Saturday, April 24, 2010

a look back at a (handwritten) journal from a summer's day in France 8/5/97

[We got up in our gite near Belley (Gertude Stein's nearest big city) and decided to drive to Italy via the "Tunnel Alpin du Frejus"]. At 2:00, Charley saw a sign for a restaurant-pizzeria in a small town called Pinerolo. The town was absolutely shut down, otherwise, but the restaurant said they would serve us. They gave the kids sodas in big beer glasses; we all had pasta: ragu or pesto or carbonara. It was really good. Kate set off the emergency alarm when she was washing her hands... Jim said "incidente" to the waiter and they laughed. We got gelato and then walked around as the town opened back up. Jim got a motorcycle and Kate got five dogs. We then decided to drive over the Alps on the way back. Charley has gotten his mountain forearms back. We went through a whole series of hairpin turns. We saw a flock of sheep which Charley says looked to him like a huge cluster of starlings or a cloud of insects, so many that they became one "thing," an organism. They crossed over the road in front of us and everyone, in both directions on a big curve, in full view of a glacier, had to stop. It was so gorgeous. The trip took hours. It really isn't describable, how we felt. We saw cows and calves and horses way up in the Alps. We saw fast-running skinny white waterfalls come down a whole mountain and we saw the muddy rivers at the bottom. We drove up the Alpe d'Huez and took photos of the writing on the road (left over from the Tour de France): KISS, PANTANI!! There were 22 switchbacks. The bar in town had photos of Vasseur, Virenque, Pantani, and even Greg Lemond, but no Riis, no Ullrich, no Cippolini. We drove towards Grenoble, as it was getting late. At 9:00, we finally found a restaurant, brightly lit and warm and bright. We had Beaujolais-Villages and salad and steak-frites.
Two poodles jumped on the kids... the chef-owner and his wife came out and began talking to us. They introduced us to the other couple, who turned out to be the town's mayor [very important person!!] and his wife. We talked about the Alps and then we talked about potatoes. Eventually, the mayor and his wife said their goodbyes and left, the dishes were cleared [this was a two-person restaurant, so the owner and his wife would talk, scoop up dishes, come back, talk, shake out a tablecloth]. We talked for awhile longer and then drove off home. [These are my notes on the chef's definitive words on proper preparation of each type of potato gratin, which he says can be so easily misunderstood]:

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