The last of the Cucurbitae


Roasted pumpkin soup | Infinite belly

I had my work cut out: A solid chunk of grass to remove to make way for a vegetable patch. The kind of thing I imagined only doing in peaceful old age. It’s actually quite the workout, twisting and tearing grass from the ground with all my strength; it’s almost a violent act. When I was already sweating halfway through, I felt rain pouring on my back. This was months ago, when we first decided to grow edibles in our garden.

Golden branches | Infinite belly

Ornament | Infinite bellyAfter planting seeds & seedlings (carrots, arugula, potatoes, onions, garlic, lettuce, wild strawberries, raspberries) it seemed like so much effort for an as-of-yet intangible result. I stared at the invisible vegetables sitting in that piece of land, imagining what they would look like after a bit of time, care and patience. It’s a work in progress and will always be both unfinished and complete, unveiling itself in its various states throughout the seasons.

Old fence & peelings bouquet | Infinite bellyFrost in flower | Infinite belly

Cucurbita on the other hand, all these beautiful varieties of squash, pumpkins, butternuts, etc., appeared as somewhat intimidating; they seemed to spring out of thin air, so visible and robust, even in large gardens. We did not dare plant any even though we later heard they’re not that complicated to grow. It may have been their great size and bright colors we thought we’d never be able to foster. And for months, we peered over the wall separating our yard from the neighbors’, admiring the endless varieties of vegetables & fruits they were cultivating and feeling a little anxious that our progeny would come out with the wrong colors, monstrous shapes, odd tastes.

Vintage cloth & old blinds in Craponne | Infinite bellyCutlery | Infinite bellyTree trunks in Auvergne | Infinite belly

Ribbon | Infinite belly

Now, as our patch is covered in a thick carpet of snow and as we empty our pantry in preparation for the move, we have one last beautiful cucurbita to prepare, given to us weeks ago by our friendly neighbors. It’s been standing by itself in the cold, amongst the shelves, like a strange sculpture waiting to be turned into soup. Its day has come. Vintage ladle & raw pumpkin | Infinite bellyRoasted pumpkin soup & antiquity shop in Craponne | Infinite belly copy

Roasted pumpkin silky velouté + Espelette pepper
|  Serves 4-6 

Continue reading “The last of the Cucurbitae”

On movement


Fennel & lemon feuilleté 1 | Infinite belly

One day I came back home to find one of my best friends sitting in the kitchen, grinning at me as if he had just pulled the prank of the year. I hadn’t seen Harley in a long time. On a hot June day of the canicule, he flew in from New York without telling us, to make a surprise. Since we live in a lieu-dit, a place without street names nor house numbers, all he had was a picture and the name of our hamlet, Verne, that he showed to the bewildered but sprite young taxi driver at the train station in Saint-Etienne. Finding it difficult to locate the appropriate stone farmhouse — knocking door to door and asking in rusty French if they knew of a Brazilian-American guy and his pastry chef wife didn’t seem to work (one person got really suspicious of his harlequinesque appearance, repeating to him in French “I don’t want to buy anything, I don’t want to buy anything!”) — he finally found our house by consulting with the Lapte Mairie or Town Hall for precise directions.

Window in the village of Craponne | Infinite belly

Only Adélaïde was at home so when I came back I was in total shock, like I had just seen a ghost. There he was, wearing a baby blue linen suit, trying out our jams on our wooden farm table in the kitchen, staring back at me and desperately trying to contain his mirth when I entered. He told me that our homemade brioche & jam was the best thing he had ever eaten.
A couple of days later, after Harley went back to the U.S., the Rabeyrin’s, our landlords and friends, were scratching their heads at how somebody could come from so far away and stay for such a short period of time. I’m not sure if they have ever met an American before (besides me), let alone an exuberant New Yorker with a flair for extravagant surprises.

Fennel & lemon feuilleté 5 | Infinite bellyLa Chaise-Dieu, Auvergne landscape | Infinite belly

This led me to think about how little I have moved around this year, in contrast to other times in my life. We stayed put in Haute-Loire, occasionally taking the car to Marseille and Paris to visit family (which is already a lot of moving around for some standards). Naturally, we stayed close to home and explored the region. In the end, we discovered that there was such a world of villages and sights to see in our immediate surroundings that the excitement of rural exploration made us feel like there was no need to go far away to discover an interesting place.

Pâte feuilletée 2 | Infinite bellyFennel & lemon feuilleté 7 | Infinite belly

It will soon be one year since we’ve moved to Auvergne, one year of cooking almost every day, of taking the small roads. We know Grazac and its snowy trails, the best boucherie in St.-Agrève, a majestic cathedral where a medieval pope is buried in La-Chaise-Dieu, Crapponne-sur-Arzon, a virtually unknown gem of a village that stands frozen in time, and le Chambon-sur-Lignon with its antiquity and book stores & its Saturday market bringing together the greatest regional goat cheese producers in the space of a few stands. We climbed volcanoes for the views, combed forests for mushrooms, and in the process explored neighborhoods of leaves and moss and the infinitely minute populations living in a square foot of earth.

In the village of Craponne | Infinite bellyFennel & lemon feuilleté 4 | Infinite belly

Walter Benjamin examined and exalted the figure of the flâneur: the quintessential observer of modern life who dallied about Paris at the turn of the century, strolling through its arcades full of shops and fashionable people — but who nevertheless remained somewhat distant from the object he was observing, removed in his thoughts. Balzac called flânerie “the gastronomy of the eye”. It would be facile and probably incorrect to say we were rural flâneurs, because after so many cups of tea with our neighbors, walking and photographing the roads and trails surrounding our house, after so many hours in our garden getting our hands full of dirt and plants or having meals with friends in the warm months, we mingled with and imbibed a good gulp of life in the country.
Next month we will move to Marseille. We will continue our posts, but they will look and feel different. There will be seafood, sun, bazaars, and another pace of life. We will surely continue to write about Auvergne, as this year has marked us deeply and the stream of memories, stories, and images that we have to share from here is far from running out.

Fennel & lemon feuilleté 2 | Infinite belly Basket | Infinite belly

Fennel & lemon feuilleté 10 | Infinite belly

Roasted fennel & lemon feuilleté + poppy seeds  |  Serves 4-6

Continue reading “On movement”