Seeing “Julie and Julia” this afternoon brought back memories of a wonderful trip I took to the south of France almost 30 years ago to attend a one-week cooking class given by Simone Beck. Simone, or Simca as her friends called her, was one of Julia Child’s co-authors of “The Art of French Cooking.”
She and Julia had used some of their profits from the successful cookbook to buy property in the tiny town of Plascassier, a few miles north of Cannes.
Because we were traveling standby (as airline employees), we decided to go a day early in case we ran into problems. We did fine until we got to Plascassier and couldn’t seem to find the turnoff to Simca’s house. Luckily, we did find the postman. I showed him the address and asked him if he knew it.
He smiled and said, “Ah, pour faire la cuisine?”
“Suivez-moi,” he shouted and we went flying up the country lane into Simca’s backyard. There she sat with her two American assistants. Introductions were made and explanations given for our early arrival. She wouldn’t let us get a hotel room; our room was ready and we were welcome to stay. They did recommend that we go get lunch and then explore the area and enjoy the beautiful weather. “You can’t count on the weather at this time of the year,” she said.
And so we did just that. By early evening we were exhausted and went to bed at 7:00. The next morning I awoke to sounds coming from the kitchen. I wandered in to find Simca getting breakfast ready for us! She was making coffee and putting out bread and butter and preserves. It was a delightful beginning to a charmed week.
We cooked all sorts of French dishes that week, from a simple pissaladiere to a Mont Blanc en Surprise. Whatever we cooked in the morning, we ate for lunch. Then we had the rest of the day free to sightsee, shop, or try local restaurants. And the weather! It remained as spectacular as it was the first day.
Her character in the movie today was very much like the Simca I remember, very friendly and a lot of fun. I’ll always cherish the fact that she prepared le petit dejeuner for me.