Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thinking About French Summers...

My first trip to France was the whole month of August - never do things by halves!  Michelle met the plane in Paris and we drove down to Bouc-Bel-Air, a small village outside of Aix-en-Provence, where her family lived in a by-now 200 year old mas

The house overlooks the plain below it; pine trees climbed up the hill in back.  Cicadas made a continual background hum, ebbing and rising as the day progressed; big white moths fluttered aimlessly around.  Rosemary grew wild on the hill. 

The windows were tall, with wooden shutters and no screens.  "Screens" as we know them don't exist in France.  The kitchen was small, but wow!  the big meals that came out of it!  Michelle and her late mother Christianne were both masterful cooks.  The biggest meal I ever ate in France was lunch the day we arrived from Paris.  Christienne brought out a hot pizza she'd made and a big bowl of salad.  Mmmm, good.  We all ate well, but horrors - after we cleared the table, Christienne came out with a platter of sizzling steaks and a huge plate of French fries!   "But I thought we'd had lunch?" I said.  "Oh that - just an aperitif!"
And then the cheese course came out with fresh fruit!

We ate lunch - in fact, every meal-- in The Porch which was a room (half walls, windows that opened to the view, and a roof) that extended across the width of the house.  It had a poured concrete floor with a fair number of comfy couches, deep chairs and occasional tables with slipping piles of magazines and books.  The dining room table could easily seat a dozen people.  Mismatched wooden chairs surrounded it.

One of the best parts of the day was drinks before dinner.  We all gathered there before starting to fix dinner to discuss Our Day.   Wines or pastis were on hand along with slices of salame, mixed olives and a baguette. 

I fell in love with pastis - a licorice-flavored liquor that is mixed one part pastis to 7 or 8 parts ice cold water.  It's served in a highball glass - remember them?  Cold rose was the wine with lunch or dinner.  Provence summers are hot and often humid.  The rose was perfect as a light, refrshing drink.  I recommend it!

You can buy Ricard or other brands of pastis at Bev-Mo or equivalent. 

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