**The Blissful Adventurer is running about Italy at the moment so in his stead we happily endorse and support the work of the following blogger, Come Due Maiali ("Like Two Pigs"). Please check out this post, leave comments for exchange with the author, and give their blog a read.**
Two Pigs know a thing or two about bliss (hint: it involves eating and rolling around). They are friends of The Blissful Adventurer from the degenerate Austin days filled with fabulous cooking, eating and drinking (you will have to ask him about that sometime), and they will do their best to keep you amused in his absence. They are: a Russian-born princess that accidentally got turned into a piglet, and her ready-for-anything cutie husband (who, naturally, suffered the same fate).
As the Blissful Adventurer is currently blissed out somewhere in Italy, the Two Pigs are here to teach you how to convert your travel envy into something positive. In traveling vicariously, they want you to use more senses than just your sight, and do more than just drool over pictures. The only way to experience something is to live it, and it is more about the “how”, and less about the “what” and the “where”.
We have just returned from a fabulous trip to Provence, and we invite you to see the Provençal way of life through your own eyes, not just through our eyes. I could just taunt you with the pictures (well, I am going to do that anyway ).
As the Provençal proverb goes, “Slow in the mornings, and not too fast in the afternoons”, set aside two hours, during which you will not worry about your appointment, the latest FB update from somebody you barely know, or your favorite TV show.
Turn off your computer and cell phone (and obviously, your television). Invite someone whose company you enjoy to join you. That is all you will need.
Set up outside (on the back porch, backyard, or in a park) on a sunny day. The French have a fascination, almost a pre-occupation, with eating outside, and they are not discouraged even by the Mistral, the soul-chilling Provençal wind that blows away roofs and small animals.
Prepare for a leisurely multicourse experience. No wolfing down one plate of even very delicious gourmet food in 10 minutes. Remember, this is about the “how”.
Before anything happens, have an aperitif (kir or pastis) to prepare your body and most importantly, the mind for the luxurious experience. Get a carafe of mineral or regular tap water (known in France as “Chateau Robinet”(“Chateau Tap”).
Start with an entrée (“appetizer” in French, isn’t that funny): tapenade (an olive spread), a few slices of sausage, young asparagus from the market, and some good peppery olive oil with rustic or sourdough bread. Even though the French have the highest butter consumption in the world, butter is more typical of the North, while the South (and especially Provence) is truly olive oil country.
Your taste buds are starting to wake up.
Wine: your favorite red, white, or rose; we are going for something lighter, with some acidity. Right now, the south of France happens to be one of the most exciting wine-making areas in the world, as they embrace higher standards and work to change the stereotype of rustic, boozy wines. Producers such as Chateau Simone, Domaines Hauvette, Trevallon, Richaume are making stunning elegant and perfumy wines. But I digress…
Follow this up with a rustic salad, such as Niçoise, or a roast chicken with fried potatoes (or you could try making mashed potatoes the Provencal way, with olive oil instead of butter). Or maybe a piece of fish on a bed of primeurs (early spring vegetables) au pistou (the Provençal version of pesto, sans pinenuts)?
A cheese plate (a fresh goat cheese and an aged cow’s milk cheese for a nice contrast, perhaps?) Try a couple of cheeses you have not had before (they do not have to be stinky or blue).
A dessert of any kind (a plate of cookies, a piece of fruit), or if you are ambitious, possibilities are truly endless.
Finish with a coffee, or tea.
Close your eyes for a few seconds…
To quote Julia Child who spent ample time in Provence, “we should enjoy food and have fun. It is one of the simplest and nicest pleasures in life."
CDM for the Blissful Adventurer