Cookbook Profile

A Vanishing Life


Anne Willan By the end of our first summer, we'd learned several sharp lessons. From the start, Monsieur Milbert had made it clear he was boss of the garden and determined to remain so. None of us was permitted to pick produce; we were expected to leave a note in the kitchen with the following day's requests. Madame Milbert did the gathering under her husband's eye. If he reckoned a fruit or vegetable was not ripe, we had to wait—and we still do. Leeks are a constant bone of contention, left at least six months to gonfler (swell) before lifting. Just last week we had an argument about young green cabbages. "Non," Milbert said firmly. "They dissolve to nothing in the pan." Which is, of course, just why I like them. For a while I thought Monsieur Milbert was simply disobliging until I realized he adheres to a long-standing rural principle: anything edible must be left to grow as large as possible for maximum yield. Tenderness and flavor do not count.

The push and pull of rural life leaves its mark on the landscape, too. At the nearby Château de Bontin, for example, a farmer who had bought the surrounding land took it upon himself to fell a centuries-old allée of trees, leaving the house standing stark and bare. It is only now, a generation later, that Arnaud de Bontin has regained the ground and replanted frail trees that will take fifty years to mature. Near Chablis, Bernard and Brigitte Lefebure look over a charming vista, landscaped by a master hand, to the vineyards of Chablis in the distance. But merely the shell remains as the lake and retaining walls that anchored the panorama were destroyed to plant crops with easy access for the tractor. The Lefebures have the old plans, but restoration is a major undertaking.

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From My Château Kitchen
By Anne Willan
Clarkson Potter, March 2000
Hardback, $45.00
304 pages with color photographs
ISBN: 0-609-60226-8
Reprinted by permission.


From My Château Kitchen



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This page created May 2000