Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence

“Rhapsodized over the menu” (4)
“hedges of rosemary” … “wildflowers, thyme, lavender, and mushrooms grow between the rocks and under the trees” (5)
“The language spoke was French, but it was not the French we had studied in textbooks heard on cassettes; it was a rich, soupy patois emanating from somewhere at the back of the throat and passing through a scrambling process in the nasal passages before coming out as speech. Half-familiar sounds could be dimly recognized as words through the swirls and eddies of Provencal: demain became demang, vin became vang, maison because mesong. That by itself would not have been a problem had the words been spoken at normal conversational speed and without further embroidery, but they were delivered like bullets from a machine gun, often with an extra vowel tacked on to the end for good luck. Thus an offer of more bread—page one stuff in French for beginners—emerged as a single twanging question. Encoredupanga? (6)
“Twice a week he would pedal to the village for his groceries and his gossip” (7)
“Meanwhile, a thousand miles to the north, the wind that had started in Siberia was picking up speed for the final part of its journey. We had heard about the Mistral. It drove people, and animals, mad. It was an extenuating circumstance in crimes of violence…every problem in Provence that couldn’t be blamed on politicians was the fault of the sacre vent of which the Provencaux spoke” (9)
“He made clucking sounds of disapproval” (9)
“Monsieur Menicucci delivered the first of a series of lectures and collected pensees which I would listen to with increasing enjoyment through the coming year.” (10)
“Rain they take as a personal affront” (10)
“Faustin’s rooster having his morning cough; the demented clatter” (11)
“It was a puzzle, until we realized how many of the local people had their birthdays in September and October, and then a possible but unverifiable answer suggested itself: they were busy indoors making babies. There is a season for everything in Provence, and the first two months of the year must be devoted to procreation. We have never dared to ask.” (12)
“The cold-weather cuisine of Provence is peasant food. It is made to stick to your ribs, keep you warm, give you strength, and send you off to bed with a full belly.” (13)
“A tray of drinks was brought out, with pastis for the men and chilled, sweet muscat wine for the women.” (13)
“It started with homemade pizza—not one, but three: anchovy, mushroom, and cheese…next course came out. There were pates of rabbit, boar, and thrush. There was a chunky, pork-based terrine laced with marc. There were saucissons spotted with peppercorns. There were tiny sweet onions marinated in a fresh tomato sauce. The duck was brought in…we had entire breasts, entire legs, covered in a dark, savory gravy and surrounded by wild mushrooms….plates were wiped [with bread] yet again and a huge, steaming casserole was placed on the table…a rabbit civet of the richest, deepest brown… We ate the green salad with knuckles of bread fried in garlic and olive oil, we ate the plump and round crottins of goat’s cheese, we ate the almond and crème gateau…” (14)
“it was apparent form the start that he was not a man who trifled with his stomach.” (16)
“I didn’t care. I liked him, and I had a feeling that he would be a rich source of fascinating and highly suspect information.” (21)
“Fortunately, his salesman’s instincts overcame his relish for a  bureaucratic impasse, and he leaned forward with a solution” (22)
“made a great performance of removing two or three outer laers of clothing, mopping his brow theatrically” (32)
“the secret to his continued elegance” (53)
“you cannot reason with a pig on the brink of gastronomic ecstasy… Unlike pigs, dogs do not instinctively root for truffles; they have to be trained, and Ramon favored the saucisson method. You take a slice and rub it with truffle, or dip it in truffle juice, so that the dog begins to associate… the stick method… likely-looking oak, approach cautiously and, with your stick, prod gently around the base of the tree. If a startled fly should rise vertically from the vegetation, mark the spot and dig. You might have disturbed a member of the fly family whose genetic passion it is to lay its eggs on the truffle (doubtless adding a certain je ne se quoi to the flavor)” (59)
“temples of the expense account” (61)
“He gave us a brief but extremely complimentary account of his business history.” (65)
“He was now ready to devote his energies, and ours, to the purchase of property” (65)
“divided between fourteen cousins, three of whom are of Corsican extraction and thus, according to our French friends, impossible to deal with” (67)
“A van from the wine cooperative was surrounded by men rinsing their teeth thoughtfully in the new rose” (72)
“to see what new nonsense is in the windows of the boutiques” (107)
“Strangers are automatically classified as tourists and treated as nuisances, inspected with unfriendly eyes and tolerated for cash.” (117)
“They have a talent for diarrhea”, a French friend observed. “If an Englishman hasn’t got it, he is looking for somewhere to have it.” (120)
“Designed, presumably by a Turkish sanitary engineer for maximum inconvenience” (121)
“the Provencal has a clock in his stomach, and lunch is his sole concession to punctuality.” (126)
“behaving so decorously” (138)
“It’s a matter of their crottins,” he said. “The goats who make the most droppings before the race are likely to do well. An empty goat is faster than a full goat. C’est logique.” We studied form for a few minutes, and No. 6, Totoche, obliged with a generous effort.” (139)
“A thin, high-chic Parisienne we recognized from the night before started to tap on e dainty white-shod foot, and an unshaven man with a glass of pastis and a heavy paunch asked her to dance, swiveling his substantial hips as an inducement” (140)
“Henriette’s ministrations were successful, and the old truck gasped up the drive” (159)
“Living in France turned us into bakery addicts, and the business of choosing and buying our daily bread was a recurring pleasure” (167)
“He listened as I told him of the lost drive, making interjections—quelle catastrophe was mentioned more than once—to show that he appreciated the extent of the problem” (174)
“where the bills are as memorable as the cooking” (190)
“such delicate chores” (201)


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