Monday, April 05, 2010

Cooking Class at La Pitchoune

In 2006, I was reading My Life in France as we left Liam's family in the south of France. His brother-in-law saw the book and mentioned that he and Liam's sister managed a property called La Pitchoune. I dropped the book. Then I explained that I was just reading about Julia's time there. We were on our way to the airport, so it seemed it would have to wait until a future trip.

March 2010. Liam gives me a birthday card that says, "lunch at La Pitchoune." I spend five dreadful minutes thinking he means some French restaurant that I've never been to. I rack my brain. He's smiling. He's saying, "think!" My French feels very, very far away. Finally, I realize - La Pitchoune!!!!!

Julia's former house sits up on a small road just 5 minutes from Liam's sister and her family. His sister and brother-in-law knew the place well - they've been helping to rent it for years - and suddenly we were on our way to cook there with the current owner, Kathie Alex, who, among other things, cooked with Simca. As we entered the kitchen, and I saw Paul's pegboard marked with the places for Julia's items, I looked at Liam and smiled.

We cooked a menu for someone like me who "really likes vegetables." Pictured is the tarte tatin aux legumes - named after the dessert since the dough is baked on top and then flipped to serve. We followed that with a salad with fried brie and finally individual pear tarts. There was an apero of verrine of egg, olive tapenade and tomatoes with a kir and a taste of Kathie's nicoise olives, but truly, the best part was hearing Kathie's stories of her own culinary career and where it meshed with Simca and Julia. We ate tarts on Julia's plates and wondered which pastry fork came from her and which from Kathie. We watched peppers roast in the modern oven and spied on pegboard outlines from long lost items.

As we ate the fabulous lunch with glasses of wine and talked about living in France (the electrician came today - I made the initial appointment a year ago! Why are Americans drinking so much water with lunch? What are the benefits of store-bought puff pastry?), I thanked Liam for my best birthday present ever.

And now he knows how to cook another meal too.