A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France
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A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France

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by Georgeanne Brennan
     
 

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Georgeanne Brennan moved to Provence in 1970, seeking a simpler life. She set off on her many adventures in Provençale cuisine by tracking down a herd of goats, a cool workshop, some rennet, and the lost art of making fresh goat cheese. From this first effort throughout her time in Provence, Brennan transformed from novice fromagère to

Overview

Georgeanne Brennan moved to Provence in 1970, seeking a simpler life. She set off on her many adventures in Provençale cuisine by tracking down a herd of goats, a cool workshop, some rennet, and the lost art of making fresh goat cheese. From this first effort throughout her time in Provence, Brennan transformed from novice fromagère to renowned, James Beard Foundation Award–winning cookbook author and food writer.

A Pig in Provence is the story of how Georgeanne Brennan fell in love with Provence. But it’s also the story of making a life beyond the well-trodden path and the story of how food can unite a community. In loving detail, Brennan tells of the herders who maintain a centuries-old grazing route, of the community feast that brings a town to one table, and of the daily rhythms and joys of living by the cycles of food and nature.

Sprinkled with recipes that offer samples of Brennan’s Provençale cooking, A Pig in Provence is a food memoir that urges you to savor every morsel.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

PRAISE FOR A PIG IN PROVENCE
 
"You can almost smell the lavender as you follow Brennan's love affair with the province that became her second home and shaped the culinary persona of this cooking teacher and food author. Brennan is a talented storyteller."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Georgeanne Brennan's captivating memoir reminds me of why I, too, was enchanted by Provence. She beautifully captures the details of living in a place where the culture of the table ties a community together—where everyone knows the butcher and the baker, and everyone depends on the farmers."—Alice Waters, owner, Chez Panisse

Pamela Paul
With her historian’s appreciation for fading and bygone traditions, Brennan offers fascinating accounts of the mass sheepherding known as transhumance and the habits of the itinerant food purveyors of the Provençal hinterlands. She revels equally in the preparation and consumption of the regional cuisine, whether it’s chocolate cake moistened with pig’s blood or le grand aïoli, a local festival in which snails and vegetables are doused in garlic and olive oil and gobbled up at communal tables. “In listening to people recount their food memories around a table, I’ve seen their eyes glow and their body language soften with the telling of the taste, smell and texture of a beloved dish.” You can almost hear her lips smacking.
— The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780156033244
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
04/07/2008
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
390,511
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

A Personal History of Goat Cheese

The first goats. Lassie dies. Advice from Mme. Rillier.

Reinette gives birth. Farmstead cheese for sale.

“How much are they?” Donald asked as we stood in the heart of a stone barn in the hinterlands of Provence, surrounded by horned animals whose eyes were focused, unblinking, on us. Ethel, our three-year-old daughter, held my hand. The animals pushed against me, nuzzling my thighs and nibbling at the edge of my jacket. In the faint light cast by the single lightbulb suspended from the ceiling, I could see the dark mass of goats stretching toward the recesses of the barn and feel their slow but steady pressure as they pushed closer and closer. My nostrils filled with their pungent odor and the fragrance of the fresh hay on the barn floor, with the faintly damp, earthy aroma of the floor itself, and with the scent of all the animals that had preceded them in the ancient barn. The heat of their bodies intensified the smell, and although it was a cold November day, the barn was warm and cozy. Its earthy aromas were homey and comforting.

        “Eh, ma foi. It’s hard to decide. How many do you want? They’re all pregnant. They were with the buck in September and October. They’ll kid in February and March.” The shepherd, a woman, leaned heavily on her cane, making her look older. She was dressed in layers of black, including black cotton stockings, the kind you see in movies set in prewar France, her only color a dark blue parka and a gold cross at her throat. A black wool scarf tied under her chin covered her hair.

        We wanted to have enough goats to make a living. Our calculations, based on the University of California and USDA pamphlets we’d brought with us when we moved to Provence a month before, were that a good goat would give a gallon of milk a day and a gallon would make nearly a pound of cheese. French friends had told us that we could make a living with the cheese produced from the milk of twenty to thirty goats.

        “Why are you selling them?” I asked.

        “Oh, I’m getting too old to keep so many. I have more than thirty.” She looked around, then pointed at a large, sleek goat, russet and white. “I can sell you that one. Look at her. She’s a beauty. Reinette, the little queen, I call her. She’s a good milker, about four years old. Always has twins too.”

        She moved across the barn and grabbed the goat by one horn, put her cane under her arm, and pulled back the goat’s lips. “Take a look. See how good her teeth are. She’s still young.”

        Reinette was released with a slap on her flank and went over to another goat standing aloof from the others. This one had a shaggy, blackish brown coat and scarred black horns that swept back high over her head.

        “This is Lassie. She’s la chef, but getting old like me.”

        I expected the woman to cackle, but she didn’t. Instead she sighed and said, “She’s getting challenged by some of the younger goats now, but she’ll be good for a few more years.”

        Donald walked over to the goat and stroked her head. She stared at him with her yellow eyes and inky-black pupils.“What others are you selling?”

        “Mmm. I could sell you Café au Lait.” She pointed to a large, cream-colored goat with short hair and an arrogant look. “You might have trouble with her. You’ll need to show her who’s boss. She’d like to be la chef, take Lassie’s place.”

        As if in response, Café au Lait crossed over to Lassie and gave her a hard butt in the side. Lassie whirled and butted her back, a solid blow to the head that echoed in the barn, bone on bone. Ethel pulled closer to me, holding my hand tightly, but kept her eyes on the battling goats.

