Tag Archives: food

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.

adventures in pesto

I did not grow up eating pesto. I grew up eating meat and potatoes, and I turned out fine! (Er?) Anyway, since childhood, I have grown to appreciate pesto. As you know, this year my patio garden is doing better than any of my previous attempts at a patio garden and that includes the herbs.

In the past, I’ve grown herbs just because the marketing is so cute. Who wouldn’t want a tiny little lemon balm plant growing in the kitchen window? Well, evidently, me. Turns out, I don’t use a lot of lemon balm…or mint.

basil bolt bouquet

basil bolt bouquet

This year, I bought rosemary and basil, both are plants I knew I would use in my cooking. And I bought sage and lavender because, even if I didn’t use them as much in my cooking, I still love walking by and covering my hands in their scent.

Part of my success in patio gardening this year has been in growing things I’ll actually use. This year, that included basil. My basil plant has been so spectacular this year. I’ve been using it mostly in fresh salads, but also in some cooked dishes. Because of my surplus, and because it sounded good, I even whipped up my first ever batch of pesto. It was fairly easy and tasty. I followed a basic recipe and used walnuts instead of pine nuts because that’s what I had.

bee on basil (in need of a trim)

bee on basil (in need of a trim)

The outcome was very good, but that’s because it’s hard to go wrong with fresh basil, cheese, and nuts. Next time I make pesto, I’m going to up my basil to nut ratio. It was a little on the dry side, and I think cutting back on the walnuts and adding more fresh basil will do the trick.