19 July 2012

à table à tours

ttours01deep breath. that’s you, breathing. you are far from paris. you are next to the loire river in tours.  even though tours is a city, you already note the difference in air quality.

ttours02you’re also breathing because you are excited.

first off, you’re here in tours as a guest. a guest of the couple.  you first visited tours last year at their generous invitation.

more than a year later, they’ve invited you again to their home.

second off, there are friends from the LPO you met at ile de re that happen to be in the area. friends that if you don’t see now, you won’t see them again for a few more years.

ttours03you were torn between being a polite guest and wanting to see old friends.

after all, how could you abandon your hosts? and since it isn’t your home, you couldn’t exactly extend an invitation for your friends to come over. you wanted to see both but you had a limited schedule.

ttours04so before you arrived, you wrote an email and asked your host if it was possible for you to meet up with some friends for a few hours.

and her response?

Pas de problèmes, tu organises comme tu veux ta visite à tes amis, Ils peuvent venir déjeuner à la maison si tu veux.

No problem. You organize your meetings with your friends as you like. They can even come have lunch at the house if you want.

ttours05and just like that, your excitement builds. not only are you going to see your LPO friends, they’re going to meet the couple and discover your favorite french garden. when lovers of plants meet other lovers of plants, only good things can happen.

but most importantly, when people you like meet other people you like, that makes you happiest.

ttours06the couple has dropped you off at the meeting spot you set with your LPO friends: the loire river at the university of tours.

ttours10here you wait. and breathe. you continue to breathe two things: fresh air and excitement.

ttours07the sky, you note, is clearing up.

and then you spot your friends. it’s time!

ttours08fourteen months may have passed but once those binoculars are out and the bird watching begins, it’s as if you are still volunteering at ile de re.

ttours09you must look carefully – there are a few sterns plunge diving for lunch.

ttours11you cannot compare the seine river and paris to the the loire river and tours.

where the seine has cement walls to separate the river from the city, here in tours there is no such thing. sand, grass, and rocks are all that divide the river from the city.

ttours12which means – you can be in the city with paved roads and restaurants and shops and what not but with only a five minute walk you can also be completely immersed in nature with hiking shoes and binoculars.

ttours14and that’s exactly what you do. the day with your friends is spent mostly along the river looking at plants, birds, insects, rocks – basically anything not created by humans.

ttours13normally you’d walk right past this. but your friends stop you and quiz you to see if you recognize this flower.

of course not – you’re not very good at this game.

but they’re patient, and they tell you it is tilleul. lime blossom/tilia/basswood/linden.

ahhh! je le connais! i do know it! recognition sinks in. you’ve tasted teas and honey before with tilleul – now you can finally put a tree and flower to the taste your tongue already knows.

ttours15this one needs no explanation.

ttours16time for a picnic. it ends with peeled apples and homemade flapjacks. the recipe, already in your recipe travel book, will be baked and shared by you in the future.

ttours17it’d be a shame to skip tours. so after lunch, you all wander into the city. but it’s still things that are in full bloom that grab your attention.

such as stopping each time you smell the sweet scent of chèvrefeuille. honeysuckle.

ttours18a ground full of flattened mûres (mulberries) force you all to look up to discover a mûrier (mulberry tree).

you taste some, but they are much too sour so they are spat out back to the pavement.

ttours19time is also spent on bridges looking down at fish and frogs.

cathy, do you recognize this symbol?”

always being quizzed. you love learning and they love teaching. it’s a friendship you cherish.

“have you heard of the chemin de saint-jacques?”

ahhh! recogniztion sinks in again. “yes yes,” you respond, “it’s that walking pilgrimage, right?

he nods and goes on to explain that markers of all kinds can be found that guide people toward spain.

ttours20them you all leave tours and head to your hosts home in the countryside because it is snack time. and swim time as well, before the sun goes down.

here, the camera is momentarily put down because you’re doing cartwheels on the grass and swimming in a pool and playing ping-pong to stay warm and catching baby kittens and eating leftover rhubarb crumble and exploring gardens and picking raspberries and studying compost piles and admiring a beautiful home and just being happy that you are able to share this moment with your LPO friends.

ttours21then, it starts to become late. soon your friends will have to leave.

but your host asks your friends, “vous voulez rester et dîner avec nous ce soir?”

would you like to stay and have dinner with us tonight?

you don’t dare speak for your friends, instead you look at them and do a very french thing and say “c’est comme vous voulez!” it’s as you like.

but inside your head, you’re saying “oui oui oui yes they would love to stay and have dinner with us because you are an amazing cook and they love your garden and i know they would be so happy!”

but no need, your LPO friends, in typical french style, reply with “pourquoi pas? si ca ne vous dérangez pas, avec plaisir!” why not? if it doesn’t bother you, with pleasure!"

! if there was such a thing as a happiness radar, yours would be unreadable. not only have you successfully had your reunion with your LPO friends, they got to meet your wonderful hosts and their beautiful garden + home, and on top of that, they are going to taste her cooking.

later on that night – when everyone is busy helping with the meal preparation, she whispers to you, “comme ça tu peux passer plus de temps avec tes amis!”

this way you can spend more time with your friends.

touched. émue. really, how is it that you know such kind people?

ttours22the table is set. but first, you follow her out to the garden.

goûte! (taste!) with a knife she gathers some arroche rouge, basil, and an entire head of lettuce.

ttours24pluck! that’s her grabbing some capucine for you to taste and to add to a salad. (tropaeolum majus)

ttours23goûte! on the way back to the kitchen she makes you taste this to see if you recognize it. but you’ve got a mouth full of other lingering tastes so you miss the fact that mertensie maritime tastes like oysters. then you find out it’s english name is oyster-leaf. which only makes sense.

ttours25the garden bounty is laid out. there are three pairs of hands to help the kitchen magic happen.

ttours26of course apéro is first. crackers, sardines, and wine .

ttours27you still feel a bit guilty about how dinner for three unexpectedly turned into dinner for six. but that feeling goes away when your host exclaims, “i’m so happy, i love cooking big meals and i can use my big pasta bowl! when i cook for two, i can’t use the giant bowl.

that’s when you realize that not only does she not mind, she genuinely enjoys the company you’ve brought over.

ttours28then it is à table.

in the middle of the garden, of course.

ttours29let’s see if you were paying attention in the garden.

for the pork and zucchini spaghetti, what is the garden ingredient in the pesto?

answer: basil.

ttours30what are the three garden ingredients for this salad?

answer: capucine, arroche rouge, and lettuce.

ttours31dessert. mangos and pineapples given to the couple by a friend who recently returned from togo. the pineapple is white in color and the taste much lighter.

but here is the real star: sichuan pepper.

just try it: words and photos can’t describe this combination. and it’s so simple: cutting fruit and adding pepper.

ttours32this day finishes with six cups. three for tea, three for coffee.

and at the end, once your LPO friends have left, your host remarks that “tes amis sont très agréables!”

you have such pleasant friends.

happiness, a full tummy, and gratefulness is what you went to bed with.

1 comment:

Kelly Rae said...

looks like such a lovely day :-)