My buddy Raymond Pert has quite a piece up at his place. (Editor's Note: scroll down to Sunday Scribbling: Solace) Now Raymond is a guy I don't know, have never met and don't have much in common with--except that we both grew up in North Idaho at the same time. He from a different community than me but yet we share enough similar vignettes of childhood that when he talks, I can hear the truth. I hear the truth of my childhood and how I grew up and about the people that were there and how it tasted, smelled and sounded. I never miss his blog and do miss his blog when he's not around because it's authentic. Raymond is authentic and not always funny, philosophical, contemplative, nor positive. But he is authentic and does a damned fine job of being authentic. This is a piece I did early on in my blogging tenure and it speaks to our cultural heritage as children of North Idaho. Do NOT neglect to click on the picture to enlarge it. The real beauty is in the details.
Well. Joe Montana pulled it off. He found Herbes de Provence at ... Safeway. I popped open the lid to finish up the tapenade and got a huge whiff of lavender, rosemary and tarragon. Brought back all those sunny days of exploring winding, crooked streets; the hills, the caves, the bulls, the horses; the vivid colors; and the smell of fresh food expertly prepared in a simple fashion. Oh, that Provence.
Our menu worked well for us and was a huge hit with our guests. We used place mats and plates for last night's run but anticipate we'll use the tablecloths tomorrow as we have a crowd coming. The Chows wonder if we can't rig up a table on sawhorses on the front porch and cover it with one of our new splendid Provencal tablecloths and fill the table with dishes, glasses and flowers. They think we can drag the chairs from around the house and garden to complete the table and then light a few candles. I think we'll put them along the window sills of the house. Could turn out just right. We gotta do our pork with cherries justice. We made the new grocery list and will peruse the garden for newly blooming roses. I like to have people over in batches and then put everything away and get back to digging in the dirt and reading. That's a life. Still no pictures. Just can't get any ones I like. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.
The Chows are scurrying around this morning as we are having people in tonight. When you are me, people expect certain things out of you. What they want out of me has changed over the years, Thank God, and these days my friends want to know about other parts of the world. The Chows on the other hand don't expect a damn thing out of me except that I come home to them and we have brunch together. And scratch. They want scratch. So anyway, we're working up a little Provencal dinner here for tonight. The Christ Child is shipping a box of things from New York that I could bring back from France to New York on the airplane but not from New York to Seattle without incurring grievous additional baggage fees. In this shipment from France via New York is my supply of Herb de Provence which can be tricky to get here in the US but is an essential ingredient of Provencal cooking. The Chows continue to dial the area merchants in hopes one of them will come through for us but if they don't I am fully prepared to take Costco Italian seasoning, add fresh tarragon and lavendar from the gardens here and keeping moving. You gotta get dinner on the table.
So we'll begin on the front porch, regrettably with gin and tonics as there for sure is no pastis available here in The 'Kan EWA. We will have tapenade, though. We are brewing up a mighty batch and our initial taste trial runs are giving us high assurance. To round out our first course, we will have walnuts from Gascony and cherries from Greenbluff.
Next we'll have the baby greens dressed with a mustard/tarragon oil and vinegar around the coffee table in the living room. I will serve the greens with a thick slice of beefsteak tomato and top with Basque goat cheese. I am going to slice the goat cheese in rounds and warm the top under the broiler and pop it on the tomato, atop the greens. I am going to fry pieces of fresh bread in olive oil and garlic and will finish with a few of these largist croutons and flecks of garlic. I ate enough of this salad in June to be a foremost expert on it and I can tell you definitively, it's a rough decision: eat it? or roll in it?
We are not having potatoes. I am still in penance for a potato moment in Gascony. On the lunch menu in Les Eyzies one afternoon was a plate of green beans, mushrooms and potatoes. I ordered it in a second. The beans were steamed and finished to perfection with tiny bits of ham; the mushrooms sauteed to an aphrodisiac state with what is probably a dizzying array of herbs and spices and the potatoes were cut in rounds and prepared in an innocent, unpretentious fashion consistent with the cooking and ways of the Basque. Although they were absolutely nothing special to the eye and had no bits of onion or bacon in them, they were quite tasty. Just plain potatoes, maybe steamed and then sauteed with olive oil? HA. Went back to the room and googled the potatoes as they were described in the menu and discovered that they are sliced and baked in handsful of goose fat. Yup. You want exquisite food? Throw goose fat at it. But our little Northwoods diet here of bark and berries doesn't accommodate fat so good, let alone goose fat. And apparently, that day, I ate enough for 3 years.
So we will have asparagus grilled with olive oil and sea salt from the Camargue, served with aioli that the Chows made last night. mmmm. mmmm. The main event will be a pork roast served with cherry salsa. Pure south of France cooking, except for that gin. They drink wine there but if you want to order gin, it will cost something like $30 per cocktail. And they're not even a Muslim country!
So we're off to get that blueberry ice cream cracking and get out the dishes and such. Stay tuned for pictures. Maybe we can get some up as we go along today. And if you are coming for dinner on Sunday, this is really unfair of you to come in here and sneak a peak at the menu. Anyway. I can't wait to see you. I have so much to tell you!
Special birthday in the family today. They come sooooo fast. I wish I could give The Birthday Girl a really special present. But she doesn't want it. I want to give her the benefit of all my errors. My egregious screw ups, my omissions, my naive wanderings, my fouls, my indulgences, my stubborn refusals, all the lost time. All of it. I wish I could give her my learnings, my lessons from a lifetime of mistakes. But she doesn't want 'em. Apparently she wants to make her own mistakes and gather her own learnings. Life is so unfair sometimes! Happy Birthday, Peed. I hope this next year is the best year of your whole life.
Back in the USA. Spent the evening of July 4 on a boat that sailed down the Hudson River and anchored in the East River so we could watch the fireworks. Sailed past the site of Castle Clinton where my people came through from Prussia. They went to Iowa and then Nebraska, where they were in business inside of being in this country six months. I come from a long line of survivors and women that are tough and adventurous. Courageous, too, I guess. I thought about them a lot that night, watching the fireworks, and thought about my parents. This country meant so much to them.
As to me, while I love this country, each and every state, it is being an American that means so much to me. And that has only come to me in the last ten years as I have been able to travel internationally, see other countries and cultures and then, understand fully what it means to be an American. And I am deeply proud to say I*am*an*American.
There is one thing I love above all the best of traveling internationally and that is this: JFK Airport in New York. Know why? When you go through Customs there, they stamp your passport and say 'Welcome Home'. They don't do that in Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle or even Washington D.C. In New York at JFK, they say 'Welcome Home'. I always, always get tears and find myself overcome . I love to come home to the USA. I love being an American.
Gascony and Provence are so distinct from each other--like California to Oregon, I guess and it has been the experience of a lifetime to be here with the Christ Child.
It was chilling to watch the bulls on range in the Camarogue in Provence and observe the striking resemblance to the bulls on the walls of the pre-historic caves in Gascony's Montignac. As we walked the passageways of the French Vatican in Avignon, we could feel the presence of the Catholic Church, past and present. When we roamed the streets of Arles, looking for that definitive shot, we knew we would see Van Gogh at a table in a cafe around the next corner. Such a timeless, sensual, spiritual and special experience this has been. Such a rich and humbling thing to be here with the roadtrip buddy of a lifetime, the Christ Child. He and I have been going on road together since back in the day and somehow this feels definitive. But I am sure, as I always tell him, the best is yet to come.