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At home in Provence (Anglais) Broché – 7 septembre 1998


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Broché, 7 septembre 1998
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An American Dream in the South of France 15 août 2001
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This book continues Patricia Wells� exploration of food, cooking, and the French way of life and is moreover a warm description of a triple love affair: with her husband, Walter, with their home in Provence, and with food. Patricia and Walter Wells moved from New York to Paris, France, when Walter became news editor of the International Herald Tribune. In 1984, Patricia and Walter bought an eighteenth century farmhouse with ten acres of land in northern Provence. On their property they found wild mushrooms, truffles, cherries, twenty olive trees, and a six acre vineyard. There were also several farm buildings. Rabbits, hares, ducks, geese, and even wild boar roamed the woodland. The purchase of this property transformed their lives. Soon much more than a weekend house, it became a central part of their lives and a symbol of what they valued most�happiness with friends, family, and food. Beautiful color photos by Robert Fréson show the roughcast stone farmhouse with the sandy tiled roof, the old stone steps and light blue louvered shutters. There are also photos of the views from the windows showing their vineyard with the mountains in the distance and the stone terrace on the wooded hillside on which they celebrate the end of the day and watch the sunset. The photos of the well equipped, carefully designed, spacious kitchen, the new bread oven, and the glimpse of a swimming pool give some idea of the major renovations that the Wellses carried out. The nearest town is Vaison-la-Romaine. The merchants and market stall holders there have become Patricia�s friends, and not only does she buy superb produce from them but she often picks up a new recipe or cooking technique. She obviously has a very good relationship with her butcher, Roland Henny, who is pictured standing majestically in his white jacket and apron and brown cap beside a case of superbly fresh meat. We can see that his star status is justly deserved as Patricia describes his skill, his artistry, and his pride in his work. The photos of a farmer with his home-grown produce, an old woman farmer with herbs and salad, the array of goat and sheep�s milk cheeses, the selection of olives and olive spreads, assorted crusty breads, and fish stalls with a vast variety of fish and make those of us living in small American towns the size of Vaison realize how limited our choices are in comparison. A good garden and a good local farmers� market are essential to follow Patricia Wells� philosophy of food preparation, which is keeping it fresh and simple. Most of the recipes belong to Mediterranean cuisine, a healthful cuisine that uses extra-virgin olive oil as the main fat. Some traditional foods have been adopted to be more healthful: a brioche made with olive oil instead of butter, and fake French fries, steamed and then roasted. The book is divided into the usual chapters: appetizers, salads, soups, vegetables, pasta, bread, fish, poultry, meat, desserts, and pantry. But the recipes themselves are anything but usual: for example, JR�s shrimp with basil (JR is the great French chef Joel Robuchon), caramelized fennel soup, celery root lasagna, spicy lamb curry with yogurt and apples, and chocolate honey mousse. The recipes are described in careful detail with tips and explanations to give confidence to the most inexperienced cook. Patricia Wells explains why some things have to be hand-chopped instead of processed in a food processor, why potatoes should be steamed instead of boiled, and what can be done with leftovers. She tells how to fillet a whole baked fish and how to peel celery root. She suggests substitutes for hard to find ingredients and recommends which wines to serve with each dish. Detailed information about specific ingredients such as fennel, endive, shallots, and coriander make unfamiliar ingredients less intimidating. The recipes are appealing and the photographs of the dishes are appetizing, but it is the introduction to each chapter and each recipe that makes the book a delight to read as well as an invaluable source of new recipes. Patricia Wells reminisces about meals she has had in Switzerland, Italy, and England and tells the reader how she brought the recipes home to Provence and adapted them. She sometimes gives a little history of the dish or talks about a neighbor or a friend who shared a recipe with her. She does not forget the United States: she uses the meringues she loved when she was growing up in Wisconsin to create a fresh fruit dessert. And she includes a Charleston oyster casserole that Walter prepares each Thanksgiving. In her introduction, Patricia talks about Walter�s ability to keep them on the path to true happiness. My favorite photograph shows Patricia standing by the outdoor bread oven as Walter unloads the spent trunks of vine they will burn in the oven. This photo captures the joy they share in their life at Chanteduc. Their collaboration in the kitchen is also shown in a pair of photos�Patricia removing a leg of lamb from the oven and Walter in a red-striped apron carving it. And who could help being intrigued by a recipe introduced by her saying that she had offered to cook anything in the world for him for New Year�s Eve dinner. What a marvelous offer from one of the best cooks in the world! What did he choose? You must read the book to find out.
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