Sunday, October 9, 2011

Provence A-Z

Actually, I like the French title better--  Provence Lover's Dictionary.  I bought the French version in Arles while living there.  The BFF found the English version this past summer at one of the local dollar stores for $1.  No kidding.  After she confessed about how much she paid for it, I went and bought all the copies in the store (this would be the earliest I have ever bought a Christmas gift).
Anyway, I've been thinking of looking through my 26,474 photos and seeing how many of the entries in the book I have taken photos of.  Quite a project, n'est-ce pasOui, sans doute, but I will then be able to make a list of entries I do not have photos of and then next time I am in Provence, snap photos.  A worthy project, I think.  A good use of my time.  A goal.  And not to brag or anything, but I know exactly when I will be back in Provence.  I have two trips planned.  January 16-20, 2012 and March 7-13, 2012.  Am I lucky or what?
Shall we begin?
In the introduction to the book, there is a Thomas Jefferson quote (quite the lover of all things French, too, just like moi):   
I am now in the land of corn, wine, oil, and sunshine.  What more can man ask of heaven?  He said this in Aix-en-Provence, March 27, 1787.
En français:  Je me trouve actuellement dans le pays du blé, du vin, de l'huie et du soleil.  Que demander de plus au paradis?
I am a bit confused about the translation-- le blé isn't corn, it's French for wheat.  So how do I find out what TJ really said?  Did he say it in French or English?  (Several minutes later...)  I googled and googled and couldn't find the quote.  Oh well.  Back to our story. 
I am very fond of this statue of Mr. Jefferson in Paris.
Here is the map of Provence from the English version of the book.  I am not sure who is the artiste.
The Provençal accent comes under quite a bit of scrutiny.  It can be almost impossible to understand.  While I was in Arles, we would frequently go to a café in the Place du Forum for our apéritif or apéro, if you really want to sound Provençal.  The owner was a friend of Érick's gang, but I was never able to understand a word coming out of his mouth.  He was a Marseillais.  I have no photo of him... I imagine he thought I was a deaf-mute anyway since I never uttered a word in his presence.  Taking his photo would have seemed weird.  The only words of Provençal that I have learned have come from listening to Moussu T e lei Jovents.  Great music.  For example-- ma polida means my pretty one.

Also known as le divin bulbe.  You cannot cook (or eat) in Provence without mass quantities of garlic.  Pas possible.  I now go into a semi-panic when I realize I am out of it.  A saying from way back in the day:  Bon ail contre mauvais oeil.  It supposedly was protection against the evil eye.  Whatever that was.
As I sit here and think about evil eye, I hope that none of my students read this.  I am known for having quite an evil eye when someone acts up in class.  They may start throwing garlic at me.  Hmmm.  Think I'll move on.

I am crazy about this stuff.  It is really just fantastic homemade mayonnaise with enough garlic in it to cure anything that ails you.  Well, I am still not sure about the evil eye.  Chef Érick felt it was his duty to teach just about everyone who came for a cooking stage how to make it.  Grating garlic against the tines of a fork, drizzling in the oil olive, wearing your arm out trying to get it just right.  I wish I had video-taped him making it.  But here are a couple of photos of him in action--
There are more A's in the first chapter of the book, but I have to get myself out of my pajamas and be more constructive than sitting in front of my computer for hours and hours, so I will leave you with Peter Mayle's recipe for aïoli.  It is so good served as a dipping sauce for boiled potatoes, carrots, hard-boiled eggs, escargots (yes, snails), boiled salt cod, or anything else your little heart desires.  I have already posted Chef Érick's recipe.

for 8

16 cloves of garlic
3 egg yolks
Half a liter of the best olive oil you can find (cold pressed)

Peel the garlic.  Put cloves in a mortar and crush them to a pulp.  (Or grate them on a plate with a few squirts of lemon juice by rubbing the garlic against the tines of a fork pressed against the plate.  Then put the garlic into the mortar.)  Add the egg yolks and a pinch of salt, and stir until the yolks and garlic are thoroughly blended.  Then, drop by drop, start adding the oil, stirring (and never stopping) as you go.  (It helps to have a partner for this.)  By the time you've used about half the oil, the aïoli should have thickened into a dense mass.  The rest of the oil can now be added (and stirred) in a continuous, steady flow.  The aïoli become thicker and thicker, almost solid.  This is how it should be.  Add a few drops of lemon juice and serve.

While in Arles, I watched a Moussu T video of an aïoli contest.  I think it is the equivalent of our Southern barbecue contests.  Really.  Vraiment.

Bon appétit, les Amoureux de la Provence!

No comments: