Basically boot camp means that they begin serving large fortified wine spiked aperos before I have had more than two slices of toast and a free prune at the market. Kate mentions having opened a few bottles of wine... Everywhere I turned throughout the day someone was telling me I had to taste this one! Bottles, magnums of wine from three continents, including Australia and America, brought by Mr. Orr. "Those California wines, so alcoholic!" one reveling camper says, while we dutifully taste a glass of each and every one. But dinner made it to the table by a reasonable hour and nobody was seriously burned except David, who was spattered with duck fat.
There were three cassoulets, each using a different bean. One cooked in a gas oven, another in a wood fire oven in the garden, and another just eased up to the cinders of the fire that had been burning all weekend in the huge kitchen fireplace, the fire we gathered around and the one we looked at while we talked. This was the one I adored.
The group, which had grown in number to fourteen, were all at the table and the plates were served. Kate lifted her glass for a toast. We raised our glasses in anticipation. "To everyone -" here here, our glasses all inched up and we awaited the second part of her phrase. "who showed up! To friends, to fires, to Cassoulet!"
Loic and I looked at each other. We were thinking the same thing. We'd been hemming and hawing about whether we were going to have the energy for 8 hours on the road in both directions just for a weekend, and then I had simply insisted. He didn't regret it. I could see it in his eyes.
Somehow the salad came out just at the right moment as a palate cleanser, the Auvergnat cheeses made their round. Then in boot camp style there was a shuffle and a dispensing of empty champagne coupes, which were then ordered to be removed from the table, and out came a parade of glasses full of that comice pear sorbet that David was discreetly putting together on the sly while we were all mesmerized by the fires being lit in various corners of the garden for roasting the cassoulets.
This was the major most wonderful discovery for me. Kate has not only a way with fire, but a relationship with it, she incorporates it into her cooking of course but also in receiving us, it being central to our gathering, and also the thing that makes the difference between this cassoulet and that one. In the morning she kindles the still glowing cinders from the night before and we continue. She shifts from one to the next with a fluidity that embodies her personality and her cadence.
The crusts were all different, the fires each burned with different intensities, and she kept them all going. This was a beautiful thing to see, and appreciate. And David knew, by looking at some fruits at the market, that this moment would arrive. That this sorbet would come as a beautiful counterpoint and the perfect last word to the prayer that was this meal.
To Kate, and her call to gather around the fire!To learn more about what Kate does, click here and here.
Labels: Fall 07