Category Archives: Living in Cotignac

Provence Living – what’s it all about?

This website has a popular facebook page also called Provence Living, www.facebook.com/provenceliving. We get lots of requests to share other peoples’/associations’/businesses’ information on it because of our reach (in high numbers). But I just want to clarify what this page and website are about because sometimes people misunderstand.  It is not about selling houses, or publicising every local event, or advertising summer rentals. Sometimes we share friends’ “for sale” items that include homes but this is not the main goal.

Provence Living is about sharing what is important in life and in rural Southern France and in particular, Cotignac. What’s important may be relative to different cultures but here it is: a great, low-key lifestyle geared around good weather, having clean water, pollution free nature, beautiful scenery, bringing together interesting people who love to share and are generous with their time which in turn churns out fabulous food, a variety of cooking methods, quality wines and time spent sharing outdoor entertainment. But it’s also about sharing what we know about how the French live. We are under their laws and cultural norms. We accept them and try our best to assimilate with them, learn their language, and take in the best of their traditions and joie de vivre. Provence Living is not about the newest technological gadgets for travelling, designer clothing or expensive interior decorations. Luxury is great on the odd occasion but it’s not a popular lifestyle here in the Var (see the Côte d’Azur for that kind of stuff). We try and share what’s useful, fun and affordable (with an occasional splash-out treat that might be merited), discoveries that may sometimes be delicious and other times just beautiful, like a glass of quality, chilled rosé sipped on the top of the Bessillon mountain overlooking a picturesque sunset (violins, please), or just cool photos of what can be seen here on a daily basis.

France is not a capitalist country. France is not a get-rich country.  It is however blessed with its rich history, a relatively well balanced distribution of wealth, a healthy attitude towards eating (good seasonal fruits and vegetables, taking time to dine together, etc), particularly in the South. Nothing is ever rushed here and that may sometimes frustrate people who come from other places where business competition is more fierce.  Two hour lunches are very common and guest-dinner-entertainment can last four hours or more. It may take a week or more to find someone to get your swimming pool in working order and that is just how it is. C’est comme ça!

So if and when living here, you’ll be well advised to just ride the gentle waves, not get stressed over the little things (everything has a way of working out in the end, really) and just relax. There is so much to learn from the locals; they will help you when and if they are able, they will never be fake, they will eventually share their knowledge on where and how to find those edible mushrooms and the best way to cook ratatouille, how their ancestors fought in the world wars, their hopes and their dreams… And maybe, if you are lucky and patient enough, they’ll learn to like you too.

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What we eat in the Summer

Provençale summers are all about spending long hours dining outdoors whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner – especially dinners! So what do we all eat around here? Well, I’ll share some of the best meals I have had, al fresco, with local friends both French and international. Cotignac is blessed with great weather but we also have a diverse population. Although 60 per cent are over 65 years old, our international residents and secondary home owners are a good chunk of the people here. Twenty percent are from Scandinavia, England, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands and even Australia and Canada. Add to that my own cultures of American and Japanese and you get a melange of different cuisines too, which is a bonus. It’s always most economical to cook yourselves of course (as opposed to going out to restaurants) and although it’s work to entertain guests it’s always so enjoyable to relax with friends and family members that make you feel loved and appreciated for the gift of food and good wine.

In the Summer the best meals come with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and here in our local weekly markets you can find very tasty organic and locally grown produce in abundance. Melons, strawberries, flat peaches, apricots and of course grapes are all sun sweetened here. I have raspberries growing in my garden that I pick all Summer long. Apples, pears, and figs come at the end of August and can be eaten alongside fresh goats’ cheese or with parma ham, or just on their own. I turn our pears and apples into tarts and cakes and they last for months in the freezer. I love being offered home made jams made with blackberries or figs and these are quite typical to make here.  And who can forget barbecues with marinated pork, chicken, beef, and lamb – succulently delicious.  People here like to rub their meats with herbes de Provence:  a mixture of sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano, and rosemary. Just smelling the grilled meats reminds me of good times in the Summer evenings next to the pool.

When we get lazy and cannot fathom the idea of baking (too hot), we usually go to the local bakeries and buy cakes and miniardises (little after dessert treats). It’s so easy and not expensive and since it’s local it doesnt feel too much like cheating! The bakeries in Cotignac are Lou Gourmandises at the Place de la Mairie and Fournil de Pascal in the Place Neuve.

I am so grateful to the wonderful people I have met here and continue to socialise with on a regular basis. Personally I love to make sushi and share my knowledge of Japanese cuisine with my local friends as there are no Japanese restaurants close by.  So you’ll see some photos of my own creations too.

I hope some of these photos will give you some idea of what we eat around here and maybe inspire you to cook or simply prepare some aperitifs and simple meals (so much Summer food is more about preparing than cooking with heat) to enjoy with your guests whether in your own home or on vacation.

Bon appetit! -Susana

 

The unexpected benefits of living in rural South of France

We all have a good idea about the expected benefits of living in this Mediterranean region: the clean air, water, the relaxing slow paced life with good wine and olive oil, the fantastic weather (so much sunshine!), and the outdoor markets full of organically grown produce…the list is long. Continue reading The unexpected benefits of living in rural South of France