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Friday, October 29, 2010

The Petit Beat: Roasted Chestnuts, Mums, & South-of-France Thrillers

The week went by quickly - a bit of rain and a little whip of the Mistral and suddenly we've arrived at Friday.  I'm especially looking forward to this weekend for two reasons: pumpkin carving (I found a plump lil' guy at the supermarket) and *drumroll* another food festival.

Between my newfound passion for French cooking (the clippings are piling-up under our coffee table faster than I can make them) and the foodie events we've got lined up for the next few weeks, I hope my waistline can survive. Did I mention gratin & tarte season is in full-swing? Hmm, I just might have to re-think my fall exercise routine.

1. Have chestnuts will travel
On Sunday we're going to the chestnut festival, or Fête de la Châtaigne, at Collobriéres.  Admittedly, I don't know a whole lot about chestnuts except for the lovely roasted kind we found on several corners in Rome.  If you've spent anytime in the Eternal City during the colder months, you might remember folks huddled around the warm chestnut stands by Piazza di Spagna. Chatty Italians, puffy scarves, and the smell of chestnuts...some great memories of fall.

I'm hoping to re-capture a bit of that romance this Sunday and learn about the kind of products will be on display at the festival. Short of using chestnuts for cakes and the famous candied chestnuts (marrons glacés), I expect there'll be some gourmet surprises. And just maybe, if we're all lucky, we'll spot some chestnut liquor like this interesting duo we found in Italy.

2. November 1st, All Saint's Day
Of the many intriguing things about living abroad, one that continues to capture my attention is how different cultures celebrate their holidays. In observance of All Saint's Day, the French have the day off on Monday and traditionally bring chrysanthemums to the graves of relatives who have passed.

Here's a few snapshots of the beautiful mums that have been on sale this week at the markets.

3. Mystery, Provençal Style
I got thoroughly hooked on Peter Mayle's books after reading A Year in Provence my first month in France. There's definitely a reason why the book is still going strong a good 20 years out - Mayle has a witty, anecdotal writing style which perfectly captures the beauty, and quirkiness, of the region.

Shortly after, I picked up a copy of Chasing Cézanne - a delightfully easy read which takes readers from the glamor of Manhattan to the whimsy of Nice in pursuit of, you guessed it, a stolen painting by Cézanne.  Mayle touches on many of the clichés of life on the Cote d'Azur while keeping the tone light and funny.  I'll be looking to get my hand's on a copy of his latest thriller, A Vintage Caper, which was highlighted in an article last month in the Riviera Times.

If this quote from the main character is any indication, think we're in for some great French-comic fun:
“Inside every self- respecting Frenchman lurks the soul of a Formula One driver,” Levitt notes, “conducting animated phone conversations while smoking and, if there was a hand free, steering.”

That's a bit of what's going on at our petite maison....Bon weekend a tous! xx

(Chasing Cézanne photo credit:
(A Vintage Caper quote: NY Times Book Review)


  1. ooo that sounds like fun! Nothing I love more than chestnuts (which reminds me, I'm looking forward to xmas time with my in-laws!)

  2. Ah, Peter Mayle. I did the same thing too and read that book after my first visit to France w/ D. His mother has the book but in French. Absolutely hilarious!

    And yes, every single Frenchman believes he could compete in the Formula 1. OMG!

    As always, a lovely post!

  3. Love this "petit beat" and will check back in hopes of photos and a petit review from the Chestnut festival. How fun. Oh, I have about 15 pages to go on The Vintage Caper. It's good. I gobble up Peter Mayle books, love them especially his fiction.

  4. Thanks for the great comments ladies! Happy to see that there are so many Peter Mayle fans, really think he's great & find myself laughing out loud to his books... I'll have to get my hands on a copy of The Vintage Caper Kathy!

  5. Chestnut soup - delicious! And don't forget Peter Mayle's Hotel Pastis. Sharon

  6. Hi Sharon! Well, I'll for sure have to try chestnut soup - never heard of it before but sounds yummy...
    And totally forgot about Hotel Pastis as well, think it's probably one of his best known after A Year in Provence right? - another one to add to the list, thanks so much for your comment!

  7. Having the opportunity to live abroad is amazing. I am so enjoying your journey.

    Living in the south, chestnuts are not something readily available but, I have always been enchanted by it's winter stories.

    Enjoy the festival! Looking forward to your posts.

  8. If anyone wants my chestnut soup recipe (not something I give out lightly!) email me on Sharon

  9. I absolutely love reading your blog and living in Provence vicariously through you, Tuula! Keep writing, and know that a 30 year old, barefoot and pregnant, English Ph.D. student in Houston, TX is a big fan! (I even went out and bought French in 10 minutes a Day because you said it was good!)

  10. These comments are so great, thank you thank you!

    Velva, glad you are enjoying the blog, your blog is très amazing as well -really happy we got to connect.

    Sharon, we just got back from second leg of the long chestnut weekend & found they were selling chestnut soup, but to take home in a jar, - would much rather have the fresh version, so will for sure email you for the recipe, many thanks!

    Patricia, your comment is so so sweet & it really means a lot to me that you like what I'm writing! If I remember correctly, you were one of the first people to follow the blog and I so appreciate that you've stuck with me all these months - it's a lot of work sometimes but makes me feel so good to get your compliment, like it's all been worth it :) Hope I get to hear more about your life in Houston, I was an English major & loved it too :) a bientot! xx

  11. We had marrons for lunch on Sunday!
    Happy November (how did we get here all already?!) and thanks for the tip about Chasing Cezanne, I love Mr.Mayle so definitely going to have to check this out x

  12. Street vendors calling out 'Marrons chauds'is music to my ears. I can't resist chestnuts!

    Big fan of Peter Mayle's earlier Provence books! They make you dream while you flick through the pages.