Ratatouille: an ode to the summer holidays

Appetit Voyage
Summer Feeling
I realized that these past days, I was constantly thinking about holidays, and summer rest… Probably because I have been waiting the good weather for too long and I was working too hard. Then my friends showed me some pictures from their short holidays in Ibiza, and in the following days, my mind shifted slowly and finally brought me back very far in my souvenirs and the delicious time of my childhood when I had 3 months holidays in summer. 

In French, it has a magic name: Les Grandes Vacances! The long holidays. The name itself could sound strange, but when you were 8 or 10 years old, it was sounding like a promise, an endless milk and honey land,… This is the same promise you can also feel the Jacques Tati master piece, Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot. There is a kind of romantic feeling that break through in this movie that I also feel now.

Appetit Voyage
Summer's flavor
I have to say I am a very lucky person, and had so much amazing souvenirs from my summer holidays, that still today, have a special taste, smell and feel.

I would like to share with you this experience and live again during some written lines, a past where I did not have so much worries in life… not that I have much more today, but I think when you grow up you lose the ability to get marveled and to enjoy the present moment. Don't you think?

My summer holidays were really special to me, because every year I was going to my uncle’s house in the South of France, in a remote village between Ardèche and Provence. 
From Bourg-en-Bresse, it was a long trip for an 8 years old, and there was always a mix of excitement and anxiety to load up the car and took off to the South, direction: Provence. Finally, the road was bringing us to a narrow and dented road, revealing in front of us in the heights the small stoned village where we will spend the next 2 weeks.

The name of this hidden treasure is La Roque Sur Cèze, and it keeps in its wood, river and mountains the secret of my happy holidays.

My first memory is the excitement I was feeling when we were crossing the narrow medieval stoned bridge, and starting to go up in the village with the narrow cobbled stones streets. Leaving on our right the imposing cream stoned church tower, we were first arriving in a beautiful square with plane trees where people were usually playing pétanque. 

We keep up going in the village, till we get out of it again and start to climb in the Provence oaks and pines woods. After a couple of curves, my uncle’s house appeared behind the oak trees. The modern house was set up in 3 terraces along the mountain slope.

At the moment I was stepping out of the car, the smells and heat of the Provence was invading my nostrils, my mind and my soul! Lavender, rosemary, brooms, olives and pine trees,… every plant, every single stone has a smell aroused by the heat of the summer.

There, the days were passing equal, playing in the woods and the mountains with my cousins, with their donkeys (they have all kind of animals including a goat and hens). 
One of our favorite moment was, to go down in the afternoon, to the river. At that time, swimming pool were not that common. So, we were looking for some refreshment in the river down the village. Around 4pm, all equipped with swim suits, plastic shoes, and all kind of equipment, we were going down the river Cèze
There lies some of my happiest memories. I also realize now, how natural was to take care of everything around us. We were playing with the tadpoles, catching small fishes, or swimming against the current, and diving to watch the fishes. Once exhausted of so much playing, we were coming back home, relaxed, smelling the river and the sludge. It could sound a little bit disgusting now, but actually, it was a kind of fresh and wild smell on my skin that was making me feel free.

In this hidden place, I discovered the Provence cuisine and the taste of some of the most beautiful fruits and vegetables: tomatoes, peaches, apricots,… I will never forget the smell, the juicy flesh and the taste of these products. Now I chase all the shops to look for a tiny hint of these smells and flavors,…

The smells of Provence is actually something that never left my memory! I especially remember the ratatouille my aunt was making!

Appetit Voyage
La Ratatouille by Appetit Voyage
It is funny that ratatouille became famous thanks to a tiny mouse from a cartoon! At least the world knows the name. It is a very unique dish evidence of our Mediterranean identity. All around the Mediterranean sea, you can find some different expression of this dish, each of them different but embedding the same soul! Pisto in Spain, caponata in Italy,.... All refer to an ancient recipe that gathers tomatoes, onions, eggplants, courgettes, bell peppers... And the marvelous herbs of Provence!

Today it is still one of my favorite dish during the summer.

To do my aunt's ratatouille, you need:
  • 3 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 zucchini/courgettes
  • 2 eggplants/aubergine
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 big onion
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 1 handful of thyme and rosemary
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 tbs. of olive oil
1/ First clean all the vegetables. Slice the bell peppers and take off the whites’ parts inside as well as the seeds.

2/ Then slice all the vegetables in dices. Slice the garlic thinly.

3/ Salt and let the eggplants dices on kitchen paper for 10 minutes. Then dry them properly with some more kitchen paper.

4/ In a fried pan, start to put the olive oil and the onions for 2-3 minutes at medium heat, keeping an eye on it and stirring.

5/ Add the garlic, let it for 2 more minutes, and then put the zucchinis, eggplants, peppers and finally the tomatoes. Salt and pepper, and add the herbs. Then cover it for 15 minutes more.

6/ You can serve it as dish side hot or cold. If cold, I like to add some black olives in summer. If you want a complete dish, you can add some eggs, fried or hard boil, tuna or minced meat if you have it hot!

Now that you know one of my most treasured memory, and I opened my heart, what is your best summer holiday memory? What would be the dish attached to it?

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