Friday, December 11, 2009


We are going to Cairo for the holidays. We have heard that the reindeer there look more like camels than caribou but they will help guide us in delivering our sincere holiday wishes to everyone.

Joyeux Noël

Merry Christmas

Happy Hanukah

Happy Solstice

Bonne Année

May 2010 be filled with peace and love.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fresh is best!

Add to Google Reader or HomepageEverything tastes better here.

It is not the preparation – though the way the French prepare foods does make for great flavors – it is the quality of the food items. Everything: apples, beets, chicken, cod, turkey, zucchini.

I attribute the better flavors to several things.

• The food in the market is fresh, most often locally grown.
• The food is raised using few chemicals.
• The animals are raised using fewer hormones.

Fresh and local seem to be the keys to the good flavors here. In one very important sense, the French never forgot what community-supported-agriculture proponents are promoting at markets in the states: Buy local.

We have seen the ads and signs reminding people to buy their Christmas turkeys and we have heard that the supermarkets macy have only a short supply because the long distance truck drivers want better pay and thus may strike/boycott the turkey delivery system. The other thing we heard is that the turkeys here will be more like those sold in the US which I interpret as more white meat, less flavor. Savourez la vie! Taste life (and good flavors)!

As cookbook author and French food expert Patricia Wells writes in The Provence Cookbook, “I live more than half of each year here, much of it spent touring markets, shops, restaurants, farms, in search of the freshest and finest of the season… Vendors laugh as I gasp when I see the first-of-season fresh white shell beans – cocos blancs – a signal that I can add Provençal vegetable soup, or pistou, to my weekly repertoire.” (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004, p. xiii.) Also visit Patricia Well’s website at:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Add to Google Reader or HomepageAfter leaving our dear friend Mary Beth at the TGV (fast train station) at “0 dark thirty” this morning, we drove east toward the sunrise and Vaison la Romaine. As the skies lightened, the most notable aspect of the horizon was the snow on all of the major mountains. What we experienced as rain on Sunday fell as snow in the higher elevations.

What a beautiful sight. It matched the beauty of some of the other sites we saw during MB’s visit (a French friend calls her “EMBAY” to fit the French pronunciation of the initials.) On Saturday we walked along roads at the foot of Mt. Ventoux past the four rock structures called “les demoiselles coiffées” (the women wearing hats). We walked past olive groves where the olives were black and ready to be picked. We met a man who had a sighthound and, during the conversation with him, we found out that he knew about Scottish deerhounds but he spent most of his time telling us about the Egyptian lineage of his sighthound.

Sunday, we went to the market in Isle sur la Sorgue. It started raining, so we left the beautiful town and its market and headed back north toward Vaison la Romaine. We stopped to taste wine at the Wine cooperative in Beaumes de Venise where Ellen and MB (EMBAY) enjoyed the presentation of the young man serving the wine—and the translation by the old guy with them--as much as the wine tasting. We took back roads over the Dentelles mountains and had spectacular views of distant horizons, valleys and vineyards.

MB (EMBAY) had come to join us for Thanksgiving. She almost didn’t make it. On the Sunday before her Monday departure, she discovered that her passport had expired. Luckily, there is a Department of State office in Chicago. With all due speed in one day MB was able to complete her renewal application, get speedy photos, and plead her case with the requisite amount of charm and groveling to leave the passport office the same day with a renewed passport and a great sigh of relief. She made it to her flight and we met her at the TGV station the next afternoon.

We had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner: rabbit in mustard sauce, home-made stuffing with fresh sage, sweet potatoes, green beans and a fresh winter squash/pumpkin pie made by Ellen that was better than any canned-pumpkin generated pie of previous years. We were thankful for the good food, the good fortune of enjoying it in France with good friends, and EMBAY’s success at the passport office.

We were also thankful for friends, both enduring friends and new friends including our new neighbor who lives across the street from the apartment. She joined us for “apero” (cocktails) while EMBAY was here and invited us to a wonderful dinner on Saturday evening.

Every morning, EMBAY shouted: “I am in France!” – a sentiment that we are fortunate to feel and enjoy everyday.