In mid-April, I had the great pleasure of meeting James Beard Award-winning author Georgeanne Brennan while she was in Austin promoting her latest book, A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France (Chronicle Books, $24.95). This lively, evocative memoir recounts the story of her 1970s fresh-out-of-college dream of embarking on a new life in a peaceful, rural community in Provence. Brennan, her husband, and young daughter bought a small farmhouse with a little land, added a small herd of goats and a few pigs, and so began their life-changing experience of living and cooking in the Provençal tradition. Thanks to her enthusiasm and determination, she learned and brought back the traditional way of making goat cheese, which the younger generations in that area had already forgotten. She discovered the joy of living simply off the land, from gathering wild mushrooms to growing her own potager, or kitchen garden. Her book is a joy to read, full of funny and heartwarming anecdotes and traditional recipes written in a sincere, engaging voice.
An active advocate of the slow-food movement who still spends half of her time in Southern France and the other half in California, Brennan had the opportunity to discover some Central Texas artisanal foods. Austin Slow Food chapter Chairwoman Mary Beth Murphy organized a welcome reception at Cibo, where Brennan talked about her book and shared anecdotes, while chef Will Packwood served cicchetti (Venetian snacks). The author also had the opportunity to meet local cheesemaker Amelia Sweethardt and taste some of her award-winning cheeses from Pure Luck Farm and Dairy. With Murphy as her guide, Brennan visited Boggy Creek Farm, where Carol Ann Sayle gave her a tour of our city's best organic farm. Later, she was guest of honor at a dinner prepared by chef Eric Pellegrin, co-owner of Bistro Le Marseillaise and a native of Southern France. Brennan was impressed and touched by the authenticity and simplicity of the meal, perfectly paired with boutique wines from Southern France, chosen by Eric's wife, Martine. Mrs. Brennan left with a very positive impression of Austin's gastronomic offerings and a bunch of new friends. I look forward to seeing her here again soon.
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