Quotes from A Year in Provence

Peter Mayle ·  207 pages

Rating: (51.7K votes)


“It was a meal that we shall never forget; more accurately, it was several meals that we shall never forget, because it went beyond the gastronomic frontiers of anything we had ever experienced, both in quantity and length. It started with homemade pizza - not one, but three: anchovy, mushroom, and cheese, and it was obligatory to have a slice of each. Plates were then wiped with pieces torn from the two-foot loaves in the middle of the table, and the next course came out. There were pates of rabbit, boar, and thrush. There was a chunky, pork-based terrine laced with marc. There were saucissons spotted with peppercorns. There were tiny sweet onions marinated in a fresh tomato sauce. Plates were wiped once more and duck was brought in... We had entire breasts, entire legs, covered in a dark, savory gravy and surrounded by wild mushrooms.

We sat back, thankful that we had been able to finish, and watched with something close to panic as plates were wiped yet again and a huge, steaming casserole was placed on the table. This was the specialty of Madame our hostess - a rabbit civet of the richest, deepest brown - and our feeble requests for small portions were smilingly ignored. We ate it. We ate the green salad with knuckles of bread fried in garlic and olive oil, we ate the plump round crottins of goat's cheese, we ate the almond and cream gateau that the daughter of the house had prepared. That night, we ate for England.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“Sunglasses must be kept on until an acquaintance is identified at one of the tables, but one must not appear to be looking for company. Instead, the impression should be that one is heading into the cafe to make a phone call to one's titled Italian admirer, when--quelle surprise!--one sees a friend. The sunglasses can then be removed and the hair tossed while one is persuaded to sit down.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“A connoisseur of woe needs fresh worries from time to time, or he will become complacent.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“Apart from the peace and emptiness of the landscape, there is a special smell about winter in Provence which is accentuated by the wind and the clean, dry air. Walking in the hills, I was often able to smell a house before I could see it, because of the scent of woodsmoke coming from an invisible chimney. It is one of the most primitive smells in life, and consequently extinct in most cities, where fire regulations and interior decorators have combined to turn fireplaces into blocked-up holes or self-consciously lit "architectural features." The fireplace in Provence is still used - to cook on, to sit around, to warm the toes, and to please the eye - and fires are laid in the early morning and fed throughout the day with scrub oak from the Luberon or beech from the foothills of Mont Ventoux. Coming home with the dogs as dusk fell, I always stopped to look from the top of the valley at the long zigzag of smoke ribbons drifting up from the farms that are scattered along the Bonnieux road. It was a sight that made me think of warm kitchens and well-seasoned stews, and it never failed to make me ravenous.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“Beh oui. Better sticky than burned.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“Only snobs kiss once, I was told, or those unfortunates who suffer from congenital froideur. I then saw what I assumed to be the correct procedure - the triple kiss, left-right-left, so I tried it on a Parisian friend. Wrong again. She told me that triple-kissing was a low Provençal habit, and that two kisses were enough among civilized people. The next time I saw my neighbor’s wife, I kissed her twice. “Non,” she said, “trois fois.”

I now pay close attention to the movement of the female head. If it stops swiveling after two kisses, I am almost sure I've filled my quota, but I stay poised for a third lunge just in case the head should keep moving.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“Rain they take as a personal affront, shaking their heads and commiserating with each other in the cafés, looking with profound suspicion at the sky as though a plague of locusts is about to descend, and picking their way with distaste through the puddles on the pavement.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“Look at those vines,' he said. 'Nature is wearing her prettiest clothes.'
The effect of this unexpectedly poetic observation was slight spoiled when Massot cleared his throat nosily and spat, but he was right;”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“Oh, that,' he said. 'Poncet is grooming his ass.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“He then expounded a remarkable theory, which had occurred to him while he was playing the clarinet during one of the power cuts that the French electricity board arranges at regular intervals. Electricity, he said, is a matter of science and logic. Classical music is a matter of art and logic. Vous voyez? Already one sees a common factor. And when you listen to the disciplined and logical progression of some of Mozart's work, the conclusion is inescapable: Mozart would have made a formidable electrician.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“They always asked wistfully what the weather was like, and were not pleased with the answer. They consoled themselves by warning me about skin cancer and the addling effecr of sun on the brain. I didn't argue with them; they were probably right. But addled, wrinkled and potentially cancerous as I might have been, I had never felt better.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“We had to be up early in the morning. We had a goat race to go to... We asked the old man confident in the knowledge that he, like every Frenchman, would be an expert. "The goats who make the most droppings before the race are likely to do well. An empty goat is faster than a full goat. C'est logique.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“As our lawyer friend had noticed, men kiss other men. They squeeze shoulders, slap backs, pummel kidneys, pinch cheeks. When a Provençal man is truly pleased to see you, there is a real possibility of coming away from his clutches with superficial bruising.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“It is at a time like this, when crisis threatens the stomach, that the French display the most sympathetic side of their nature. Tell them stories of physical injury or financial ruin and they will either laugh or commiserate politely. But tell them you are facing gastronomic hardship, and they will move heaven and earth and even restaurant tables to help you.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“We had been here often before as tourists, desperate for our annual ration of two or three weeks of true heat and sharp light. Always when we left, with peeling noses and regret, we promised ourselves that one day we would live here. We had talked about it during the long gray winters and the damp green summers, looked with an addict’s longing at photographs of village markets and vineyards, dreamed of being woken up by the sun slanting through the bedroom window.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“The people of Provence greeted spring with uncharacteristic briskness, as if nature had given everyone an injection of sap.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“And, as for the oil, it is a masterpiece. You’ll see.”
Before dinner that night, we tested it, dripping it onto slices of bread that had been rubbed with the flesh of tomatoes. It was like eating sunshine.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“What a marvelous sunset,' she said. 'Yes,' replied her husband. 'Most impressive for such a small village.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“I called Monsieur Menicucci, and he asked anxiously about my pipes. I told him they were holding up well. "That pleases me," he said, "because it is minus five degrees, the roads are perilous, and I am fifty-eight years old. I am staying at home." He paused, then added, "I shall play the clarinet.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“We might treat a rabbit as a pet or become emotionally attached to a goose, but we had come from cities and supermarkets, where flesh was hygienically distanced from any resemblance to living creatures. A shrink-wrapped pork chop has a sanitized, abstract appearance that has nothing whatever to do with the warm, mucky bulk of a pig. Out here in the country there was no avoiding the direct link between death and dinner.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“Dar, bineînțeles, spusese el, se știe că englezii își omoară mieii de două ori: o dată când îi taie și a doua oară când îi gătesc.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“We had a crisp, oily salad and slices of pink country sausages, an aioli of snails and cod and hard-boiled eggs with garlic mayonnaise, creamy cheese from Fontvielle, and a homemade tart. It was the kind of meal that the French take for granted and tourists remember for years.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“Gu himself presides over the room- a genial, noisy man with the widest, jauntiest, must luxuriant and ambitious mustache I have ever seen, permanently fighting gravity and the razor in its attempts to make contact with Gu's eyebrows.”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


“...the demented clatter-like nuts and bolts trying to escape from a biscuit tin-of the small Citroën van that every farmer drives home at lunchtime...”
― Peter Mayle, quote from A Year in Provence


About the author

Peter Mayle
Born place: in Brighton, England, The United Kingdom
Born date June 14, 1939
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