Some years ago I decided I'd had enough cooking, or maybe more precisely, planning, shopping for and cooking meals. Then I got my hands into some pastry, I don't know why, and the feel of it--squishy, soft, in a word, fleshy--made me think perhaps I hadn't had enough. So whenever my son the foody comes to dinner I try to make a tarte tatin. It's also what I propose when I am invited to pot luck. A year ago my daughter tried her hand at one, with store-bought puff pastry. This was in Provence; the pastry came from the local grocery store in the village where part of my husband's family originates, a shop which is subsidized by the municipality, because first Madame Gagne's épicerie, overlooking the cemetery, and then Paulette's, behind the church, went out of business: these ladies died. For a while there was no épicerie, only a van or two, with bread, or meat, which parked in the middle of the village, flipped up flap on the side of the van to make a counter, and leaned on their horns until customers turned up. Most people shopped in the surrounding towns, or in Carpentras which has a market on Friday mornings, and hypermarchés for the other days.
The new épicerie has three of everything perishable--three apples, three heads of lettuce, three leeks--ham, sausages, pasta and frozen foods. It is next door to the village primary school. It is a child's dream of a grocery store, the kind we built in a corner of our classroom and stocked with empty boxes of oatmeal and tins of beans when we were learning to count with make-believe money. It also has a couple cafe tables, newspapers and a post office, because that too was closed some years back when the postmistress retired, and the building on the village square above the fountain was sold to tourists. My daughter was anxious about her tarte tatin, she thought she'd burned it, but it turned out that she'd cooked it just right. I too began using frozen puff pastry--it cut the work in half. Last week, however, I don't remember why, I decided to make pastry from scratch. I thought I'd overcooked the apples, then I thought I'd overcooked the crust (which goes on top, over the apples which are caramelized in a frying pan). When I flipped the pie onto a plate, however, it came out in a single piece, which rarely happens. It was I think the best tarte tatin I've ever made. My son (the foody, who posts pictures of his confections online and had a period of experimenting with homemade sausage) said the homemade pâte brisée was much better than the store-bought kind. Maybe I should buy a rolling pin, a real wooden one, to replace the empty bottle of scotch I've been making do with, here in this temporary house.