What an eventful two weeks it has been since the launch of Markets of Provence. I’ve been giving talks about Provence and sharing stories about the experiences that went into the making of my new book. I’m tremendously gratified by the turnout at events and the warm reception that the book is receiving.
After four years of researching and writing, it’s thrilling finally to share what I’ve learned. My photos and descriptions often trigger others’ memories of travels to Provence or whet the desire for scheduling a trip soon.
Simply put, the message of my presentations is that markets in Provence are glorious, wide-ranging, and fun. They offer an invitation to explore different areas, local specialties, and flavors of the south of France. Visiting a few markets will enhance anyone’s itinerary in Provence. It’s important to get the timing right, and a little advance planning can go a long way. That’s where the book can really help.
My first talk was hosted by the French Cultural Center/ Alliance Française of Boston in their elegant brownstone in the Back Bay neighborhood. Carved wood detailing, an exhibit of large, colorful sculptures, and a view of budding magnolias created a pleasant atmosphere. I enjoyed kicking off in my hometown with an audience that included familiar faces. Nearly everyone had visited or lived in Provence. It was a good test of my material. I signed my first copies of the book—so fresh from the printer’s that you could practically smell the ink.
Next stop was New York City where Rizzoli Bookshop and St. Martin’s Press, my publisher, co-hosted an event on launch day (May 3). Although it was rainy and cold, intrepid New Yorkers weren’t deterred. The audience was eager to be transported from the inhospitable weather to sunny Provence. Sips of Whispering Angel rosé helped fuel the fantasy.
A group of friends gathered at Claudette, which traces its name to one of the best chefs in Provence. Markets of Provence includes several chef profiles, one of whom is Reine Sammut in the village of Lourmarin who learned to cook from her mother-in-law, Claudette, from whom the NYC restaurant owners took their inspiration. Ringing out launch day at Claudette’s, I felt like I’d somehow come full circle.
I was invited to speak at La Table Française, part of Harvard University’s HILR program. Though I presented in English, the discussion proceeded in French. Attendees traded stories about the importance of verbal courtesies in France. And when it came time to leave, there were apt refrains of “Au revoir, Madame!”
I was videotaped at La Voile restaurant in Brookline, as part of the French Corner series created by the Consul Général de France à Boston. During the month of May, the focus is on Provence. In the videotape, I talk about Chef François Grayon’s brilliant re-interpretation of a classic Provençal dish, ratatouille. All the ingredients are readily found at Provençal markets, such as eggplant, red pepper, and zucchini, which he diced into small cubes. He sautéed each vegetable separately before combining them. And then he let his imagination run wild. He gelled the vegetable mixture in squat cylindrical forms. He fired up the stove again and sautéed shrimp, scallops, and artichokes in olive oil infused with fresh garlic. After sharpening the tips of rosemary sprigs, he speared the seafood atop the rounds of ratatouille. Dabs of red sauce around the plate and sprinkles of green and purple micro-greens completed his artistic vision. Voilà! His innovative (and incredibly delicious) version of ratatouille captured the ancient aromas and flavors of Provence but with a modern twist. There will also be a videotape of Chef Grayon’s preparation, which I’ll share as soon as it’s available.
Upcoming book tour stops include Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass., Kepler’s Books and Omnivore Books in northern California, and then back to New York City for 92nd St. Y and, on Bastille Day, the New York Public Library. Click Events for more information about events, or News for links to recent reviews and interviews.
Markets tend to make people happy. They certainly do me. It’s not only about the shopping but, more broadly, the glimpse they give into the local culture. In Provence, markets have been embedded in the social life of communities since the Middle Ages. Exploring them is not only one of the best ways of getting a view into some of the most authentic and unique aspects of Provence but it’s also loads of fun.
Please keep in touch by commenting here or engaging on Facebook and Twitter. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you. Thank you, readers and friends, for your enthusiastic support and embrace of my work. Wishing you many exciting adventures ahead, wherever your travels—and imagination—take you. ~Marjorie