and lemon zest. Veal Marengo and roasted fennel with garlic. Salad Niçoise. Sauteed duck breast with lavender honey and caramelized onion tart. Rich veal stew laced with crème fraîche over fresh egg noodles. Lunches consisting of a cheese platter, duck rillette, rabbit paté, sliced fruits, and freshly baked Bannette bread (yes, we’re now Bannette people instead of baguette)
Sure, there’s chopping, slicing, dicing, browning, deglazing, sautéing, grating, peeling, and garnishing involved. But I’m enjoying it. From the planning, to the shopping, to the preparing, to the plating, to the eating (Joe has been my dishwasher – hooray Joe!) In years past, we’ve mostly eaten at restaurants; trying new dishes and expanding our palates. And we still eat out this year, but just a little so far. For reasons unclear, I’ve donned my apron and tucked myself into the kitchen. Perhaps it’s the chilly, oftentimes rainy weather this season. Perhaps it’s that we’re more ‘settled in’ this year. But for whatever the reason, I’ve found my passion for cooking rekindled in this efficient little kitchen in this efficient little house in Southern France.