Food and Drink: I smell the first cheese of summer

This is about that time of year when I begin restlessly stirring. With each year that goes by, the winters seem longer, summers more desirable. This shows in all sorts of dotty ways: the swinging of clubs and bats in hallways, a tendency to play salon pieces rather than Bach, a sweep-out of the social calendar - 'No I will not go to another charity dinner for 1,500 honouring the Young Chinese-American Woman Executive of the Year' - and a soft yearning for hard cheese.

This last, I grant you, is a bit queer, and there are those who think they smell a whiff of over-ripening camembert about the old man's brain. Not so. It is simply a visceral connection with the France of my early childhood summers. These - succeeded by a month in windswept Belgian seaports with rainy beaches and afternoons spent learning tennis by being ballboy for my father (then still recently Belgian champion) - took place in Monte Carlo.

Now, the Monte Carlo of which I speak is not that overpriced place that you know and loathe, along with its overweight and oversexed royals, its snotty policemen and its dubious entrepreneurs - the sort of place Britain should have owned and handed on to China - but rather a slightly overgrown and deliciously seedy Italo-French village. No skyscrapers blocked the view from the Villa Something- or-Other (it probably had some dodgy name such as Bien Joli). No diesel yachts with bulging superstructures rode at anchor in the harbour. The pine glade behind the house ran its uninterrupted way up the corniche, strapping Italian girls occupied themselves with my brother and myself and the kitchen, we lived out of doors - tanned, filled out (at least my brother did) - and I swear I can still smell tomatoes hot from the sun and little goat's cheeses that kept cool, under muslin, in the shade.

Both were brought to us by ambulants. Yes. Well, you would not understand, I tell my children. Not by ambulance: by ambulants. In London, ambulants under berets sold onions from their handlebars. In Monte Carlo, ambulants came by to seduce one with a fish fresh from the sea, their prize tomatoes, their little board of cheeses. They also brought bread and bad news: 'Ah, oui, Madame, you didn't know that little lady down the road there, past the mimosa, she did blow her brain out. Oh, quelle histoire]'

The goat's cheeses, yes. Even then, nothing was produced in the Principality of Monaco except stamps and bankruptcy, but the area all around, having been Italian, now being French, produced goat's cheeses, in all sizes, all shapes, all consistencies. It was not popular back then to add a few herbs, a fancy name and then spread goat's cheese on bread. No, goat's cheeses were treated with respect.

They were, for instance, as they still are, bottled in olive oil for three weeks (please, only during the waxing of the moon) and then served on a plate alongside a fat, ripe, redder-than-red tomato. You bit into the one (ruddying the front of your clean Aertex shirt) and popped the other in, pinned to a fork, right after. 'And if you dirty your shirt once more, there will be no glace for you]' Of course the smashing young signorina (that summer's, for they never lasted) did not really mean it. Summer was the one time you were not punished.

Anyway, you have now followed me to my Freudian roots, and I can tell you that as May spreads its pollen here, I long to be there. Not in Monte, God forbid, but somewhere where there are ripe tomatoes and fresh goat's cheeses. I shall go down the street if my gay (in the proper sense) yachtswoman is still in business and have a warm salade de chevre: the lettuce leaves silky rather than crisp, the thin slices of baby squid tangy, the baked chevre tart, astringent, puckery.

Then, for a while, I will gorge myself and fool around with the cheese - there in nothing like long deprivation to stimulate invention. I am packed with ideas. I have a feeling that fresh sardines baked with goat's cheese, fresh capers (or at least, if bottled, well-washed ones) and garlic ought to do very nicely at lunch. Then we must try that pork tenderloin we ate a few summers back: coated in a mixture of fresh, moist breadcrumbs, garlic, thyme and fresh chevre (the sweeter kind), baked, covered for a half-hour, and then browned, uncovered, until a wonderful colour.

I have seen a recipe for something like it in an American book. They want the tenderloin, that delicious, extravagant (but not that expensive) cut, cooked a half-hour per pound. All imbrunire della sera, as the poet says, wonderfully describing the slow fall of the Mediterranean light, with a volume of Mr Leautaud's memoirs before me (special gossip, saved for the summer) and a bottle of Faugeres, too, I shall polish off a pyramide while watching the swallows swarm. There are many pleasures in life. Best are those long anticipated; but most redolent are those redolent of childhood. The Italian writer d'Arzo is right: one may hate oneself, one may hate one's life, but one does not hate one's childhood, its pleasures or its pains.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week