Stirring up memories
A cure for there-sickness
October 13, 2004
I got there-sick. That’s the opposite of homesick. I stood in the produce department at the
supermarket looking at a fennel bulb, and all of a sudden I wanted to be in France. I wanted to be in our little rocky house
built into the side of a sun-drenched hill, and I wanted my friend Linda Munroe
Williams to be slapping that fennel into a pan of sizzling olive oil.
only thing I could do was buy the fennel.
Matter of fact, I bought two. When I got home I realized I didn’t know
what to do with it, but I knew I wanted it to taste like Linda’s.
few summers ago, our Tallahassee friends Linda
and John Williams invited us to pack up and on the spur of the moment head to
the South of France and spend a week in the small village
just across the Rhone River from Avignon. I was in the attic
digging out suitcases twenty seconds after I hung up.
always fun to have an adventure with John and Linda. Maybe that’s because in spite of the Tallahassee address,
Linda has Bainbridge roots. Her mother
was Sara Wilkinson Munroe. Sara’s father, William, was a doctor and a
founder of Riverside Hospital. Linda grew up in Quincy but spent lots of time in Bainbridge;
she even attended school here for a year or two. So we always have lots to talk
on this trip, we mostly talked about history and food—oh, and grapes and
wine. We managed to show up in the Rhone vineyard country right in the heart of harvest
the way from the Marseilles
airport where the Williams fetched us, we stopped at the ruins of Les Baux castle. This
rocky ruin that rises high above a plain is said to
have been the inspiration for Dante’s vision of the Inferno. It’s easy to believe as you climb from level
to level—and going down is as hard as going up.
most memorable historical outing was to the massive Pont du
Gard bridge and the nearby
town of Castillon. For history buffs, the French defeated the
English in Castillon on October 19, 1453 bring the
Hundred Years War to a close. But this
is not what we came to see.
came to walk across the ancient aqueduct built during the reign of Augustus
Caesar (yes, that Augustus Caesar, the one who sent Joseph and Mary to be
not far to the south, was an important Roman city. Today they still hold bullfights in the Roman
amphitheater. But in those long ago
days, just as cities do today, there were water problems. Too many people; not enough
30 miles to the north near the city of Uzčs, there was a fine spring with
plenty of water, so the Romans rolled up their sleeves, or togas, and built
this impressive structure. It’s more
than an aqueduct, more than a bridge.
The water ran on the top level, below was a highway for chariots and
walked out on the bridge in awe not only of the Romans and their skills,
but also of the incredible view of most of the south of France. It made us hungry, so we headed home by way
of Pouzilhac where we assembled at Auberge Manoir—“expected little,
got much,” I rave in my journal. We
called Madame-la-chef out for our accolades.
quickly made a discovery about French food.
One reason it is great, is it is fresh.
The chefs usually hit the local markets for vegetables and fruits just
in from the field. We also realized that
we could do the same thing. Different
towns have markets on different days, so with some planning we could hit a
market early in the day, fill up a cooler, have an adventure, a fine lunch
(naturally) and still get home in time to cook.
the market in near-by Banion, Bob and John went olive
shopping while Linda and I cased the vegetables and meat. Oh! The lamb!
Turns out olive shopping involves lots of
tasting, and then the shoppers don’t want to hurt the merchant’s feelings, so
it also involves buying many different kinds of olives. We nibbled all day long.
house in Masmolene is owned by Tallahasseans Pierre and Rainey Vivier,
founders of Chez Pierre and now associated with Vivier
Chocolates and Mon Pere et Moi,
so you know the kitchen was out of sight. And the courtyard. The best place in all of France
to eat. That’s where Linda served
figured this recipe out on my own after I couldn’t find a one that sounded right
in any of my cookbooks.
1 sliced onion
2 bulbs fennel, sliced
Sautč the onion
in a mix of half butter, half olive oil.
When the onions become translucent add the fennel and continue to cook
until the fennel has a golden tone. Add
a splash of white wine (or water) and cover for a few minutes. Remove the lid, sprinkle with rosemary leaves
and stir. Put on a platter and garnish
with more rosemary (it grew on the wall outside of the house) and the fennel
are fresher vegetables than those found in the market. For several days, John had eyed a tomato
field down our lane. Those tomatoes clamored
to be picked. We came home one afternoon
and they had been. The field was picked
clean. Well, almost picked clean—a few
glistening fruit remained; they begged for a home. Minutes after we unloaded the car, John’s
eyes began to gleam.
a basket,” he told Bob as he headed out the door. “We’ve got a job to do.” I’m sure they asked the farmer first, because
while Linda braised the fennel and I put together a salad, John and Bob did a
bit of tomato gleaning.
nothing like a really fresh tomato!
6 very ripe; very, very fresh
3 minced garlic cloves
6 anchovy fillets, rinsed and
3 cups bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper to
2 teaspoons herbes
or fresh herbs from the garden or market
1/2 cup minced fresh flat leaf
parsley or cilantro
the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the tops
off the tomatoes, turn them upside down and remove the seeds and pulp with
salt the insides and place the tomatoes cut side down on a rack to drain.
mix together the remaining ingredients and moisten with one tablespoon of olive
oil. Press the mixture into each of the
tomatoes and place in a shallow baking pan, drizzle with olive oil. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the
tomatoes are tender and the tops are brown.
with lots of olives!
the amounts in these recipes can vary depending on how much the cook brings
home from the market or the field.
I’ll share our wine adventures in Tavel and Chateauneuf du Pape. A good time
was had by all!
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network