I have just been staying near Apt in the hills of Provence, looking out towards the Luberon mountains. The steep landscape is covered by oak and chestnut trees and wild herbs grow out of the rocky, dry earth. Cliffs of ochre, once quarried for the colour used to paint the local houses, cut through parts of the forest. These same hills are where the Maquis once hid and where wild boar are hunted.
The places and ingredients Elizabeth David talks about in her seminal book, French Provincial cooking, came alive as I discovered them first hand. Things that speak of the region and its history of food: artichokes Barigoule; apricots grown near Apt; soft goat’s cheeses from Banon and sweet Beaumes de Venise wines; Calissons – the small almond cakes from Aix and the intense melons of Cavaillon. As you wander through the markets, the air smells sweet with ripe fruit and in other parts, savoury with the meaty fragrance of salamis, olives and cheeses.