I had some trepidation growing in me as our pre-arranged meeting with Stéphane Gabart, the author of the delightful My French Heaven blog loomed. The arrangement was made some months before our trip to France in July. As the time got closer, I found my psychosis growing and was asking myself “What if he is a pompous French git?”, “What if he lords it over us with his superior French attitude?” “What if he doesn’t speak English?”, “What will we talk about?” I allowed the pressure to build and build inside my head right up until Stéphane greeted the Wife and myself at his beautiful home. “This is a mistake.” were the words that nearly escaped my lips as we got out of the car to meet the man.
Stéphane spent the next few hours proving to me that my fear of meeting him and the potential for social disaster was totally misplaced. We began our day with a walk through the vines to the windmills above Stéphane’s property. Then onwards to his favourite boulanger in Libourne to buy some bread. “This is my favourite boulangerie in the town.” explained Stéphane. “Not only does he bake the best bread but on some Sundays, he serves champagne to the customers in the queue.” I was beginning to like his style. From there to the market to purchase the balance of the lunch ingredients. (I promise a bit more about the French market scene in a later post.) Then, on to his favourite patisserie to get the dessert course.
With the morning exhausted, we then repaired to Stéphane’s town house for lunch. Our starter was a delicious and very simple – rillettes de porc with garlic and bread.
Before smearing the bread with rillettes, we rubbed the crust with garlic (a very French tradition). This added wonderfully to the flavour and made for a delightful new taste experience. While we ate, Stéphane regaled us with tales of his very close family, their history and the importance of them to him. We talked and ate at the table where generations of Gabarts had done likewise. As the soft afternoon rain began to fall, Stéphane prepared our main course of fillets of sole with pesto and rice.
The parsley was blended with plenty of fresh garlic and then fried in lots of butter (Thankfully, the food world has decided that butter is again a healthy ingredient).
The easy conversations ranged across family, politics, food, photography, wine and conviviality. Our host led the conversation easily and was happy to reveal a lot about himself while making us feel totally welcome and at home.
Half the afternoon slipped away while we sipped our wine and enjoyed pastries and coffee. My early trepidation put firmly to rest by this congenial, generous and welcoming Frenchman.
Thank you Stéphane for dispelling my misplaced preconceptions, for welcoming us into your home and for showing us at least part of your French Heaven. I look forward to trying to reciprocate in due time.