In September we spent a week in Provence. We rented a stone house in the medieval section of Les Arcs with four stories connected by wooden, spiral steps. The top floor was a living room hung with banners and swords which opened onto a tiled balcony overlooking the town and beyond that, the forested hills of Haute-Provence. The 2nd and 3rd floors were bedrooms and the first floor (or ground floor using euro-counting) was a brick-lined kitchen with a long wooden table.
The kitchen was the best part. We filled it with pâté and fruit and cheese and baguettes. Bill made trout with beurre noisette and ratatouille which we ate in the courtyard by candlelight. We ate more ratatouille the next day with merguez sausages and salad and finished it off the next day in an omelette. We shopped in local shops and patisseries and the shiny Hyper U supermarket, a quick 15 minute drive away. The shops were charming and the Hyper U thrilling–aisle after aisle of delight. More cheese than we could try: bleus and chevres, Tomme de Savoie, Brie de Meaux, and a Provencal specialty, Banon. Banon is a soft goat milk cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves that has that shoe odor funk that somehow works for cheese. We bought tappenade and many liters of Orangina Light and many bottles of wine.
The stove was powered by a propane tank under the counter. Possibly unsafe but c’est la vie. We melted blue cheese on baguette with parma ham and fig jam. We discovered that one jar of fig jam lasts precisely a week in Provence. Oh to measure time by jars of jam. We shopped at the Thursday farmers’ market and bought a delicious spread made of, not quite sure what. Artichoke? We bought lavender honey, roast pork and a whole rabbit. We asked the lady butcher to please remove the head. Sans tête. We drew our index fingers across our necks in the international symbol for decapitation. The lady butcher returned the gesture and then whacked off the naked rabbit’s head with a cleaver. Sans tête. We bought some handmade duck ravioli at a pasta shop.
Before our trip I was talking to a French lady at work about Bill’s plans to cook in France. Oh, she said, he must cook rabbit. Nothing could be more French. With potatoes and parsley. So, Bill stewed the rabbit in wine while we listened to an Eagles Greatest Hits CD we found in the pantry. Bill served the rabbit with pearl onions and mushrooms along with potatoes and parsley. We started the dinner with the duck ravioli cooked in butter and sage, and drank one of many bottles of Provencal rosé consumed that week. It was our fifteenth wedding anniversary. I loved the rabbit. I’ve had only fried rabbit previously and the stewed rabbit was far better. (Click here to see pics of the rabbit preparation.)
We did enjoy meals at several Les Arcs restaurants during our stay and spent many happy, afternoon hours at Cafe de la Tour in the square. But we loved being able to buy any tasty thing that we saw. I want more holidays where Bill packs his knives and a meat thermometer.