When the first artichokes rose from my semi-dormant thistle bed, like Lazarus from the dead, I found excuse enough to search for any leftover rose bottles that may have escaped last summer’s debauchery to celebrate with. I walk out to my garden with nothing more than a simple lunch and a bottle of rosé on my mind.
I blankly stared at my artichokes as if somehow they might reveal how they’d like to be prepared. Would it be slow cooked in a barigoule or perhaps just simply steamed with a hollandaise? I stood in my garden for a long time, surrounded by an audience of fava beans, peas, lettuce, and mint who decided to join the debate. My basil, feeling left out and secluded, angrily voiced their opinion.
One glass of rosé quickly became two. And with that came the near constant pining to be in Provence, perhaps living my life quietly in Daudet’s windmill, penning a manuscript of a simple, authentic life. The sentiment grew more visceral as the weather continued to warm. Dishes like tapenade, anchoïade (anchovy dip) and loup de mer (Mediterranean sea bass) grilled over dried fennel stems replaced the now tired repertoire of hearty winter dishes.
Wisps of smoke rose from the charcoal grill, perfuming the air with the heavenly scent of summer. A spring lamb, not yet eight weeks old, reclined joyously in a golden bath of olive oil and herbs. The favas, peas, lettuce, and mint played together in a pool of butter. Mounds of fresh basil, young garlic, and grated parmesan transformed themselves into an emerald green pistou. Lunch was figuring itself out.
A second glass easily became three. I trimmed off the gruff exterior armor of my artichokes, revealing their tender purplish leaves who hid shyly in the shadows of my kitchen. The empty cavities filled with fresh, tangy goat cheese and a spoonful of just made black olive tapenade. A thin sheaf of pancetta provided the formal dress for the artichokes to wear to the table. Together, the lamb and artichokes danced on the hot grill, filling my nostrils with the scents only a lonely shepherd could smell while grilling his dinner over the dried garrigue under a starry sky.
Oh, to be in Provence once again.