Monday, August 24, 2009


There’s an absolutely charming blog that I peek in on now and again, for the words and the pictures and the stunningly-photographed views through the lens of Lucy Vanel, whose Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook is much enjoyed around the globe. She’s a G.R.I.T.S. Girl herself, living in Lyon with her lovely French husband, and they are the recent parents of a little son, long-awaited and much adored.

This is from an e-mail to Lucy some time ago, thanking her for a nice comment she made, and telling her of the differences between my kitchen habits and her own---how the literature and the press and the aura of French Cooking make me long to try the flavours of her markets and fishmongers and boulangerie---all seem to have a persona removed from the plastic-packaged goods to which I have become so warehouse/supermarket-inured.

She travels to one for the meat, to another for the bread, and still another for a certain vegetable of a too-short season, finding the perfect small pearly turnips, the tenderest new endive, the spoon-ripe pears on their optimum day. Her tradespeople know her, greet her as Madame, and occasionally show her a too-human side when the day has been long and the work especially daunting.

And to leave the house full of expectation each day, for what may be in a shop, or a stall or a fragrant bakery---though I’m not at all rigid in any segment of cooking save sanitation, I’m not accustomed to going out every morning, finding something wonderful and short-seasoned, and calculating what’s in the pantry/what do I have to buy to go with, and planning dinner right then and there, feeling it a triumphant find of the season. I do well to get to the store with list, glasses, money and market bags. And I don’t think I’m alone.
To Lucy:

The pictures of your coffee press and bowl could have been taken at my own table, though my view is in no way comparable to yours. Mine is of golden sunpeeks through lacy grapevine which I have coaxed (by dint of a weathered trellis) into covering the window of my kitchen. The cobweb of silk on the window is punctuated by drifts of leafshapes, and provides a lovely, ever-changing pattern on the refrigerator, the floor, and finally becomes a wall of every shade of green there is, as the sun makes its way up and over the roof to the west.

And so today I have had my own vanilla-perfumed bowl of Latte, to the music of the windchimes outside, muted by the tightly-closed windows on this very warm day. And I must dress and make my way to my own grocery, the place of all-in-one-store, with sterile refrigerators of silverskinned fish and the pink rows of cuddled shrimp; the shusssssh of the door as it opens and then bumps you on the rear, clouding with the warmth of the let-in air as you consider your choice, is an expected part of the experience.

I'm grateful for the beautiful food, the cleanliness of it, the purity of line, the earth and grit washed away from the great regiments of colored peppers and tomatoes and strawberries, each in their own well-regulated rows.

But I long to walk up to your butcher's counter at closing time, to order the bacon, to greet good evening, to whisk away from his brusque day's-end dismissal. I'd love to approach the vegetable market, touch the peach velvet, inhale the thyme and tarragon which stirs the scent at the merest touch, heft a melon or finger-smooth the squash, and decide on dinner, on the spot.

I will carry home these groceries, place them in the also-sterile cool of the refrigerators and freezers, and lose a bit of the flavour, somehow, in the transition from earth to chill storage. Though I do not long for the heat-drenched days of my life in the South, the covetous thought stirs of MFK Fisher's peach, which lay on a plate in her Paris kitchen throughout the day, changing from its pristine shape and color, and by evening, lay "bruised and voluptuously dying."

I must go, and I cannot wait to return to your blog, devouring the words with my eyes, tasting and sipping and sitting in those places, with those lovely foods and wine. Just the first few paragraphs, the first time I ever found your blog, of your surprise dinner with your husband, the little crocks of tasteables with the first glass of wine, stirred perfect memories of Ms Fisher's jaunt into the countryside for her solitary, perfect, unexpected lunch of a lifetime.
Please write and write, but do not miss a moment; venture out and taste and smell and share. I'll return in a couple of hours and begin from the beginning---it's a treat I've promised myself this 90-degree day.


I whole-heartedly recommend this beautiful blog---I started from the beginning and came forward, and have gone back time and again to the luscious pictures and words, and the continuity is better if the stories of buying and putting together their mountain home and of their long quest for that lovely little boy are read chronologically, but you can start absolutely anywhere and be captivated.

Just click on Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook, right over there in the "Blog List" on the right panel. It’s one of my very favorites.


Kouign Aman said...

Is this the Lucy also know as bleu d'avergne?

I love to shop for food, but to shop daily, with the requirements of an job outside the home? Ugh. Then, I bless the freezer and fridge.
I love your writing.

racheld said...

Yes, it's our Lucy---she's been quite busy for a while, I think, and doesn't post as often on LKN as before, but we know that the little one fills up her days and her heart.

And thank you for your thoughts and your always-kind comments.

Tonja said...

You have made me very curious. I'll go visit very soon! I certainly have faith in your recommendation.