The story so far? Just go back over the last three blog posts.
“What’s that? Qu’est-ce c’est?”
xxx“Lievre, mademoiselle … like … er … rabbit, but more big?”
xxx“Aha — hare.” A quick search on her phone confirmed the translation.
xxx“And … ?” She pointed at what looked like a very dark piece of fillet steak.
xxxVenison, specifically from the roe deer, said the internet.
xxxOh yes. Eppy suddenly recalled a recipe she’d seen on television, quick and simple and made by a famously wine-loving celebrity chef on a UK tour. That was the plan, then.
xxx“Merci,” she said, as the assistant wrapped the meat.
xxxIn a reverie, she wandered round the small market hall. A patisserie stall provided an individual pear tartelette for her dessert — and a strawberry one for an afternoon snack. One of many fruit and veg stalls provided a potato. Another sold her something that looked like a tightly-packed anaemic baby broccoli. It had, she later found, a flavour so subtle she decided never to buy it again.
xxxRich, red Rhône wine. Almost local. Right country, anyway. Chateauneuf du Pape.
Number 9 Pope Street? Nice.
Oh I do miss your original wit 😉
xxxI missed it just then, she thought, but she smiled anyway. He made bad jokes with style and she laughed without shame, both with him and at him.
xxxIn a wine shop she found a small bottle of a liqueur from farther North, Crème de Cassis. Essential for her plans. As were matches. Long matches.
xxxSitting at a small, round table outside a corner bar in a small French town, with a café au lait and a croissant for breakfast: what could be better, she asked herself.
xxxThree hours later, much to the waiter’s amusement, she came back and answered her own question with a glass of chilled Chardonnay from Chablis and a croque monsieur, thick slices of ham and melty cheese, between slices of rustic bread, piquant with mustard and all fried in butter. Healthy, probably not; delicious, certainly.
xxxIn between these visits, she had strolled round the town, sketched the houses and the churches, and wandered along the river bank, waving back to the men on the working boats and even sitting on a rock, like the Lorelei, while reading a little of Kat’s Book.
xxxFreedom can be frightening.
xxxLeaving him and starting a new life was the best decision she ever made. Now was the right time to explore her world, her self, her sexuality. Life stretched before her, spreading out like an endless panorama of possibilities, without limits, without restrictions.
xxxBut also without signposts, with its spiritual satnav disabled, disconnected, Liberating but also scary, exhilaratingly scary.
xxxGood grief! Eat, Love, Pray, Barf.
xxxNo, no, no. I will not be defeated. I will keep my mind open. As wide as I can, my dear Katrina. But for now I will content myself with watching the river flow by, accompanied by the shrill sounds of distant children at play, and the plaintive ululations of the boatmen’s horns.
xxxAfter a walk back over the tiny bridge and up the hill, Epifanea stripped off and took a shower. She lay down on her towel on the bed for a short nap. She smiled at her foreshortened image in the full length mirror near the foot of the bed, her unruly pubic garden looking like a rain-soaked wooded valley rising to a pink hill.
xxxBloody Hell, that book’s affecting me already, she thought, and rolled onto her side, bending knees and hips for comfort, stability, and to obscure the reflected view, before any more bad prose reveries sprang to her mind. It didn’t help much. She closed her eyes and tried to make her mind go blank, but somehow one vision after another appeared in her mind’s eye: the reflection of her own, damp body, those overexposed men and women on that Greek beach and even the sensuously dark piece of red meat waiting in the kitchen.
xxxAnd this final image led her to think of the rich red wine she would soon be drinking with it. And the liqueur she would cook it in. And this finally led her thoughts away from sex and sensuality to that mixture of white wine and Cassis named after a former mayor of Dijon, called Felix Kir.
xxxA bit early for an aperitif, she thought.
xxx“Nonsense!” she replied out loud, and headed for the kitchen.
Had a shower. Making a Felix.
xxxShe lied. She smiled. She slipped into her spotted pyjama trousers and pulled on a t-shirt, in case he started demanding proof.
What’s a felix?
