Wednesday, May 31, 2006

from Pierrerue: local time

It cooled off considerably overnight, but the sun remains brighter than bright. No matter, I spent most of the day in Pierrerue. For me, there is no greater motivation to get stuff done than to have the reward of places to go, foods to eat there, waiting. And so I settled in to work.

Not that Tuesday was a total throw away in terms of indulging the senses.There is something to be said for keeping your nose to the local ground. For example: in the morning, I went out in front of my stone hut to search out the legendary bread woman who careens around the villages with the daily supply of breads and baguettes. She came. I purchased.

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And so my breakfast is on the front step of my hut.

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could not resist a bite

From the step, I watch people in my village move into the fields and I visit with my neighbor. I swear she has the tail of another breed of animal. She sits between the two flower pots for most of the sunny hours of the day and comes over if I so much as look her way.

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At noon, I take a short walk around the village, stopping by the notice board at our one intersection. Announcements included a fete coming up on June 10, the "bar" will open in the village center at 19:00 (is there a center? Is it where the number of houses is equal to that going the other way?), dinner at 20:00, make your reservations, here’s the menu. Other announcements: watch out for these caterpillars in your garden. Children, there is a nature walk scheduled for you at this time. All: visit the exhibit of 1936 photographs from the region, at St. Chinian, until May 31st.

I hear it takes twenty years to live in a French village before you are accepted as authentically one of them. And yet, the sense of good will, at the superficial level of greeting, of explaining, of helping, of inviting is there from day one.

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Back to work. By 6, I am ready to quit. I have already worked probably three hours longer than the average French person. I take a walk along the country road. No great sight in the world could inspire a sense of tranquility in the same way that a country walk can, especially amidst blooming golden brush and rocky hills, with freshly green vines filling every spare crevice.

The soil is so poor here, but so pretty to look at. Red soil, gray rock, green vine, golden brush. A palate for an painter. The sun now feels warm, but the winds are there, famously strong. They account for the cloudless skies here. And for the huts built in fields, so that the farmers can find shelter when they gust through unexpectedly and dump stuff on a winter soil.

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In the evening I am with car, but I stay local. One more attempt at finding a good eating place at St. Chinian. Yes! It’s there! I am your devoted client, your fan, your admirer for life, well no, for three weeks. Madame Suzanne, you are a genius. Or, your husband (M. Regis) is, or both of you are. We shake hands at the end. She knows she’s got me in the palm of hers.

It’s called La Caleche and it is right on the village square. As in every French restaurant, there is a set menu and I leap to try it: menu du terroir – of the region, combining the flavors of St. Chinian.

I wont fill you with details. A quick photo run should do it – from the melted chevre with pine nuts, in puff pastry, to the duck breast with fig sauce and a cheese ravioli, selections from the cheese board and a warm local chestnut flan.

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with melted chevre and pine nuts

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with fig sauce and a cheese ravioli

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from local chestnuts

I am so glad to have the car to drive back up the hill to Pierrerue at night. If I use it for nothing more than that, it will have been worth it. (Ridiculous statement. Of course I use it for more. The very next day.)

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