Wallflower Dispatches

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The Charming Mountain Goat – Cooking

February 5th, 2011 · No Comments · Charming Mountain Goat, French Food, Provence, South of France

The French take to the streets regularly and not always to sit at small round tables to sip coffee.

In the middle of last October, the French nation was out in force to express their displeasure at the proposed changes to the national retirement age. Blockades from the harbours on the northern coast to motorways in the south were somewhat annoying, but came as no surprise.

Lovely Husband had an important meeting abroad and left earlier than usual to catch an afternoon flight out of Nice Airport. Arriving at the roundabout that leads to the entrance of Terminal 1, there was chaos.

Cars were backing up on the slip road and policemen in riot gear had blocked the road to the airport by erecting an iron gate. We decided to “kiss and fly” right there and then, and Lovely Husband sprinted off to get past the police. He was one of the last people to get through the threatening metal road- and people block. The time was 1.30pm.

As I drove off, I careered around pools of people in the road who were setting up to block the entrances to and off the motorway. By 1.35pm I was clear of the “manif” which was to bring Nice to a standstill and hit the national news later that night.

Once again I was glad that even if the French are deeply in love with their right to express their opinions, their real passion is food. Striking is one thing, but only after a good midday to 2pm lunch has been had.

Some days appear to be entirely dedicated to cooking. The reason might be just dinner en famille, a party or an aperitif. No matter the occasion or guest but the act of preparing food into a meal is somehow more sacred in this area. Why is not clear.

Provençal people are no food snobs. Only the quality of the ingredients must be superb. What the cook does with them, turning them into an elaborate French meal or a humble staple of the local cuisine is not of foremost importance.

The grilled chicken wings with local herbs will be as much appreciated as the artful tarte aux figues or the tiramisu you fashioned out of the produce of Ventimiglia market across the border.

You can spend the whole day preparing your dish or throw something together in a few minutes. As long as it tastes sublime, everyone will sit down at length, enjoy, praise and appreciate – selflessly.

Then the other night at the small get together at a friend’s house, one of those throwaway remarks came up in an innocent conversation. Huddled together at the corner of the dining table in the turn-of-the-century apartment that sits above the village school in the rolling hills not far from here, Cathy suddenly said: “But preparing food for yourself is so much better for you. Well, anyway – woman who no longer loves, no longer cooks.”

And so we nodded knowingly, getting up to taste a third helping of the various deserts everyone had brought along, thinking ahead to the next day’s lunch and how we would express our love through food.

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