four au feu de bois


I should probably be a 100% honest and say that the move into the Alps was a hard one. For the first time in my life, I think, I had feelings of loss of the little family I’d become a part of in Arles and so even when it wasn’t perfect it did offer a sense of “home.”

Thankfully it’s now Wednesday and I’ve been here for a week and I’m starting to feel my first bit of excitement for what’s going on up here. I’m finally sleeping better in my room and it doesn’t feel as eerie as it once did, though it’s still a work in progress. Samuel and I seem to get along really well, which is good since we’re the only two occupying rooms in the big house, while the rest live in the maisonette. I can be thankful that at least I don’t have to walk back in the dark alone up the long staircase and down the dark halls, or even just someone to laugh with me when I accidentally pick up the wrong unmarked bottle of “moisturizer” known as shampoo and put it on my face. Yep folks, I’ve done it twice now. Seriously? You’d think I’d learn but I’m sure this will be the last time, please tell me it’s the last time. Even still, I look forward to others joining us in the house, I’d be nice to have another girl over there.

But while there aren’t many of us to sit around the fireplace with our wine at least it’s feeling a bit easier to bear. I’m finding it easier to handle the oddities of the house and the fact that there’s only one other person that speaks moderate English here. Certainly while nothing has been perfect there are things that remind me why I’m here. I applied for this job saying I wanted to learn about the edible plants of southern France and I wanted to get immersed in food so Friday was my first opportunity.

Friday night before heading into Nice to meet up with Lesley and Travis, Olivier came up to get me to follow him to the bread proofing room where he bakes fresh loaves once a week. He was kind enough to call me over every step of the way from the mixing of the leaven with the flour, kneading, proofing and baking. He has possibly the most difficult accent I’ve yet to encounter so I smile and nod a lot occasionally give a good expression that I’m completely and utterly confused and then after some difficult exchange we carry on. It was the first time in three months that he’d fired up the oven with the road being covered in snow up until last week (though you’d never know it now) and he explained that this particular oven is from the region and is famous as being the best type there are for the angle of the walls and the material used. He explained his techniques for getting the perfect temperature and throwing a little flour on the base to see how long it took to become golden and monitored everything very precisely with a heat gauging gun as well, he used a little water to crisp the loaves perfectly and carefully tossed in the loaves to ensure they would cook to perfection in equal amounts of time. Not only is he our baker but he also has a chicken coop he started here but lives off-site in the mountains and comes to check in every few days.

He was kind enough to offer me an open invitation to use the oven myself for my own bread baking and other goods. Looks like he’ll also be teaching me how to make some gluten free or reduced gluten options as well! Many culinary adventures await! It’s not often one gets to see the master at work, let alone an offer to learn for free!

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