Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday, and the living is easy....plus Provence 1970 and where is Mr. Tumnus when you need him?


We have been having a great week, although I did have a touch of the "ick" yesterday and spent most of the day on the couch, unsure if it was a result of over-indulgence or a touch of the flu.  Either way it doesn't matter; I had the house all to myself as Barry and the kids went to see his parents for the day. 

The time between Christmas and New Years Eve often has a "cut off from the rest of the world" quality about it to me.  We do see people, but the TV is almost always off, save for the odd movie we watch together or our holiday tradition of watching the British Year End Show "The Big Fat Quiz of the Year".  Mostly, there is chatting, listening to music, and reading.

Thursday night we saw very old friends - folks I went to graduate school with in the 1980s and it was so much fun to see them and have great conversations and tell funny stories.  These are smart-as-whips folks; truth be told I had forgotten how clever and insightful they are and was glad to bask in their intellect for a few hours over a glass of cabernet sauvignon!

Given my horizontal day yesterday, I was able to read one of my Christmas books in its entirety: Provence 1970, by Luke Barr, which describes the intersecting lives of Julia Child, Barr's Great-Aunt MFK Fisher, James Beard and Richard Olney in Provence in December 1970.



Whereas other books I've read about Julia have focused on her love affair of French Cuisine, this book describes a seminal moment when America's food giants began to turn away from the rule-bound and perceived preciousness and snobbery of French cookery towards a more relaxed and convivial approach to food. 

I really enjoyed the book.  I have certainly been aware of MFK Fisher, the preeminent food writer of her time, for years, but have never read any of her work, which I plan to remedy in 2014, since the snippets of prose contained in this book are lovely and evocative.  The same could be said of James Beard; he looms as a distant memory in my mind, a great bear of a man who I'd seen on TV chat shows as a child but knew little about.  Julia on the other hand, was a force of nature until the day she died and was able to keep a relevance about herself within popular culture by evolving along with the rest of society in her own Julia-like way.

James Beard, source


MFK Fisher, Source

This book evokes a time when the first wave of America's obsession with good food was coming to an end - what would replace it?  The democratization and education of the public about the importance of good ingredients, eating locally and seasonally, that's what.  I can recall growing up in a small town in New Brunswick in the 1960s and 1970s - there were two types of lettuce, herbs were all dried and sold in little bottles, maybe the odd garlic bulb could be found, but mostly your mum used garlic powder.  Because of Fisher, Child and Beard, the public began to demand access to fine ingredients that had long been available to their European counterparts.  The grocery stores of 2014, with their multi-ethnic options and fresh produce are so dramatically different from the grocery stores of my youth that they might be different places altogether!

Most importantly, this book documents a remarkable friendship between Fisher, Child and Beard that supported and sustained them all.  Olney is the outsider, the agent provocateur, who is demanding and judgemental of the three giants, perhaps with reason, and serves as an instigator of sorts to the three others as they plan their next projects and new directions.  The story of them cooking ensemble at Child's place in Provence, La Pitchoune, is wonderful, and the author, a writer for Travel and Leisure Magazine, rented the place for a couple of months while writing this book.  You can read a wonderful article by him about that experience here

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Reading the book made me hungry, but I wasn't feeling good at all, so my supper was a humble, but tasty event: pasta with many herbs.  About 2 days after Christmas I always only crave green things and this did the trick - I chopped every herb I had in the crisper, dill, basil, marjoram, rosemary and parsley and tossed it with the pasta and the olive oil and a wee bit of parmesan cheese.  I made a large batch so I would have some for lunch tomorrow.




I am contemplating doing a bit of cleanse for the first two weeks of January, just before my birthday: no alcohol, no bread, no coffee or sugar, just fresh fare and small portions and good juices.  This is less about dieting than about giving my system a healthy kick-start in the new year. 

There are still thousands of people without power here in New Brunswick, over a week after the big storm.  It has stormed twice since then and today we are supposed to have another blizzard-becoming-freezing rain storm - 25 to 30 cm more.  I have friends without power a couple of hours away, and while they are staying with friends and family, I cannot help but feel guilty in my cozy home that is so sustaining me this holiday season, and am sending prayers that the storm doesn't make it even worse for the workers who are working so desperately to restore power.  It is important to remember that this is New Brunswick - these people who have no power and the temperature outside on Thursday night was -20.  Not good at all and they could use your good thoughts...

