Tuesday, May 18, 2010

First Village Home

When we were younger and looking for our first house to buy, we quickly found that one could not hope to buy anything bigger than a one-bedroom apartment in the city with our combined salaries, so we set our sights further out. We looked at many a wreck, and ended up with a house high up on the ancient ramparts with a view of the river, in the sweetest little village. The house was a project requiring years of love and money, we ran out of both, but the village is still great. It is just big enough to have two grocery stores, three bakers, five doctors, two pharmacies, a school and a library, but small enough (population 2000) to a place where everyone knows everyone else. It was where our first child was born, and everyone knew her by name. We would walk out on our daily tour; bread, groceries, butcher shop, maybe a paper or the pharmacy, and she would be greeted with smiles and endearments. Especially at the chocolate shop. We had become close friends with the owners of the chocolate/pastry shop, lucky us! They had sort of adopted us, we lived two houses away, we love chocolate and we had no family nearby. Pierre would obligingly taste whatever new concoction Bertrand had come up with during chocolate season, first thing in the morning, before any other tastes could interrupt his perception, on the way to the bus stop, through the kitchen window as he passed by. I loved the seven-grain bread they made on Fridays, and chocolate croissants, so I was a regular and Francoise loved to chat.

It has been many years, but we made it back to see them, and I am so glad we did. We were thrilled; Bertrand was going to cook for us, and his wife, Francoise, would do the rest. Bertrand is not only a master chocolatier, he is also a fantastic cook. They retired a couple of years ago and we had been concerned about their health. However, the day we saw them they looked radiant, full of enthusiasm (and gossip) and ready for a trip they're to take soon. We spent a fabulous afternoon in their company. Retirement has meant they have even more time to delve into food. They now make their own sausage, pate and boudin, along with their own jams, candied fruit and of course, bread and desserts, as always. They grow their own vegetables and fruit too. Our meal began with a tasting of homemade peach wine, served with olives and nuts. The first dish consisted of all three meats they make, with a special rose wine. Then there was a dish, beautifully done: vegetable salad in the middle (called a macedoine de legumes), with grated carrots alternating with rice all around the edge and tomatoes and hard-boiled egg halves placed between the two layers, dotted here and there with mayonnaise flowers.

Then came the chicken; delicious in a lightly curried sauce and green beans, so slim you understand the expression "string beans." There was a platter of cheese following that and then the dessert...the amazing, light but creamy and rich, chocolaty but not overwhelming, sitting in a tiny pond of peach coulis.

After almost four hours at the table, during which my normally rambunctious children sat without blinking an eye, we walked out to visit the village and show the kids our first home. The pictures follow.


  1. How can one be "homesick" for a place one has never been much less made a home? I feel that way about France when I read your blog posts. A delightful ray of sunshine from across the pond. :)

  2. Ah, thanks, Cris, that means I am making some sort of impression through just words, wonderful to hear!



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