Monday, December 26, 2011

Provence A-Z part deux

Even though it is the day after Christmas, I have quite a few things that I could be doing.  Mainly grading exams.  But I'd rather go to Provence.  This is a view from the top of the hill at what remains of the Pope's summer home at Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  I took this in late June 2008.  I thought this would be a good photo to get us in the mood to explore more of Peter Mayle's Provence A-Z.  See, I haven't forgotten this project.

In this entry, Mayle talks about being told once that the air in Provence is very pure.  Later, he learned that several of the départments in the area are among the most polluted in Europe.  I am not sure I buy that.  I will have to agree, however, that perhaps the Mistral wind keeps the pollution at bay in this corner of paradise.

Alpes et Alpilles
Everyone knows about the big, bad Alpes if for no other reason than the skiing and maybe The Sound of Music.  I haven't spent much time there.  But I do love the Alpilles.  Between Fontvieille and St. Rémy de Provence runs a jagged, white range of "little Alpes," as they are called.  A great place to hike and picnic, peut-être? 

Malheureusement, I do not have any photos of the almond trees in bloom.  I'm never in Provence in very early spring to see them.  Maybe they will still be in bloom this March while I am there?  Almonds were introduced to Europe over 2,000 years ago by the Greeks.  In France, salty or roasted nuts are most often offered as a little something-something to go along with your before dinner apéritif of pastis, a chilled glass of dry rosé or kir.  Or whatever your little heart desires.  In Aix-en-Provence they make a wonderful sweet treat called Calissons d'Aix.  I have eaten many of them, but photographed none, so I "borrowed" a photo from

They are very good.  Take my word for it.  Or order some and find out for your very own self. 
Another almond treat I discovered while living in Arles is sirop d'orgeat.  This is a syrup made of almonds, sugar, rose water or orange flower water.  The name confused me and I had no idea what I was drinking for quite a while.  I just knew that, when mixed with cold water, it made a very refreshing drink during hot Provence summers in a kitchen with none of the air-conditioning we Americans think we cannot live without.  I discovered that the name comes from the French word for barley, orge, because it was originally made from an almond-barley blend.
Vincent Van Gogh painted the almond blossoms.  Perhaps he was startled by the blooms in what would have still been winter in 1888 or 1889.
This one, Blossoming Almond Branch in a Glass with a Book, reminds me of the ikebana Japanese flower arrangement that Son #1 made when he was in elementary school art class.  Vincent painted it in 1888 and it is now part of some lucky person's private art collection.  Can you imagine looking at that every single day?  Being able to stand right up next to it and seeing Vincent's brushstrokes?

Peter Mayle uses this entry to talk about how his house in Provence is a draw for many of his so-called friends who want to escape England and come to the sunny south of France.  Since I do not own a house in Provence and can't speak to this from personal experience, I do know that I made some dear friends while living there.
The Arles 6 in 2008--
My "team" that I fed lunch to every day in 2007--
And one of the dinners in the house in Arles attended by the "gang" in 2008--
I did have visits from the BFF and Mo, one in 2007--
And again in 2008--
(At least I thought they were coming to see me... I only have pictures with them and Chef Érick.  Hmmm...)
And the Goolsby clan who came at Thanksgiving 2008--

I never thought much about anchovies before living in Provence.  I had no idea if I liked them or not.  I found out that I do.  Pissaladière, for example, a pizza-type treat made with anchovies.  You can just simply make an anchovy paste, anchoïade, however to serve on toasted baguette slices to go with the pastis apéritif or you can dip raw vegetables in the anchoïade.
I took these photos in Collioure in December 2008, just before returning home from sabbatical.
I think that it is time for a glass of rosé.  I've earned it with all this reminiscing, n'est-ce pas?


3 Tbsp. olive oil
10 anchovy fillets (rinsed in water, if salted)
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

Heat the olive oil.  Add the anchovy fillets and cook until melted and thickened into a paste.  Add the garlic and sizzle for 30 seconds.
Spread on toasted baguette slices or use as a dip for raw vegetables.

Bon appétit, Provence!  À bientôt!


vincent said...


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We would like to add it to the

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The Sabbatical Chef said...

Merci Vincent!
I just went to Petitchef and added my blog- I hope! Thanks for stopping by and for reading!