The world is just white, white, white, here; the sky is white, the trees are all white, the roads are white; it is as if we have become the movie set for Narnia under the White Witch's reign.


 I keep expecting to stumble upon a lamp post at any moment....




The only colour is the odd dead leaf or bark and the Christmas lights that still twinkle. 


 





What's up for today? 

Well we hope to have our friends over with their young kids this afternoon to play board games and make pizza before the big snow storm starts.  And I will be digging into my next book - will it be The Goldfinch or The Interestings?  I have been reading voraciously and am happy to say I hit 60 books for 2013 yesterday, which makes me about as happy as a person can be.

I also have a lovely coffee table book that my son gave me about 100 years of Vanity Fair Magazine and I ought to clean up some as well...  So many decisions.....

Have a wonderful Sunday and stay safe out there!

 

36 comments:

  1. I am glad you are feeling better. My body is starting to revolt from all my slothfulness. Do believe I will need to DO something sooner rather than later. Your pictures are gorgeous. We just have more rain in the forecast. May be the perfect day to take down the decorations. A bit early but they drive me crazy once Christmas is over.

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    1. BB - I think if you have generally healthy habits one's body will only stand for so much crap! I slept terribly last night, but that's not the end of the world and that's what naps are for!!! I am hoping to keep tree up till the 6th, though it is losing needles like crazy now!

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  2. Wendy we've all been saying that it feels like we are living in Narnia! Where is Mr. Tumnus good question!
    I spent yesterday cleaning my house, putting away Christmas and scouring the kitchen, no more heavy foods here. I plan to start cooking my way through Jamie Oliver's 15-Minute Meals today, well I've tried a couple of the recipes already and they are fresh and delicious.
    You will love The Interestings, I read it earlier this year and I thought it was an amazing novel, it's a page turner so you'll soon be at 61 books!
    Stay warm through the next storm, how terrible to be without power in the cold. I've been thinking of those people all week!

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    1. Okay, Meg wins out over Donna! I still have my things under the tree - guess that will be a tomorrow thing as I need to make pizza dough and run the vacuum today! I was watching Jamie's 15 minute meal show yesterday in fact and the recipe he cooked looked amazing. I love my Jamie cookbooks!

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    2. Meg was DD's creative writing teacher in college. Wonderful!

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    3. Now that would gave been fabulous...

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  3. Sorry you haven't been feeling well. We got our bit of Christmas snow but now it's rain. I like snow a lot but you may have too much even for my liking. I can't imagine how awful it is for anyone without power. It looks like it is incredibly cold up your way, too.
    I'm in the same mode as Blue Booby - I am irritated with the Christmas decorations now and want to take them down, body revolting from too much slothfulness, etc. I want to stay inside and purge stuff out of the house.
    Stay warm and feel better!!

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    1. Cate - it is funny isn't it? Later this week I plan to do some deep cleaning of some junk spaces and toss some things and move some things out of the closet that have no place being there come January-Feb-March! I will be sad to take my stuff down but there is always the freshness of a lovely clean and de-cluttered house!

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    2. Decs are gone here, only the tree remains.

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    3. Any foxes mounted over the fireplace?

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  4. Hope you are on the mend. We are dealing with the storm aftermath here too. I recommend The Goldfinch. Beautiful book!

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    1. I am looking forward to both - I read the luminaries abducted it was wonderful!

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  5. Sorry you are feeling poorly, but soothing herb pasta should fix you.

    You will LOVE MFKFisher. I have just about everything she wrote and have read her since college. ROLney's Simple French Food is also a classic. And, Julia; when you visit I'll show you the photo!

    Many mid- Mainers have gone without power, but it's worse where you are. There are crews here from as far away as Arizona ( on Christmas, the angels). I do hope you are spared again tomorrow night. Do you have a generator? We sprang for one after 3 days one December in the dark, one of the nights subzero. I will take any one in who loses power!