        Ça suffit! Arrête! Sâles bêtes!” the woman shouted at the goats, menacing them with her cane. Lassie faced down the larger Café au Lait and the barn settled back into quiet.

        “Why doesn’t Café au Lait have horns?” I asked.

        “Sometimes I cut them off when they’re kids. I did hers. They looked like they were going to grow in crooked.”

        She continued her sales pitch. “Café au Lait is only three years old, and last year she had triplets. She’s a good goat.” She showed us four more animals that she was willing to sell and kept up her spirited commentary on their characters and fertility patterns.

        Donald and the woman agreed on a price of 350 francs each, and he made arrangements to pick up the beginning of our goat herd in two days. We all shook hands and said goodbye, then wound our way back toward the square where we had parked our car. I made sure Ethel’s knitted cap, a yellow-and-orange-striped one of her choosing, was tied snugly beneath her chin, then pulled up the hood on my jacket and put my gloves back on.

        As we walked through the narrow ruelles, the tiny streets of the near-abandoned village, Donald quietly remarked on the ghostly feeling of the crumbling houses with their fallen roofs exposing rotted wooden beams and piles of fallen stones. Wild berry canes pushed through some of the ruins and fig trees had taken possession of others.

        It was hard to imagine Esparron-de-Verdon as a thriving village, and impossible not to think of the woman and her goats living there as relics of the past, clinging to a way of life that was long gone. 

        Surely what we were doing was something different. After all, we had bought a farmhouse in the country, not in an abandoned village, and we were college graduates. Donald had a degree in animal husbandry from the University of California at Davis, and while we were going to make traditional French cheese, we would bring modern methods to our technique, or so we thought. I was a little scared, though. We didn’t have a lot of money, and we needed to succeed.

        First, we had to learn how to make cheese. Our USDA pamphlets, directed at large-scale commercial milk production and cheese making for the United States market, didn’t discuss small-scale production of cheese from raw goat’s milk. So far, no one, including the woman who had just sold us our first goats, had been able to tell me exactly what to do other than add rennet to milk.  

        “Mommy, can we have chickens and rabbits too?” Ethel asked as we passed a ramshackle chicken coop made of corrugated tin and chicken wire and utilizing the three remaining walls of one of the sturdier ruins. Her favorite toys were her rubber farm animals, and she was delighted by the idea of having real animals, in addition to our dog, Tune (short for Petunia), who we had brought from California.

        “Shh,” I said, “not so loud.” The silence was strong and heavy, and I sensed it was best to leave it unruptured.

        I bent down toward her. “Yes, of course we can. We’ll feed the chickens every day and collect their eggs. And build a nice house for them.”

        I wasn’t so sure about rabbits. Keeping rabbits meant having to kill them for meat. I knew that on a real farm, the kind we were going to have, you couldn’t just have animals as pets. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that part yet. I had no farm experience, having grown up in a small Southern California beach town where surfing and sunbathing were the primary occupations. Chickens I could easily see—they had been part of my original vision when I imagined life in rural Provence, along with long, slow days of cooking, reading, writing, and sewing, with the occasional visit to Paris and trips to Italy and Spain, countries Donald and I had fallen in love with during our one-year honeymoon when we were students seven years before.

Copyright © 2007 by Georgeanne Brennan

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Meet the Author


GEORGEANNE BRENNAN is the author of numerous cooking and gardening books, and the recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award and the IACP/Julie Child Cookbook Award for her writing. She lives in northern California and Provence, where she has a seasonal cooking school.

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A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book! I would whole-heartedly recommend it for anyone who enjoys reading about food and food preparation, life in Provence, and those who appreciate a really good bottle of wine and an espresso at the closure of a meal.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading the author's experiences au provence. P
Montana-Spark More than 1 year ago
At first I was disappointed because I thought it was a story with a plot. As I got deeper into it and found myself traveling through french cooking, hunting and gathering, and learning about foods made from scratch and how to identify them and prepare them, I couldn't quit reading. I had a bit of problem in some places since I don't know the french language. If you like to cook or just like great food, it's a great read.
EclecticReaderMD More than 1 year ago
As soon as I read the sample, I had to buy the book. Now I'm considering visiting Provence. Good travel books are magic!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name hawkstar|| looks i have black fur and a white belly. I also have gray eyes.|| rank LEADER!||||| PERSONALITY I AM TOUGH BUT LOVING WEAK BUT STRONG FIRCE BUT LOVING CALM BUT HYPER!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Looks at onyx
JKPA More than 1 year ago
This story is really wonderful to read and to get the recipes too. Wow. It is very interesting to learn of the challenges involved in making a home, purchasing the animals, making the cheese, not to mention collecting mushrooms and herbs. Lovely. Our family loves France and have been there several times to stay with a lovely family in the Naintre area. Their daughter spent a year with us in the US and we have become a family much like this author and some of her neighbors. We have had delightful meals with and adventures together. This book brought much of our French experience back. I can taste the aire of France.
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[Here]
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Waddles?
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SusieBW More than 1 year ago
I enjoy reading books about places I have visited. This one makes me want to live in Provence!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fresh writing, full of delicious information. A must if you love France
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OMG
LMAVK More than 1 year ago
How do books like this ever get published? Don't waste your money on this piece of junk. My book club read this and nobody gave it higher than one star.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Please put an ad about my book its at spray results 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and 9