18 June 2009

Provençal Cooking

Mary Ann Caws is a rock star of academe! She is the Tina Turner of translation! The Jane Birkin of Bloomsbury. The Janis Joplin of Surrealism. And she cooks! OMG.

As a young professor, Caws went to Provence to enmesh herself in the culture of René Char, the poet she was translating. She fell in love with Provence and the rest is history. I know, there are a million of these books.

I went to France.
I fell in love with France.
I fell in love with the quirky French people.
I fell in love with the divine French food.
I fell in love with the luscious French wine.
I fell in love with France and it’s quirky people who fed me French food in their exquisite little winery.

Feel free to substitute “Italy” and “Italian” for another million books.

I’m writing a book about moving to West Virginia and falling in love with quirky people and their food and wine... but I digress.

Even though there are a lot of these books, this one is written by Mary Ann Caws! She didn’t just stumble upon Provence she was on a mission. She understands the history and culture of France better than most Frenchmen. And while the term “academic” and “writer” are often mutually exclusive, that is never the case with Caws, whose real love is language and poetry.

Provençal Cooking: Savoring the Simple Life in France is a gigantic prose poem to food and all that it gives us -- sustenance, fellowship and renewal. She is not a “cook” but rather a passionate instructor who explains to the reader how to make a dish as though she were standing right beside them.

My friend Harry Lowe is the consummate vinaigrette maker. He is always put in charge of salads because he knows the magical alchemy of a vinaigrette. It is not measured with teaspoons or cups but with the eyes.

Caws understands that alchemy, she writes of a vinaigrette from Lucy up the hill.

Lucy’s Sauce Vinaigrette

calls for a pinch of salt, a spoonful of grainy mustard, a dribble of tarragon vinegar, a clove of crushed garlic, some green olive oil, and some pepper, freshly ground. (I have taken to growing my own tarragon, so I add a few sprigs of that.) Then you can add shallots or onions, the purple Simiane ones for color, and then some slices of bright red pepper and fresh basil.

If you love language and food, Provençal Cooking is a must. If you don't why are you reading this blog?

If you are interested in both food and surrealism, check out this Famous Food Friday post on Lee Miller at Lucindaville.

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