January 9 2013
The day has gone, sliding into the valley to await tomorrow morning’s frost. These days of misty beginnings that clear by late morning to cloudless sky, the air still, pungent, bracing.
When we left for St. Remy the children were on their mid-morning break at the little school down the lane, the sound as sharp and sunny as the air, their energy pitched high, like school children everywhere, their voices ringing with the rhapsody of recess; ah, these brief respites from routine and rules that we are introduced to at such a tender age and which many of us will struggle with, or succumb to, or survive with some degree of success, or none, for the rest of our lives.
We too, are on recess, a reprieve to which we are slowly adjusting. How ingrained we’ve become with the do’s and don’t’s, the should’s and shouldn’t’s of the universal rulebook. And how entrenched is the belief that we must be continually accomplishing something that will gain the approval of others?
On Monday we arose with this old behavior strident in us. Well, for heaven’s sake, we’d had a week “off” and now it was Monday: time to get to work. First we drove to Apt to attend to our mobile phones only to find Apt is closed on Mondays. Ok. Back home then, to laundry and housecleaning and emails.
In our bathroom I discover a puddle of water on the floor. Where did that come from? The sink is so clogged we haven’t used it for days, waiting for the caretaker to return from his New Year’s vacation. I leave a text message for him and meanwhile place a pan under the drip, which I have discovered is coming from where the pipe connects to the wall.
Time for lunch. I start to wash salad greens and think how strange that I hadn’t noticed before how much noise the water makes rushing down the drain. I open the drawer under the sink to get the salad spinner and see that the pipe has become disconnected sending the water pouring into the drawer which, as I open it, then pours all over my feet and the floor. Alors! Joel!
The caretaker, having returned from vacation that morning, responds to my text within minutes and arrives half an hour later, good natured and efficient. He reconnects the pipe and then explores the bathroom leak, fearlessly putting his hand in the trap and pulling out what appears to be a dead skunk but which is actually god knows how many years of hair plus a razor blade…go figure.
Monday night I have apocalyptic dreams. Tuesday morning Joel has a headache. We return to Apt and after looking at too many options, most of which are incomprehensible, we choose a phone plan only to find that for this one, one must have a French bank account. We do not. I’m ready to throw my iPhone in the nearest ditch and return to writing letters.
The health food store has no pears. We are now having words with each other of the unkind kind.
We light a fire, make dinner and while soaking in the tub talk about our sudden distemper. What happened to life in Paradise, you know, the one we had last week?
What we come to realize is that it isn’t easy to go from 100 mph for 4 months down to zero in just one week. Is that burning rubber we smell? And when one comes to a screeching halt, does it bring forth the fear of imminent death to such a degree that one wills oneself back into the routine of work instead of trusting that we’re still responsible adults who will take care of business in due time?
So we decided to treat ourselves today in the manner in which we are committed to now living: open heartedly and leisurely, albeit with truffle salt and chocolates in mind.
La Maison de Truffles in St. Remy is serious business. We’ve been there before so not only do we know which truffle salt we want, we also know that we will be strictly advised to not only keep the jar tightly closed but to ensconce said jar inside another airtight container, the better to preserve its intensity. What we hadn’t noticed is the little restaurant next door which today calls to us as one of those discoveries that will not disappoint. We will lunch there, but first to Joel Durand’s chocolate boutique. While deciding which seasonal flavors to purchase, we sip on a hot chocolate with ginger, just the thing for a frosty late-morning and it indeed helps us to settle on 16 dark chocolates, 4 each of saffron, cardamom, coffee and Szechuan pepper. Now we are ready for the market.
What joy to meander down a narrow street beckoned by the aroma of olives, a stall of which greets us in the sunny square. A few of those please, and on to the fruit stall for those pears we were denied yesterday. Every stall we pass insists on giving us tastes. We have a prune each: a prune of prunes, I might add, grown organically, brought to perfect size and moistness, we buy a bagful and think how sad it is that the American prune has come to represent old age and constipation as opposed to this French fruit which you want to spread on cheese or add to a beef stew.
The shops are to close soon, lunch is serious in Provence, but we have just enough time to buy a little jug for the house and a pair of corduroy pants for Joel and then it’s off to that restaurant, L’Estagnol.
I promise I won’t resort to food blogging on a regular basis but this meal was worth a review. Mussels draped in aioli for me and toasted goat cheese and smoked bacon for Joel, followed by a piece of fish, cod I think, that had been steamed to perfection before receiving a wash of another sort of garlic sauce that was light browned under a salamander for just a few seconds. A lovely cylinder of butternut squash seasoned with cumin partnered a slightly larger dollop of crushed potatoes, their pale yellow flesh earthy with flavor. But how on earth do they manage to cook broccoli so that the stalk is al dente while the florets are like mousse. Joel meanwhile was rhapsodizing about his pork, which was deep and tender. Neither of us had room for dessert but managed to polish off most of an apple crumble with cinnamon ice-cream and possibly the best crème caramel of the 21st century.
And so it was that we sailed back through the French countryside, once again relaxed, happy and grateful, and in this state could allow ourselves a late, dreamless nap by the fire. Before the day slid away it, too, blushed with pleasure, spreading a rosy smile across the land.