Travel for mind, body and spirit: Stomach Eating well in Provence

Stomach Eating well in Provence

My love affair with France is inexorable. I may become more excited at the prospect of jetting to New York, vaguely bewildered when touching down in Sydney - simply because it is so absurdly far away - and have also been delighted by the occasional urge to venture to Italy and Spain. (For some reason, I find I have no urge to go to Germany or Iceland.) So I return to France over and over again, mainly because I like to eat there. And it is very near.

The most memorable journey to France began with coffee in Montreuil and terminated in Provence with a glass of rose ... well, to be honest, it actually went on as for as Florence, but that is another story, another country (I didn't even know how to ask for a glass of red wine, in Italy, in 1984). But this motoring trip south was to be the first of many trips to Provence, to stay at Le mas de Brunelys, la maison tout comfort et bon gout de Terence Conran, my friend, muse, and then-soon-to-be-partner at Bibendum restaurant.

One leisurely trip involved a short flight to Paris, a brief taxi ride to the Gare de Lyons, lunch in the vast and beautiful station restaurant, Le Train Bleu (salade frisee aux lardons; boudin noir et pommes frites; fromage), a compulsory platform punch of the designated ticket followed by a smooth and curvy whoosh to sunny Avignon. (It was also particularly pleasing to find a miniature of chilled poire Williams to have with my TGV coffee).

Journeys by road have taken in overnight stops at Greuze, in Tournus, where I ate the finest frogs' legs ever and once demolished a whole St Marcellin cheese all to myself so very, very a point it was; an astonishingly pretentious lunch chez Pic, Valence, where I remember Terence referring to the food on our plates as "Hunka-Munka - you just want to smash it into little bits"; another overnight at L'Esperance, Marc Meneau's north Burgundy three-star, where a terrine made from veal spinal column caused me to realise that most three-star establishments outside France are, in fact, only worth two - or occasionally, just one star.

But the true pleasure of these trips would always culminate in the kitchen at Brunelys: the animated discussions over which market was best that day and what we were going to buy. There would be rabbits for marinating in the rose, olive oil and some wild thyme from the hillside, real tomatoes, shapely peppers, purple aubergines, tiny fish for making soup, green furry-skinned almonds and the even deeper green olive oil from nearby Maussane-les-Alpilles. The even greater pleasure was to cook it all. Cooking in France - in both senses of that phrase - has never been better.

Those rabbits were cooked on vine wood, gently burnished until small pearls of juice seeped out through their diminutive muscles (a sure sign that any small joint is almost ready), and dropped on to the greying embers below, causing mini-explosions. Slices of aubergine also went on to the fire with the rabbit, thickly cut and previously dipped into the rabbit's oily marinade, so they too became darkly singed but fondant within.

I will never forget that special day: from the early morning outing to Arles market for the rabbit and sundries, the cafe-Calva on the way home in Fontvieille. Finally, it was the simple joy of preparing, cooking and serving that lunch that satisfied me most. The occasional quaff of rose (l'eau minerale de Brunelys) as one went about the task and sitting in a sunny Provencal garden afterwards devouring the result - my apron still attached. I felt deeply glad to have cooked well, in that sunny holiday garden, for Terence. Nunc est Bibendum! Simon Hopkinson

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
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 General

    Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

    £16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

    £9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

    Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

    £15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn