When I hear the words wine country I think of Range Rovers, golden retrievers and turquoise swimming pools surrounded by terra cotta tiles with a view of the vines. This probably stems from spending lazy Sunday afternoons as a child watching the Parent Trap on VHS. The Lindsay Lohan version.
Here in France, in the middle of the Médoc, north of Bordeaux, wine country is a little bit different. Instead of Range Rovers, I have a red Peugot bike which I ride to the vines each morning. There are no lolloping golden retrievers, only roosters which crow at all hours of the day and cats to catch the field mice. And to cool down after tending to the vines we prefer to drink, not swim. A chilled glass of Rosé with a splash of creme de cassis and an ice cube. Organic Rosé made from the grapes that only a few hours ago I had been weeding, by hand.
Is there anything more beautiful than Wine Country?
Last night I brought a little bit of New Zealand to a French vingernon’s kitchen. More than a little bit, three courses. Three courses prepared in what is affectionately, or sometimes hatefully, referred to as une cuisine de camping. This house is a continual work in progress. There are wires hanging from the ceiling and every once in a while, Gerard must stand on a chair and push the insulation back into place with a broom handle. There are dust draps over everything and in the morning, in my east facing bedroom, I can see the sun rays through the gaps in the tiled roof. Thank goodness it is hot. Imagine the kitchen. I’m sure there are student flats with better kitchens. However, I’m sure these flats do not have Le Creuset. The shining orange Le Creuset helped calm my nerves cooking in a crazy French kitchen for Gerard and Ghislaine. One can not go wrong with Le Creuset.
entrée: salad of roast kumara, asparagus and green beans with mesclun and a mustard dressing.
main: leg of lamb baked with eggplant and mint.
dessert: pavlova with kiwifruit
When I began the cooking in the afternoon, determined to break the pattern of eating at 9.30-10p.m, the house keeper, Maria, asked me if I was sure I wanted to cook the kumara in the oven. She wondered if maybe I had muddled my french words a bit. Kumara, or patate douce, is somewhat of a novelty in France. Last night was the very first time Gerard, a man of 56, had tasted kumara. He liked it very much. He even had seconds.
The lamb was quite sensational, if I may say so myself. Or, I could just thank the powers of Le Creuset and be far more modest. Thank you Le Creuset. The lamb was tender and flavorsome and the aubergines, lightly spiked with mint, were soft and sweet. I will be making this dish again.
As for the Pavlova, I think the days of future pavlova Queen are a long way off. While pouring, as supposed to delicately placing, the whipped mixture on the baking tray, I prepared myself for another pavlova flop. But, I would never have guessed that a pavlova had the ability, indeed the quality, to be “the little Pavlova that could.” After a long sleep in a cold oven and a generous blanketing of cream, it really wasn’t too bad.
Gerard and Ghislaine were really rather impressed with New Zealand cuisine. As for me, I had survived “la cuisne de camping.”
And I hadn’t even made that many dishes. Did you read that, Mum?