This spring, I was in a beautiful Provençal town, Vaison la Romaine. I loved the view from the terrace of the Dentelles de Montmirail mountains, dotted with country villas, orderly vineyards, and dark cypress trees. I also loved to sit in the garden of the hotel, Le Beffroi, smelling the roses and herbs - lavender, mint, chervil, oregano, thyme - that filled the parterres and would flavor the evening's meal.
Nothing compared, though, to the exhilaration I felt during the weekly farmer's market. If I were serving a meal to my friends there, I would start with an amuse-bouche of Provençal gazpacho, followed by sauteed artichokes as the first course. The piéce de résistance would be tiny lamb chops served with a carrot mousse. For dessert, I'd make a cassis parfait topped with creme fraiche and a dollop of chocolate sauce. My father would have loved this meal, too. I could invite him as well, since in the classic play, Don Juan invites his dead friends to the macabre banquet.
Even though I couldn't cook for my friends, I began buying food in the Vaison la Romaine Market for an impromptu picnic. First was the skinny saucisson, which I quickly started munching on as I walked through the stalls, then the cracked olives with garlic from Nyon. I chose some delicious local cheeses: one was Cantal, cheddarlike, and a softer one, Cremeux du Ventoux, also goat. I found the olive-oil brioches that are typical of this region at the boulangerie.
I walked down some old cobblestone stairs to the River Ouveze. I sat in a shady spot. I heard the water rushing and smelled sweet, pungent jasmine growing in a nearby garden. Mostly I tasted my small feast with relish. The olive-oil brioche went perfectly with the cheeses and olives. The saucisson was quickly gone and I wished I had bought a couple more.
I felt my father's closeness, I thought of him with an open heart. He would have loved this picnic. He would have eaten these simple foods with as much gusto as I was doing right then. I found myself smiling, thinking that, Don Juan or not, my father was a real character.
Concha Alborg lives and writes in Center City.