Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Toast


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.

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9 Comments:

Anonymous bea at la tartine gourmande said...

Ah this sounds fun! I went to a boot camp too, but that was when I had back issues and needed physical therapy. ;-) Something else, but a new use of the words for me now!

12:55 PM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger Lori in PA said...

Lucy, I have read both Kate's and your accounts in the past few days (even discovered David's blog and enjoyed the bit of time I had to spend there) with a hunger born of the temptation to escape my own life for awhile. Our family is living through a difficult time -- not at all with each other, just an impossible situation -- and it was balm to my spirit to imagine you all there at Kate's. Thank you very much for sharing and unknowingly offering me a comforting respite from sadness.

2:36 PM, November 08, 2007  
Anonymous David said...

Sounds like a great time. Reading your account of the weekend almost makes me feel like I was actually there.

...hey, um...wait a minute...

5:14 PM, November 08, 2007  
Anonymous panini girl said...

Thank you so much for all your posts. I look forward to your photos and all that you're creating in the kitchen.

7:06 PM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Bea, boot camp has many many applications! It means an experence in which you learn a lot at once or accomplish lots of things.

Lori, I am sorry that you are going through a rough spot, but happy to know that I could give you some comfort.

David, I understand, after how drunk you were I completely understand that you may have forgotten the whole weekend. Just try and remember one detail and it should come back piece by piece.

panini girl, thanks for coming by!

7:51 PM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger Kate Hill said...

Dear dear Lucy,

Of course, I am a fire sign! How perceptive of you; and thank you for that lovely photo of the glasses lifted high in honor of... important things.

XX Quiet Kate

9:16 PM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger katiez said...

What a wonderful weekend! The wine, comapnions, and the cassoulet - all well worth the 8-hour drive...

9:58 PM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger winedeb said...

Lucy, I have been following your and Kate's stories about the great Cassoulet. It must have been "one for the books" as you all look so happy and satisfied! What great memories that weekend made for all of you! Cheers!

9:51 PM, November 09, 2007  
Blogger Mimi said...

I am so jealous of you all, cooking together in a real French kitchen.

1:27 AM, November 19, 2007  

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