It has been very chilly here. The daytime temperature going only as high as 50° is bad enough but when the Mistral is blowing it is downright cold. We walked up to the old town yesterday and the wind was a literal slap in the face. (I understand that the word literal no longer means only literally. It can also mean figuratively.) It was supposed to warm up before Easter but the wind continues to keep the temperatures cold…
Many of the shops do not heat the interior or if they are heated, they set the temperature very low. Several stores leave the entry door open even when the outside temperature is around 45° F. The clerks work while wearing big sweaters or coats and scarves. Customers don’t seem to mind.
More than a year ago, a dear friend sent me the Food Section of the New York Times. The section was titled: “The New Essentials of French Cooking” by Melissa Clark and includes 10 recipes. Since receiving the section, I have been going through the recipes to learn them. So far, I have been successful in making Coq au Vin, Cassoulet, Sole Meunière, Omelet, Ratatouille, Quiche and Steak. I have yet to try Tajine, Pommes Anna and Soufflé. I think my favorites so far are Cassoulet and Sole Meunière though I love making/eating Ratatouille and what’s not to like about a recipe that calls for marinating chicken with a bottle of wine? I would never have predicted that Tajine would be on the list but the author says that this dish of North African origins is so good it has found its way into French cooking. (I agree with her: it is quite good.)
It has been fun learning new recipes. My kitchen skills are still fairly minimal – I don’t have the creativity of our friend Dan or my high school friend who writes the food blog Yo Jo, What’s for Dinner but I enjoy shopping and then cooking. Plus, now I have more than six recipes so we no longer have to eat the same recipe twice in one week.
It is supposedly spring here though the temperatures belie the fact. But, one can now find asparagus and strawberries in the market. The early asparagus is expensive but the price drops every week until the end of the asparagus season. The strawberries are so sweet, one cannot imagine how nature packs so much sweetness into the berries. Soon, the vendors will start selling the softball-sized melons that are grown about 50 km south of here.
Related to the strawberries – and other foods as well – the location at which the produce is grown is important in France. Somewhat like Americans who buy salmon and choose the salmon based on its source. In Provence, the best strawberries come from Carpentras – a city about 25 km from here. The best melons come from Cavaillon. If you like mussels, the best mussels come from Brittany – moules de Bouchot. The best lentils come from Le Puy-en-Velay. And then there are the cheeses – all of which have a geographic origin. French gruyere for instance is called Comté and comes from the Franche-Comté region in eastern France. Grocery stores must post the country of origin for fruits, vegetables, honey and meat.
We have had a rush of visitors: our next door neighbor from Lansing, a long-time friend and colleague of Ellen with her friend. It has been fun – it is always fun – to show people why we like Provence as much as we do. On the clear days, the sky is a brilliant blue and the limestone in the mountains seems to glisten. And, of course, limestone contributes to creating the wonderful wines of Provence – les Côtes du Rhône – which have become my favorite wines.