Ten Trees and a Truffle Dog

BOOK: Ten Trees and a Truffle Dog
4.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
'Jamie's evocative writing always makes me hungry!'
Olly Smith, television presenter and wine expert
'A great read. This entertaining story of truffles, healthcare and building à la française had me engaged and laughing out loud.'
Caro Feely, author of
Grape Expectations
'As evocative as the smell of a boulangerie in the morning, Jamie Ivey's writing brilliantly captures the mood of French village life, with its chess-like politics and you-scratch-my-back diplomacy. Told with great humour and beautifully written, it's a fascinating story but what comes through most is the obvious love Jamie has for Provence and its people. Highly recommended.'
Ian Moore, comedian and writer
'Jamie Ivey's evocative descriptions of the characters, food and wines of Provence in
Ten Trees and a Truffle Dog
are often so vividly seductive that I was honestly tempted – as a vegetarian alcoholic sworn off the booze – to return to eating savoury meat dishes and quaffing rosé wine. I think I'll pass on the steak tartare though! A brilliant read, highly recommended.'
John Dummer, author of
Serge Bastarde Ate My Baguette
'A delicious immersion into the heart of French life that has me yearning to return tout de suite! This lighthearted trek through Provence will whet your appetite for an edible adventure and a place to call home.'
Kimberley Lovato, author of
Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves
Copyright © Jamie Ivey, 2012
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, nor transmitted, nor translated into a machine language, without the written permission of the publishers.
The right of Jamie Ivey to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Condition of Sale
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent publisher.
Summersdale Publishers Ltd
46 West Street
West Sussex
PO19 1RP
eISBN: 978-0-85765-694-0
Substantial discounts on bulk quantities of Summersdale books are available to corporations, professional associations and other organisations. For details telephone Summersdale Publishers on (+44-1243-771107), fax (+44-1243-786300) or email (
[email protected]
About the Author
Jamie Ivey
has written three books about the south of France:
Extremely Pale Rosé
La Vie en Rosé
Rosé en
, published by Phoenix (Hachette). He lives in Provence with his wife and daughter.
Daily Mail
has described Jamie as 'a younger Peter Mayle with a similar turn of phrase,' and
The New York
Times Online
as 'great fun to read… particularly if you enjoy sticking your nose into little-known corners of France.' Jamie won the 2006 Gourmand award for book of the year on French wine.
Author's Note
Names, dates and places have been changed. Some of the characters are composite.
Part 1
A Miracle in the Market
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Part 2
A Lion in the Lavender
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Part 3
Gendarmes in the Garrigue
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Epilogue – Six Months Later
Part 1
A Miracle in the Market
Chapter 1
t was a crisp December morning in Provence. Trails of smoke from the glowing barrel of a roast chestnut vendor streamed into the rich blue sky and the seared fatty smell of fried foie gras drifted in the air. Puddles from yesterday's storm had iced over making the pavement treacherous for the traders but even so an unbroken row of stalls lined the street.
  The finest food from all over France was available – corn-fed chickens from Bresse, pungent charcuterie from Corsica, milk-reared veal, marbled Charolais beef, olives from Nyon, duck confit from the Dordogne and plump oysters from nearby Sète.
  As my wife, Tanya, and I strolled slowly along we eavesdropped on excited culinary chatter.
'Quel mélange, c'est magnifique.'
'Tout à fait – il faut le cuire à l'avance.'
  There was no mistaking the rapture in the voices as recollections of unforgettable dishes and historic recipes were shared.
  'Rub a Sisteron gigot with rosemary. Slow bake, prepare the ratatouille with overripe tomatoes and courgettes, season with dried summer herbs,' rattled away an old lady, clasping an overflowing shopping bag in her bony fingers, 'and perhaps some winter leaves tossed in vinaigrette, then a peppered goat's cheese, and one of Monsieur Soggia's lemon tarts to finish.'
  To listen was to salivate.
  Provence has a food festival almost every week. If it's not the sweet melons of Cavaillon, then it's the spiky sea urchins of Carry-le-Rouet or the heat-baked wines of Saint-Rémy. The format is always similar – hungry crowds gather, enticed by seasonal delicacies and the sultry swing of a band. Before long the streets bleed pink with rosé.
  There's a compère from the local radio station who fights his screeching microphone to interview the mayor and towards the end of the day a procession of food groupies. Cherries, strawberries, even the humble Provençal potato – each and every consumable has a society of admirers or
. These plump men and women hide their ripe bellies under priestly gowns and measure each heavy step to a monastic chant. Deep, growling voices reverberate to the heavens. The melody seems serious, even moving, until you realise that somebody has spent long winter nights composing Latin odes to lavender bees.
  My wife and I usually happen upon such festivals. Today, however, was the one exception: a gastronomic fair so unmissable that the date is marked in local calendars alongside all the national holidays. The village responsible for this
, Rognes, has no other culinary claims to fame – there's a decent enough butcher, an average baker and a couple of dodgy pizza parlours. Yet once a year this unremarkable commuter suburb of Aix-en-Provence is transformed into a Mecca for food lovers.
  The fair always take place the Sunday before Christmas and people travel for hours, lured by the famed black diamonds (truffles) which are the essential ingredient in the region's Christmas celebrations. The price per kilo can reach €1,000 but from street sweeper to movie star everyone makes a little room in their annual budget, as if to do otherwise would be sacrilegious.
  After just fifteen minutes at the
, listening to recipes, browsing the delicacy-laden stalls, inhaling the rich mixture of aromas, I could resist no longer. I had to eat. Nearby, chefs in kitchen whites were handing out steaming bundles. Wrapped in greasy paper, the food – scrambled egg in a baguette – was the type that you might get in a roadside cafe but for the one secret ingredient. Tiny black flecks of truffle laced the golden mixture, elevating the experience to a totally different level and as the chefs' tray emptied people began to jostle for position. Luckily one of the hot parcels was pressed into my outstretched palm.
  For me, this mid-morning sandwich was one of the gastronomic highlights of the year; no dish, not even one conjured by any of the local Michelin-starred chefs could elicit such simple pleasure. With the addition of the truffle the taste of the egg suddenly became deeper, more like a duck egg, and at the same time the earthiness of the truffle echoed the fleshiness of early season
. I was halfway through the baguette before I remembered Tanya – eight months pregnant and exhausted from a sleepless night, she was clearly not enjoying the fair as much as me. Still, she had insisted on coming, anxious to make the most of the remaining four weeks until the due date.
  'Do you want to sit down?' I asked belatedly, squeezing her hand.
  'You buy the truffle and I'll wait in the cafe,' nodded Tanya.
  From behind it was impossible to tell that she was pregnant. During the term she'd lost weight from everywhere apart from her tummy. Her blonde hair bobbed in the crowd, her slim-fitting jacket elegant amid a dense forest of fur coats. I watched her take a seat and then turned my attention back to the truffles.
  At the far end of the market a close-knit circle of stalls was hemmed in by a collection of battered vans. It had been a bad year for truffles. Plenty of rain in the spring had provided early promise but the long dry summer and then a mild beginning to the winter had combined to stunt the growth of the tuber. Oak woods which usually produced plentiful supplies were said to be barren and reports in
La Provence,
the local paper, warned that prices were on fire. Demand today would be huge, so it was hard to see how I could grab a bargain, with the price likely to be €100 for a single truffle. Was it worth it? This was our third Christmas in Provence and previously I would have ruefully moved on. Somehow, though, the truffle purchase had become as emblematic as buying the tree.
BOOK: Ten Trees and a Truffle Dog
4.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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