in french haute cuisine, a mixture of finely chopped fresh parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil is called fines herbes. it is something of a shame to mince chervil because it is so pretty whole. like parsley’s daintier younger sister. i just read a brief summary of fines herbes and the debate about which herbs belong is as back-and-forth and heated as the hundred-years war, except this war has lasted 115 years, since escoffier in 1903. i am officially as neutral on the topic as switzerland. my only political stance is that, once again, it’s a shame to chop chervil. i’m a guerrilla warrior fighting for beauty.
the vines have turned red
the vines of the languedoc, and i assume everywhere else there are vines, spend a lot of the year leafy green and a lot of the year pruned bare like crucifixes. it’s a lot like the trees back home, half a year bursting with chlorophyll, half a year bare and somber. and, in the case of some species of trees and some species of vines, one brilliant moment, maybe a week if you’re lucky, of flaming glory. this is that week here.
autumn grape vine leaves
keep it simple
I set out to keep it simple today. My energy levels are low–I’m still shaking off the after-effects of having succumbed to “La Gastro” last week. And, as so often happens when I deliberately keep it simple, I’m pleased. I like the little conversation these stones are having about roundness.
three beach rocks from Sète, France
we have sort of half adopted a stray cat here, who prowls at night, and then visits us during the day to nap in a fleece blanket and be fed liver pâté, duck breast, raw rabbit, roast chicken, and pork sausage by my husband who believes all creatures deserve to eat well. occasionally, like all cats, she loses her mind and sprints from one side of the house to the other, then stands still, and then acts as if a ghost has just whispered close in her ear. then she shreds our pant legs with her front claws. she is a beautiful white cat with gray-brown spots and an unlikely striped lemur tail. she is also a devil. the oats in this photo are wild oats, native to the mediterranean, but naturalized almost everywhere. they are beautiful. and they cause subtle but enormous damage in competition with cultivated grain crops. in french, the plant is called “folle avoine.” the english translation is “crazy oats.” we may have discovered a nickname for our new cat who is not technically our cat but whom we can’t quite convince of that fact so far.
wild oats in winter
nothing seasonal lasts forever of course, but we grow so accustomed to a painfully short and frenetic growing season in minnesota that the leisureliness of the seasons in the mediterranean still takes some getting used to. tomato season lasted several months, instead of a good few weeks in september. these california poppies grow from june to october, and in fact just popped up recently for the second time this year, as far as i can tell. the mallow flowers (called mauve in French for obvious reasons) were in full bloom during the grape harvest in august, and they are still around now. the lemon verbena on our terrace has flowered, and our next door neighbor says it is time to cut them back, so that they can fulfill their second annual growth cycle. from what i can see of our neighbors, many of them in their 80s and still walking to the store every day or even riding bikes, there is a second lifetime growth cycle for humans here as well.
pressed california poppies and mallow flowers