“Without resources for a kitchen, we are cooking our Christmas meals, as Michel had promised, on the open fire. When the piled embers have settled into hillocks of simmer scarlet red and blood orange like the sunsets, Michel sets the meat on the makeshift grill to sizzle and spit. Our fare is modest for this festive season: slender faux-filet steaks with crispy fresh salad from the fantastic food market in Cannes, accompanied by new potatoes, round and smooth as pebbles, boiled in a copper skillet I bought in Nice on Michel's elementary gas ring, fueled by bottled gas. Instead of Christmas pudding, we have cheese, crumbly Parmesan and creamy St. Marcelin preserved in olive oil with herbs, washed down with glasses of deep red wine.
The heat of the fire, the Bourdeaux and the food seduce and inebriate us. No meal has ever tasted this luxurious.”
The previous two paragraphs are taken from actress and writer Carol Drinkwater's book, The Olive Farm: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Olive Oil in the South of France. The story of how she and her husband came to purchase ten acres of disused olive farm in Provence and renovate it will resound with anyone who has ever had a similar dream of owning such a place, hoping for a refuge from the stresses of big city life. The passage continues:
“The room is perfumed with cloves I have scattered on the embers and the skins of the consumed Corsican clementines with sizzle and hiss, turn crisply brown and curl like potato chips. They give off a tangy sweet scent and recall memories of childhood Christmases and stuffed stockings ripped open at the foot of the tree. We crawl into bed early to treasure the last joys of the day on our lumpy mattress, which we have dragged from the room we had elected to be our bedroom to the warmth of the jumping flames. Cuddling up close, we count five geckos on the chimney breast.
'I wonder if they are aware of us here,' I say to Michel.
'Surely. They are the guardians of the house. They are watching over us.'”
Working together to bring order to the chaos of the farm, Drinkwater and her husband endure the petty bureaucracies and querulous personalities of the tradespeople and public officials with whom they must deal in purchasing the olive farm. Coming in close contact with the wildlife and the charming French countryside, the author weaves a magical tale of transforming the neglected plot of weeds and ivy into a thriving, productive farm. In the process, she transforms her own dream of a peaceful and meaningful life into reality. Be sure to read all about it.
Copyright © 2004, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.