Provence-La Maison

You are kidding me.

That’s how I felt when we pulled into the drive of our host’s home in the south of France.  Originally, I was disappointed we’d be in Provence for such a short time.  I wanted to stop in Aix: buy lavender, buy soap.  I didn’t want to be stuck in a house full of people I didn’t know with no real means of escape.

What a fool.  The place is a dream-airy and elegant-made to absorb the bustling of people and all the food and wine they brought to share.   The whitewashed walls and exposed wood beams are only the beginning of its delightful rusticity: the tile is terracotta, the fabric is linen, the scent is lavender.  The furniture was found at romantic road side sales, French road side sales then situated to catch a breeze for you as one ripples inside from the valley.

I’m certain I dreamed the whole forty-eight hours we were there.

Someone was always in the kitchen tinkering with something at the harvest table: continental breakfast, brewing of coffee, licking of Nutella off a spoon.  Its true charm was the ‘pass through’ window whose sill was continually loaded with honey, tea pots, more plates-whatever needed to be enjoyed outside.  Whoever sat at the far end of the generous outdoor table completed each object’s journey from inside to out of doors.  This person also enjoyed the best view of the Alps.

the pass through window

As if the house wasn’t enough to keep us on this heady cloud for the next few days, we were surrounded by vivacious people and ridiculous food.

The guests were a talented lot, but their lack of pretense, sense of warmth and genuine love of life was the draw. In the morning we’d wake to find everyone disheveled in fantastic English pajamas and linen bathrobes as they scrambled to get the coffee through the window. Hair was not done, makeup was not applied, nary a tooth had been brushed. The morning’s main topic of conversation was how fantastic the dinner was last night and how fantastic it will be tonight.

“We’ve stayed friends,” said one of the guests, “due to our deep-seated desire to eat.”

This was evident in the cheese plates, fresh bread, and lamb; in the aubergine ratatouille, roasted orange slices with rosemary, brown sugar and homemade whipped cream; in the fresh grilled fish stuffed with lemon and herbs, fresh beans, roasted potatoes and homemade ice cream.

Clearly, we couldn’t leave until we found out where much of this culinary inspiration came from.  Luckily, I was able to squeeze a few secrets out of the kitchen by distracting my prey with the baby. He disarms all the knights in the realm.

Here’s what my undercover operation unearthed-

First, the River Cafe Cook Book Easy.

Next, Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes from the London River Cafe.

Lastly, A Taste of Home: 200 Quick and Easy Recipes: Angela Hartnett

Do what you need to do to get the recipe for those orange slices baked in brown sugar.


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