As far as I could see when I was young and what I came to understand and verified so many times since then, there is in France, Italy and Spain predominantly, but also in the rest of Europe like in Portugal and Greece (and surely somewhat the rest of the world), a tight bond between men and their most prevalent cultures. Part of it is due their history and their pride of origin, but mostly it belongs to their traditions, rooted in their blood for millennium, resisting the path of time, passed on from generation to generation. One can see it in their manners and their behaviors, their way of talking or even eating…
Thinking about it, the eating part is surely the most important part of all. Locals are always proud to taste the products of their land and their region and more especially proud to continue what many of their ancestors did before them and guard preciously the recipes that made certain places famous and a real culinary destinations for those who were not locals.
Over the years and the centuries, these recipes became the pride of a region or sometimes of a village. Even now most people always have real pleasure to retrieve with joy and smile the food that make them so happy when they were young, having a sampling "dégustation" of the dishes while they were cooking for the Sunday lunch or dinner at their parents, or their grandfather or their grandmother house with the rest of the family.
I personally have hundreds of really enjoyable memories of these moments shared with my family in the countryside of the "Côtes de Bourg" at my late grandfather house, with endless Sunday lunches eating the specialties of Gironde and Aquitaine: Home made "Paté de lapin et de cochon" (rabbit and pork Paté), "Foie gras", "Coq au Vin", "Lamproie à la Bordelaise", Poached "Anguilles", "Cassoulet de Castelnaudary", "Saucisses Lentilles de Toulouse", "Poulet Basquaise", "L'Agneau de Pauillac", "Lapin à la Persillade", "Huîtres du bassin d'Arcachon et du Cap Ferret au caviar d'Esturgeon d'Aquitaine", "Crevettes de la Gironde", "Gesiers de Canard", "Canard Fermier des Landes", "Esturgeon d'Aquitaine croustillant, purée de chataîgne aux épices", "Tomates Farcies", "Escargots à la Persillade" and so many more other dishes served with Pleurotes, Chanterelles, Ceps, or just a simple lettuce salad, some potatoes, asparagus, tomatoes, french green beans, "potiron", carrots and more, and all of these from my grandfather's garden. Home grown fruits and vegetables, nurtured the organic way conscientiously following the seasons and the ancestral signs of mother nature, like the wine he was making.
To me, happiness is the emotional component you experience as a part of your everyday life with friends and family, or other people surrounding you, even for a brief moment. These moments that make you smile and make you feel good, proud or just happy to share them or to witness them. Remember the good ones and forget the bad ones, you cannot come back on the bad, so might as well try to get a positive lesson from them and move on. The best memories will always make you see life for what is worth and how great it can be. Although simple and rare, these were moments of bliss.
Sometimes, one of the gentle and adorable furred rabbits or the annoying rooster was killed and prepared early in the morning for the late Sunday lunch. It was a feast. The family was once again united to share a happy moment. Different appetizers, various salads with crudités, homemade pâtés and sliced “Jambon de Bayonne”, along with other regional specialties battled on the long table with the butter, the bread, salt and pepper, oil and vinegar and everything else needed to eat and drink and share a great afternoon together. Bottles of wine were open and everybody was happy.
It lasted for hours full of various conversations and laughs and more memories. It was good time and no worries at least for that one afternoon that we were trying to have at least once a month. It was my childhood, up until my late teen years. Then things changed but I will always remember these moments of immense joy and satisfaction forever, and I'm even trying to reproduce them my own way with my little family... pass on from a generation to another from the down of time til.. who knows....
If I’m telling you all these, it is because a friend of mine offered me a book called “Le Soleil des Scorta” (or “The House of Scorta” in English) from Laurent Gaudé, and I really enjoyed it. It is a story about life and people and these rare moments of happiness and the struggle to live the best we can with what we have, depending on our convictions, our beliefs and our origins.
It is a great book about life and generations through the eyes of a family living and evolving in Montepuccio, a small fisherman village in southern Italy, spread out from 1875 to now. In my opinion, everybody should read it, and more especially the expats wherever you are. It was a great read in French, I assume it must be equally good in English (despite may be certain language "subtilités").
“Merci” to Laurent Gaudé for such an interesting, approachable and memorable book. And also “Merci” to Didier and Éléonore who recently offered me that book for my birthday.
LeDom du vin
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