At the edge of the vegetable plot was a deep entangled jungle of cherry tomato vines. I set about making the pizza sauceby Wendell Steavenson / October 10, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
In August we went to stay at our friend Peter’s farm in Bresse, across the river Saône from the famous vineyards of Burgundy. The weather was dry Savannah. Michel, the chicken farmer in the next village, who sold us two of his cou-nu, naked neck chickens, (which he considers to be superior to the famous Poulet de Bresse) raised his hands to the cloudless blue sky, “It hasn’t really rained properly since you were last here. Peter drained his carp pond and there was not enough rain to refill it over the winter, and now—pah—no rain at all for weeks. Well it gives the farmers something to talk about. Oh farmers!” he said as if he did not count himself among their number.
Peter and his family were away and we had the place to ourselves. We fed corn to the geese and to the chickens who cackled and pecked. “Where are your eggs?” I asked.
“Brackkka brac,” said the chickens.
In the yard the earth was baked hard and cracked and smelled of biscuit. The vegetable plot was overgrown with blackberry brambles and raspberry canes and overblown fennel fronds. In the middle I found a runaway zucchini vine full of yellow squash blossoms. I pricked my fingers picking them, stuffed them with slivers of mozzarella and anchovy and deep fried them as an appetizer to Michel’s prized cou-nu roasted simply with a very good gravy and rice.
At the edge of the vegetable plot was a deep entangled jungle of cherry tomato vines. I had to kneel and stick my head deep into the thicket to pick them, many overripe, their skins already split hanging on the vine. The smell was intoxicating. The fruit burst in my mouth, thin skinned, dense with seeds and summer sugar.
We cut them in half for tomato salad. Inspired by the large patch of oregano by the kitchen door I made a Greek salad with capers, feta, and red onion. We made tomates farcie, my boyfriend Adrien’s favourite dish. I made fresh pasta with tomatoes and lasagne with a ragu made from the tomatoes. And then we noticed the pizza oven built next to the brick barbecue on the porch. Peter sent instructions via WhatsApp. I set to peeling the harvest of cherry tomatoes for a sauce. I poured over boiling water and the whole skins slipped off.