Wednesday Food: Dreams of Provence
Last week’s post revealed that I like Anthony Bourdain. His program on the Travel Channel, No Reservations, is by no means comprehensive or impartial, but it does allow for some culinary exposure to places I’ll probably never see.
On Monday, the 100th episode aired featuring Bourdain in Provence. He showcased artisinal cheeses, sausage, and pastries; the glowing, impeccable heirloom tomatoes and peppers; the rolling hills of grapevines and sunflowers; the regional adoration for Ricard Pastis.
The episode made me think about my brief visit four years ago to a tiny village outside of Nîmes. I can’t disagree with Bourdain’s apt description of Provence’s rustic charm as “the inside of Martha Stewart’s head,” and the glistening produce and seafood is as he said– every food-lover’s idea of heaven.
But there was something lacking from his account. Despite the hot June sun and pollen-rich breeze that turned my stay into an allergic mess, I could feel that there was something different about this place from the rest of the world. I can only describe it as exhibiting a palpable sense of satisfaction. As I said, I was only there a short time and had I stayed longer, maybe things would have felt different, but the people there seemed so truly dedicated to the simple joy of their lives. Work hard, eat well, enjoy one another. Nothing else mattered much and the anxiety-ridden superficial crap that infests most of our lives was nonexistent.
At the end of the episode I had a long conversation with my sister in which we shared a genuine concern that regardless of the events that transpire in our lives, at the end of it we may be nothing more than a pair of malcontents with an appetite for good food and drink. We are truly American, and willing participants in the relentless pursuit of more, more, more.
Yesterday at the grocery store, the pursuit of satisfaction led me to purchase a pound of mussels and a loaf of country bread. I didn’t prepare them last night because I wanted to photograph my meal and the sun was already set. I woke up early this morning, got to work steaming the mussels in a half bottle of Duvel, plated the dish and moved it into the light. I had a taste while I took some pictures, then sat down and ate whole bowl…with the remaining bottle of Duvel…all before 8 am. I can’t say it will last, but at least for today, I am satisfied.
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