Thursday, October 13, 2005


People keep going to Italy.

The other evening we were walking in the burnt umber evening sun listening to the hunters’ shots amplified by the Ventoux and my mobile started vibrating in my pocket. A voice squeaked with excitement:

“We’ve just come back from Piemonte and we have a white truffle! He is sitting in the Arborio rice waiting for you to come and eat him…”

He was introduced to us the next night in the jar of shiny pert grain in which he had been hanging, spreading his pong. We passed the object round, reeling at first from the power of him and then, unexpectedly seduced, leaning in for a second whiff. After the appetiser he appeared at the table clad like a baby in a christening dress in a white lace handkerchief and we were allowed one peep. The upper layer of cotton was lifted to reveal the earthy nipple (or any other rounded sexual part you care to imagine) before he was shaved onto our aromatic rice.

It had been the truffle and the chestnut season in Piemonte, we were informed by our friends as we let thick slabs of white gold drop into our dishes. Over a gooey and delectable cake of goats cheese flavoured with chestnuts we started, as we always do with foodie friends here, laying in to and bemoaning the state of restaurants in Provence:

You feel like a treat, like not cooking, like having someone else do the washing up and work up the ambience. You feel like good simple home cooking at a decent price.

“Where is there to eat?” you ask one-another….

“Well there’s yours and there’s ours”

“Well, and there’s George and Jo’s.”

Over a toasty hazelnut tart with mascarpone –the last of their imports - I recounted my Saturday night restaurant experience in our village and they recounted theirs in Italy.

Mine: We had been invited out by some American friends whom we don’t know very well and they wanted to go to ‘Chez Hortense’. Thinking of the badly painted lavender sign, the possey of frilly knickers they use to decorate what is, essentially, a hayloft was quite enough to make me feel sick. However, we knew that the food was disgusting and overpriced and that no-one French ever went there. I tried to dissuade them, but they wanted to go. It being the hunting season, I ordered a dish of wild boar, which arrived in a ridiculous cocotte nestling up to three brussel sprouts and six grapes. I spent the entire meal raising my cupped hand to my mouth as if to stifle a cough I didn’t have and spitting out the grizzle. It was inedible and it was embarrassing.

“Lovely” our friends said as we left.

Theirs: Asking in the local bar where they should eat, our friends were direxted to a simple Osteria where they unashamedly stated that they were vegetarian. They were treated to an unpretentious feast of intensely flavoured grilled vegetables and pasta. Meanwhile, the man on the next table arrived with something in a white cotton handkerchief, of which he silently allowed the proprietor a glimpse. There were nods all around and a bowl of unadorned tagliatelle and a scraper arrived…. Everyone was happy.

So we stay home. We are all beavering away: Julian is going at the portrait in his new huge-windowed atelier, his brother is plastering a bathroom, I am playing bits of cello, roasting tomatoes with basil and making a vegetable stock with which to make a trompettes de maure risotto for some friends who are coming over for some good simple home cooking. Meanwhile we are planning that little trip over the border for our wedding anniversary and this time I’m not letting it slip.



Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I went to Italy for the first time this year. Don't know what took me so long. I loved it, all of it. I'll be going back! (I love France, too, though. And Spain. And Greece. Maybe that's the problem.)

11:11 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home