Tag Archives: cheese

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

Peter Mayle passed away this year, and so I grabbed one of his books, A Year in Provence, from the library:


I read about one chapter at night before bed when I could (mostly in Idaho) and finally finished it. Last year, as you know, I read a lot of British gardening books last year, plus I’ve been watching The Great British Baking Show: Season 1 and now The Great Interior Design Challenge. What can I say? I’m at the stage of life where the dulcet tones of British sensibility calm me.

The book is divided by months of the year. It’s humorous and gives an accurate account of the culture in south France (as far as I could tell based on my time studying abroad there one summer). Mayle’s descriptions of rich food and wine is divine. You’ll find yourself wanting to crack open that bottle of wine, sprinkle your air popped popcorn with a tiny application of parmesan and possibly a more generous application of truffle oil. It was just the kind of reassuring novel I sought as I gestated through the middle of my pregnancy.

Though I found myself wishing for a deeper description of the property and the home they renovated (what tiles, flooring, wall color, etc. was chosen and why? What plants dotted the pool? The gardens?), I found Mayle to be doing God’s work in chilling out the anxious masses with his descriptions of good food and good wine.

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Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz

I recently became re-inspired to ferment something. This happened once, a few years ago, when I tried and failed to make a crock of sauerkraut. I love homemade sauerkraut (my Mom can make it effortlessly). It’s supposed to be the easiest thing to ferment in the history of fermentation (maybe with the exception of fruit ciders). This time around, as I was reading about sauerkraut, I realized what I did wrong the first time: I kept the crock too cold. Last time, I put it directly into the basement to forget about for a few months. My basement isn’t freezing cold, but I guess it stays pretty cool–too cool for adequate fermentation. Months later, it was just a salty muck, and I threw it out.

This time around, as I was studying fermentation, I read accounts of Germans keeping crocks of sauerkraut by the stove. People said they kept crocks in their kitchens, etc., where it was warmer, and then placed them in a cooler location once the sauerkraut reached it’s idea flavor. So, I tried again.

This time, I kept the container (I’m using a glass jar) in the kitchen, and within a day, it was a frothy and bubbly. Recipes said it could be ready in as few as three days, and it’s true! Within three days, I had sauerkraut. I fully intend to keep it in the kitchen until the flavor it just right. When it’s good, I’ll refrigerate it for easy access.

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second attempt at sauerkraut

While researching fermentation, one book kept reappearing and that was Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. So, I got a (very well used loved) copy from the library and read it in one day. The author’s enthusiasm for fermentation is contagious. I like fermentation as much as the next guy, but this book pumped me up even more. The first few chapters provide some good history and context for fermentation. There’s also some nice philosophical musing throughout regarding the divine and omnipresent nature of microscopic organisms like yeast.

The recipes in the book are artfully crafted. I intended to skim through the recipe section (which is the body of the book), but I ended up reading most of the recipes anyway. The book sold me on the value of regularly consuming fermented food and the value of fermenting that food myself. (I didn’t really have to be persuaded.) Here are a few foods with recipes from the book that seem good and completely doable: sauerkraut, honey wine, yogurt, cheese, kefir, buttermilk (and it’s pancakes), sourdough bread, rye bread, cider, apple cider vinegar, horseradish sauce, and yes, even kombucha.

I’m from Oregon, and I know it’s a cliché that everyone in the Pacific Northwest is always fermenting everything, but it’s true! I grew up with a mother who pickled and fermented foods regularly. It’s the way of my people.