I am not a cook. If pushed, I can prepare a meal - provided always that what I have to prepare is something simple, like baked beans on toast. No, really, I can do better than that. I have been known to produce a full Sunday roast - joint, roast potatoes, two veg - and have also come up with a terrific spaghetti carbonara. But I don't much like cooking. I do, however, like eating the results of other people's culinary efforts. Fortunately, the Old Bat does like cooking - and she's not half bad either. In fact, she's darned good.
I really have no complaints about the food that is put before me on the table at home. It is nutritious, varied and delicious. I do sometimes, rather disloyally perhaps, think that maybe a new dish might be tried; paella or something more adventurous than spaghetti Bolognaise. Given that the Old Bat simply soaks up the cookery pages of magazines and the weekend supplements as well as those television cookery programmes, I have to wonder sometimes.
Just recently the Beeb has broadcast a series of programmes by that stereotypical French chef, Raymond Blanc. The Old Bat has a bit of a thing about Monsieur Blanc - she says she finds him amusing - and has positively lapped up his offerings. She was equally smitten with his last series which involved travelling through the different regions of France trying out the local cuisine. I have seen something of this latest series and there have been quite a number of recipes which have looked very appetising and which, the OB assures me, are not too difficult to produce in the home. So I checked and found that all the recipes are available on the BBC web site. I offered to print off what she wanted, but she has not taken me up on that offer.
I doubt very much that I would ever pay the prices M Blanc charges at his restaurant, Le Manoir au Quatres Saisons, but I have to say that his enthusiasm for food can be infectious. (I've just checked it out - £79 for lunch, plus wine.)
I think that possibly the best meals I have ever eaten have been in France. I mentioned one, at the Auberge des Pecheurs, on this blog last year (here) but I don't think I have written anything about a meal in the Luberon, down in Provence. We were down there on holiday and had, as is our wont, hired a cottage with the intention of trying various local restaurants for our evening meals. Unfortunately, the area seemed rather short on restaurants but we did spot one in Oppede le Vieux, a village perché halfway up a mountain. It was a reasonably warm evening so we took a table outside in what looked to be the village square. Which was fine to start with, but a stiff breeze picked up and I was soon scurrying back to the car to fetch our jackets.
There was little choice on the menu - just two main courses, I think - and we both opted for fish. Well, that was what we thought we had ordered. It was daube, which I thought I had heard before and which I thought was a type of fish. I was wrong. What we were served was a plate of braised beef. The meat was divine - tender and full of taste. Quite what went into the gravy in which it was braised I
couldn't say, but everything was delicious. In fact, it was possibly
the best beef I have eaten in France (which isn't actually saying very
much as their beef tends to be very poor in my opinion).
The restaurant can be seen on the left of this picture of the village square.