Provence is a place of great beauty and fabulous gastronomy. Margaret Clare, expat in the gorgeous hill top village of Vence, describes her favourite tastes of Provence… a feast for the eyes as well as for the stomach.
Provence Seafood and Fungi
Seafood is available in abundance and the local dishes use all forms of fresh food from the sea to produce unpretentious, yet fantastic dishes. Simple Moules Provencal, served with fresh bread and a glass of Rosé from the region is a repast fit for a king. In September, the wild mushroom season is upon us. Years ago, they used to announce the season and the price on the local radio, but now the word goes out and the local markets are full of the amazing tubers. Girolles are a great favourite and are fabulous in pasta a with Girolles sauce washed down with a local red wine.
Vin d’orange is the fragrance of Provence in a glass. Open a bottle of this fabulous aperitif in the winter and your senses will be revived and hark back to the Provençal sunshine. Last spring, we set about making this orange liqueur, with our neighbour, who had welcomed us to the area by offering us an aperitif of vin d’orange. It is made by infusing both bitter oranges (oranges amères) and sweet oranges with raw alcohol and white or rosé wine and a cinammon stick plus sugar.
Local Provencal liqueurs
Distilling fruits & vegetables into liqueurs is highly favoured in Provence and at the fête du Moyen et Haut Pays, villagers from around the region display their crafts & skills. You will be treated to the white liquid dripping from the still into a jug – plum, cherry, apple, pear… Apparently in the old days, remote villages which enjoyed an abundant harvest would produce the liqueur to pass the time in the winter – seems like a good idea.
If you visit Provence, an ice cold Pastis will wake up your senses but beware, it is a very strong alcohol and is best only drunk in small quantities, which are clouded by the addition of water.
The Fountains of Foux
Fountains around the town proclaim the vitality and health content of the water that comes down from the hills laden with minerals. Legend has it that if you drink from the waters of La Foux – you will live to be 100 years old. The local inhabitants queue daily at the fountains with bottles to take home the famous water for drinking. They also use it to water their plants and claim that it is completely unrivalled by commercial plant food.
Margaret Clare is a musician with a home in Vence, Provence; she is a late life Francophile with a partner who has been a lifelong Francophile.