    Yesterday I did the Audobon bird watch; you sit in your house or go outside and periodically count the birds, which kinds, and then report at sunset. So relaxing to have to be in nature all day. The seals leaped in the harbor, too.

    Enjoy your company today!

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    1. Well I spoke too soon - we just lost our power! Uh oh...is snowing to beat the band...this is crazy weather...

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    2. Lane, that sound just amazing.

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    3. Power back, but buying a generator next time I see one (ever store is sold out around here!)

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    4. July is a good month to buy one, lol; they give them away then!

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  6. I hope you stay safe and warm and that your guests are able to travel to and from your home safely too. Our weather has been all over the place this season. So much snow and so often, so cold, then a couple of melting days to make everything glare ice and now back into the deep freeze.

    The pasta sounds wonderful and just what the doctor ordered. I think sometimes our instincts guide us that way on purpose. I like to do a detox/cleanse diet every spring and fall. I find my energy level increases and I just feel better overall. Hope you get the spring back in your step soon.

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    1. xoxo - would love to here how you detox! I know for sure that I crave vegetables if I have been off them (or on chocolate!) for a couple of days!

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  7. Yes all this excess is even making me want green things as well! I think a detox is a great idea...Isn't it terrible that something so pretty can cause so much havoc. I can't imagine being that cold and having no heat!! Well done on reading so many books! Wow - very envious of you. Hope you feel better Wendy!

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    1. Thanks CSW! I have read more this year than in 5 previous so very content!

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  8. I cannot even imagine minus 20, that must be horrendous, we still have no TV, no phone, fridge or B& P email but fingers crossed it will all get sorted this week.
    I live on green things really, never a day goes buy without a plate of steamed veggies and a workout in our house, mum calls it ' the ashram" We gymed at 6.00am as usual this weekend, but hope to have two days off this week to sofa flop.
    Ok am I the only, one angst detoxes? I'm old school medic!

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    1. I bought a new bamboo steamer this afternoon while we wait for power to come back on - I have decided no diet - just healthy, healthy, healthy and see what happens!

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  10. MFK is such a lovely sensuous writer, I've read everything she published, some things multiple times. Just thinking of her has made me hungry for a plain buttery lightly scrambled egg.

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    1. I don't think I liked to eat before I read her.

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    2. well you have sold me - off to download onto the kindle app!

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  11. I had an ick day too yesterday - time to detox! I'm big into greens. Provence 1970 sounds very interesting, I have a whole list of books to start reading in the New Year, as always!

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    1. I hear you! The list grows ever longer!

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  12. Hi Wendy, I'm also feeling the after-effects of Christmas! However, I will not take down the Christmas decorations until 6 January, and we still have some heavy eating days ahead as we are visiting friends in Ottawa after the New Year. However, as soon as we are back I'll be scaling back the food intake and doing a mini detox with the Nutribullet.

    Hope the latest storm doesn't hit you too hard - but the snow definitely makes for a beautiful landscape around your house.

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    1. Patricia! Nutibullet and the January cure! I'm in!

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  13. I've never been a foodie but did recently hear of this Child, Beard, Fisher association and it did intrigue me. Obliviously I was walking by Charlie Trotter's recently shuddered eponymous digs the day he died just as the TV trucks & crews were positioning for live reports. His passing (tragically early) was treated like a Head of State locally. While it has never been a passion of mine, food prep (like fashion) when executed at the highest level is ART.

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    1. I am not a foodie either! I do love goof food around a table but where I live is still the 1960s! I do not know Charlie, am off to look him up!

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  14. Oh, I love reading biographies about groups of friends like that- sounds like a great book! I could use something to push me in the direction of enjoying cooking! Your simple pasta looks yummy!

    I just finished reading one of my Christmas books, after a day spent on the couch- The strangers child- sort of a revisiting Brideshead revisted type novel. Quite enjoyed it, and actually the Goldfinch is next on my list!

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    1. Hi! Can you email me? You won the book last week and I need an addy to send it to! sydforry@hotmail.com

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    2. yippee! I missed your fabulous announcement. I guess I shall be working on developing a love for cooking in the new year (I go like baking very much...)

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