By Elizabeth Bard
Little, Brown 2015
384 Pages Memoir/Cookbook
This is the second in a series of memoirs Bard has written that involves her life cooking, eating and creating a life in France. The first, Lunch in Paris, takes Bard from the United States to Paris where she meets her husband, Gwendal, who is a digital movie producer. Picnic in Provence begins with the couple and their infant son traveling “en vacance” to a small village in Provence, Céreste, following the trail of a French poet and resistance fighter, Rene Char. When they were offered an opportunity to buy the house where Char had lived and worked, they jumped at the chance, bought the house, and changed their lives, entirely. As Bard says, “We have stumbled into an unlikely life. All the five-year plans in the world wouldn’t have gotten us here. Yet it’s exactly the right place to be.”
Now, about the cooking. Each chapter has several examples of meals cooked, either by her or by someone close to her. She is learning the French diet and French cooking, so she is willing to explore all the staples of the diet in Provence. Figs are her favorite. (I don’t think I have ever done anything with a fig but eat one.) These recipes are mostly not 15 minutes to the table recipes, although she does include some of those. Primarily, her recipes are cooked with the natural ingredients of the region. All of them look delicious.
The biggest news of the book is that Bard and her husband decide to go into the ice cream business. It takes a year to get Scaramouche Artisan Glacier up and running, but within two years it has been named one of the ten best ice cream shops in France. Everything they make is with natural ingredients from the region, and they are not afraid to put unusual ingredients together. I am not sure that Lavender Honey and Thyme Ice Cream would sell in the United States, but it is a favorite at their shop.
The recipe that looked the best to me was the Arugula Salad with butternut squash, roasted red onions, walnuts and fresh goat cheese salad. I’m going to try that next week.
Elizabeth Bard's website.