Recently I had the pleasure of cooking in what must be one of the cheeriest kitchens in France.
Located in a nearly-300-year-old villa in the Midi-Pyrenees region of France, the room is yellow and white with blue accents and terra cotta floors.
The villa’s owner is a woman of great style and charm who created a vacation feel in every room. The kitchen was no exception.
Working here — even cleaning up — was more like play than a chore. Why do we enjoy working in other people’s kitchens so much?
My husband and I shopped for staples upon our arrival and then daily for produce and meat. Everything, even the produce in super-marchés like the LeClerc chain, seemed much fresher than in American grocery stores.
I made ratatouille with a sun-dried tomato infused rice I cannot find in the U.S. My husband used a Moulinex “Robot Marie” hand mixer to make a rich spaghetti sauce with whole cherry tomatoes and green and black olives. At LeClerc he found a sausage unlike anything I’ve tasted at home.
Of course, I could not leave without making vegetable soup to eat with my daily baguette.
The kitchen was always sunny and from it we could hear church bells every hour.
Mornings from across the valley we would hear the calls of roosters and cuckoos and an early breeze would carry in the scent of lilacs and juniper.
At night, the faint aroma of wood smoke would waft in from a home in the village. Doves cooed and nightingales sang.
Surely this was heaven in a kitchen.
One warmer night toward the end of our stay I made an apple tart. I worked slowly and deliberately, cutting my apple into thin, even slices, and savoring every task.
I was content. The kitchen was my favorite room in the house.