Elizabeth David in Uzes
In 1984 Elizabeth David added a postscript to her book ‘Eating Out in Provincial France.’ I haven’t read that particular book although I have devoured her cookery books, both metaphorically and literally, reading and following her recipes. I suspect that most of the restaurants she mentions in the book have long since disappeared and certainly eating out in France can be as disappointing as in the UK. But even now you can still buy wonderful food in the small city of Uzes.
She writes of the Casino on the Boulevard Gambetta, where one can buy the essentials and then the wonderful butchers shop; one needs to remember the cuts of meat are different, less fat but more expensive. There are some wonderful bakeries too. My favourite is the one under the arches on the Place aux Herbes, where in addition to the standard baguette they sell a variety of different breads. The shop assistant weighs the loaf one picks, a Campagne or Rustique for example and one pays by weight. There is nothing more delicious than fresh bread with a great cheese. In this part of France it has to be goats cheese. The pelardons as they are called are made locally and can be bought in various stages of maturity, fresh soft and creamy for eating immediately, or harder for grilling or toasting.
The fruit and vegetables are wonderful as well. Elizabeth David was there in February so not as much choice but as she went round the stalls of the Saturday morning market, she found creamy fleshed potatoes, crisp bronzed-flecked, frilly lettuces, bunches of chard, leaf artichokes, pumpkins and read peppers, new-laid eggs, nine or so varieties of olives and golden coloured honey. They are still available in winter.
Through the summer local producers bring their products to the Market on both Saturday and Wednesday. The season begins with a small sweet strawberry called Garrigette, then the apricots in large boxes. The same grower sells green asparagus in large bunches-it’s delicious fried with a fresh egg on top. Later on as summer creeps towards autumn, the peaches, white or yellow appear on the stalls; they have an intoxicating smell and are so luscious. Finally figs become available, eaten raw with some of that lovely bread and a runny unpasturised Brie.
Just thinking about it makes my mouth water particularly now that summers over.