Archive for July, 2008

Summertime Provencal Produce

July 19, 2008 11:32 am

IMG_8783.JPGWe are deep into summertime here in Provence and enjoying the fruits – and the vegetables – of the local farmers’ labors. Each season has its produce charms but those of summer are incomparable. Tomatoes, especially, are in abundant variety. Some are best for making sauces, others for stuffing, and others just for eating as is. Drizzle the tomato slices with local olive oil, add a dash of red wine vinegar, and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and Fleur de Sel (“flower of salt” in French, a sea salt) – et voila! Don’t forget to garnish with fresh parsley and basil from the kitchen windowsill pots.

Our favorite local market is close by at Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, a beautiful old village dominated by the 14th century hilltop Fort Sainte André. The village is on the Rhone, directly across the river from Avignon. All the outdoor markets are busier – thanks to tourists – during the summer, but this one never seems to get too overwhelmed. Every Thursday morning, Kevin and I arrive intending to buy just what we need for the week, but we always go berserk. We can’t help it. It reminds me of what Oscar Wilde once said: “I can resist anything except temptation.”

IMG_8787.JPGAs I was trying to stuff our purchases into the refrigerator (not the tomatoes, thank you), I counted fourteen different fruits. Fourteen! Okay, I admit to including lemons and limes on that list, as well as some non-local fruits such as bananas, pineapple, grapefruit, oranges, and some outrageous Bramley apples we brought back from England, but herewith the local fruits: raspberries, tiny plums, red currants, peaches, figs, cherries, and apricots. Yesterday, I removed by hand the stones from a kilo of cherries and made chilled cherry soup. Quite tasty …


The Henley Royal Regatta, 2008

July 13, 2008 10:25 pm

End of a Fours' RaceKevin and I returned last week from England where we attended the first three days of the five day Henley Royal Regatta. The HRR is a rowing event held every year since 1839 on the River Thames by the gorgeous village, Henley-on-Thames. Races take place over a course of 1 mile, 550 yards, and end just short of the Henley Bridge.

There are many areas from where one can view the races along the river, but the prime real estate is in the Stewards’ Enclosure adjacent to the last part of the course and the finish line. Because Kevin is a member of the Staple Gunned?Stewards’ Enclosure, that is from where we view the proceedings. This was our sixth year in a row together, and who knows how many times Kevin has been sans moi. He said his first visit was sometime in the 70’s, and he has been almost every year since the early 1980’s. We have a reunion there every year with Kevin’s superb godfather, Michael, and his adorable Danish wife, Christina. Also joining our group for the third year in a row is Dom & Hilary, our friends from San Francisco (by way of Wales for Dom) who now live in Zurich with “the cutest baby in the world” – Bryn. Michael, also a member of the Stewards’ Enclosure, attended his first HRH in the 1940’s.

The weather was lovely this year. It only rained two of the three days, but I didn’t have to wear my Wellington’s even once. I certainly couldn’t say that about the previous five years, where at times I had to tromp through mud and wrap myself in a blanket to keep from freezing to death.

School JacketsI must confess, I didn’t see much of the races this year. It’s always more of a fun peacock parade for me, with the men just as showy as the women, especially in the Stewards’ Enclosure. It’s known for strict enforcement of its dress code. Men are required to wear a “lounge suit, blazer and flannels, or evening dress, and a tie”. Women are required to wear a dress or skirt that covers their knees, and are “strongly encouraged to wear a hat”. Anyone not suitably dressed can be refused entry, no matter their prestige in rowing or elsewhere. The fashion police are everywhere there, looking for those knobby knees …

Check out Photos for some good hats and old school jackets!