Just joking. A Kir
Got some cassis for the venison
Bit early for an aperitif
Me too. Skype later?
xxxEppy sat with her drink on the terrace, beside the cast iron bistro table. She scrolled through the day’s photos on her state-of-the-art phone, and made notes in an old-fashioned booklet with a primitive pencil. Not for her a meticulously written, formal diary, but neither was she happy to look back at interesting photographs, unable to recall the exact circumstances in which they were taken, or even where they were taken. Not wishing to lug a laptop or even a tablet all over Europe, she just made those notes in case they were needed when she got back home and collated everything. They would help when sharing her memories with friends and family, perhaps even in the form of an online account; memories for her own later years, or perhaps even a small, self-published travel book, that no one would ever read.
xxxA load of recipes, perhaps. The photos she sent him of her every snack, drink or meal, might make an interesting collection one day.
xxxIf I ever get round to it.
xxxSuddenly she realised she’d been on the verge of falling asleep and hadn’t noticed how ‘the glimmering landscape had faded on the sight’, making her reading and writing very tiring to the eyes.
xxxHow long have I been sitting here? Time to cook. Lucky it’s a quick dish.
xxxShe put on a pan of water for the knobbly, pale green monstrosity the man at the market called a choux romanesco. No cabbage this, she thought, more like a small, dense cauliflower, gone green. Indeed, it broke up nicely into conical florets.
xxxShe decided to dispense with potatoes and let a crusty, fresh baguette supply the carbs.
xxx‘No! No baguettes! No — I shall have no baguettes …‘, she sang, contradicting her lyrics by cutting a few lengths from the long rustic loaf.
xxxAnd then, the cooking. A knob of butter melted and foamed in the heavy skillet, with a splash of oil to stop it burning. She placed a spatula flat on top of each piece of meat in turn and brought the heel of her hand down on them smartly a couple of times to flatten and tenderise, then patted salt and freshly-ground pepper onto their surfaces.
xxxInto the fat they went. After only a minute or so, she flipped them over, giving the pan a shake. As they cooked on the second side, she tipped the romanesco florets into the salted water boiling in her saucepan.
xxxShe took the meat from the fat and put it to rest on her plate. Now for the spectacular part. She hoped this kitchen’s smoke alarm was less sensitive than the one she’d set off in Edinburgh, just by making bacon sandwiches for his breakfast. At least in this climate she could have all the windows open without freezing her arse off.
xxxHer right hand held a long match and she’d positioned the matchbox at the side of the cooker near her left, which she first used to pour half a glass of the blackcurrant liqueur into the bubbling mix of butter, oil and meat juices.
xxxImmediately, she took hold of the box and struck the match. As it burst into flame, she held it low over the pan. A sheet of blue-violet flame danced over the liquid, as Eppy swirled it around to mix up and let most of the alcohol burn off.
xxxNot all. She preferred to blow it out before it ran out of fuel; she was convinced that gave the finished sauce a touch more ‘bite’. He, of course, insisted he couldn’t tell any difference. But tonight she could do it her way, without fear of smart-alec comments or criticisms.
xxxShe added a little beef stock and a small spoon of tomato puree, and stirred, before tasting, and completing the seasoning with some finely chopped basil and a little more black pepper from the grinder. The stock and the steaks had enough salt already. All it needed now was a pleasing glaze, which she created by whisking in one more small knob of butter.
xxxThe meat was put back into the pan and doused with the sauce to heat through, while she drained the green florets and arranged them on one side of the warmed plate. On the other side, she arranged the venison medallions and poured the sauce, dramatically, if not very artistically, over them. The large glass of red wine had obviously been filled — and refilled — well in advance.
xxxLess than ten minutes for the whole process, she thought proudly. As she confirmed this by checking the time on her phone. That was when she saw his impatient messages.
xxxWhich she ignored until after she had eaten.
xxxAnd rested for a while.
xxxThat dish had, except for the green lumps, been too tasty not to savour, slowly.
xxxAfter which, his attempts to have a flirtatious conversation were hampered by his feelings of annoyance and frustration; if he was trying to hide those feelings, he was doing a terrible job. Nonetheless, his hands, hidden below the level of the picture on her screen, seemed restless and she wondered what he might be doing with them. She had no intention of asking him.
xxxHer hands meanwhile, equally concealed from his view, were busy making rude and disrespectful gestures. She managed to keep a straight face.