I finally read a whole book! It had been so long since the last time I did. And nothing beats the satisfaction of having finished a book or a Blog post. Really! The book, “A Pig in Provence”, is written by Georgeanne Brennan. It’s a memoir about the American author’s life in Provence, her love for French food, its people and their way of life. Sort of like Julia Child and her “My Life in France”.
What is it about traveling, returning to roots, cooking food that one grows and bonding with family over meals, that’s making me reach out for books that revolve around those aspects? A yearning for a simpler life I suppose. Whatever it is, I find it effortless to read such books.
I’d read another book on similar lines called “Animal, Vegetable and Miracle”, written by Barbara Kingsolver, and had fallen in love with it. It’s about a year in the life of the author and her family during which they resolve to consume food grown locally and seasonally in their own neighborhood or backyard.
“A pig …” begins with how the author learns to make Goat Cheese by herself from the herd she buys and rears. Its a slow start; She makes a lot of mistakes- adds too little Rennet to begin the curdling of the milk, or adds too much, but she doesn’t give up. She perfects the art and prepares Chevre or Goat Cheese good enough to sell to her French neighbors!
It’s her wish to live a rich life in rural Provence, a life filled with the luxury of time and connections with the land and her neighbors, not a material luxury. She yearns for “long days of cooking, reading, writing, and sewing, with the occasional visits to Paris and Spain, countries (she and her husband) had fallen in love with during (their) honeymoon..”. I kept wondering, what’s wrong with savoring life that way? Why was everyone after something or the other? What was the mad rush all about? I decided, I too wanted to spend all my time reading, writing, making art, laughing, traveling and loving…
This book talks a lot about “connections with the land” that we missed when we were living in the US. We couldn’t grow a thing out of that hardy, desert soil, except a few prickly Cacti and a bunch of Succulents. I still suck at Gardening, but we do have help around here, which means I don’t have to do the Gardening myself, but I still get to eat fresh, organic, locally-grown food. I love visiting our farm, learning from our farmer, clicking pictures of what we grow, picking veggies and coming up with ways of cooking them.THAT is life to me.
Every chapter in the book ends with a recipe, non-vegetarian mostly, but there are a few vegetarian recipes as well. All of them seemed so mouth-watering that I kept thinking how I could tweak the techniques and ingredients mentioned in them to suit our vegetarian palates. I followed the recipe for Vegetable Soup with Basil-Garlic Sauce, with a few modifications, of course, and it tasted good. There’s one more- a Petits farcis, a Summery Stuffed-Vegetable recipe, that I’ve written down to try one of these days.
I give this book a 4-star instead of a 5, because I feel chunks of the author’s life are missing from it. It isn’t clear how and when she began teaching French cooking from teaching History and English at school. She writes about the friendships she builds with an assortment of people- how they let her into their lives and their kitchens and taught her to cook the Provencal way, but her personal life is a bit hazy; She doesn’t tell us why she married again. Or why she left Provence and moved back to the US (Or did I miss that?!?!). Perhaps it is just meant to be a collection of recipes with a bit of backstory thrown in for each. And nothing more than that. Maybe. No matter what, it was a drool-worthy, quick and pleasant read.