The week that was (27 August 2017)

- Coca Cola is offering one million dollars to the person who can come up with a sugar alternative for their drinks. The article notes people drink 19% less “soda” than they did 15 years ago. (Bravo.) As Quartzquite rightly points out, if you did come up with a “solution” for this "problem" it would be worth much more than a cheeky mill. Pass the water, please …
- I loved Jay Rainer’s article on friends in the kitchen. “From cooking alongside someone, you can learn whether they attend to the details of life; whether they sense the passage of time; whether they can refill a wine glass, keep an eye on the steaming clams so they haven’t gone into the rubber stage, and spot that the gratin is on the edge of burning under the grill, all at once. By cooking alongside someone you can tell whether they are a good listener. Because so much of cooking is about listening to the sound your food makes.”
Cooking with those you love is one of life’s great joys. Cooking with my sister is one of my favourite things in the world. I have other friends who love to man the pans and, instead set me up with a stool, glass of wine and a bowl of herbs to pick. Others still, like to take the stool and keep me company, which I love just as much. 
Of course, it’s not all roses: “I have felt my heart rate rise as a friend – I say friend; I mean someone I hope never to see ever again in my life – stood slugging rosé and telling a tiresome anecdote over searing steaks that were being ruined with each narrative beat of the pointless bloody story. I have watched someone put Marmite in the salad dressing. They winked at me while they did it, as though I was being let in on a secret.” Ha!
- A correction: “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” was, of course, Michael Pollan, not Dan Barber. I actually picked up In Defence of Food to confirm the quote was correct – and then had a little brain snap while typing. Apologies to the confused. 

Postcards from the Auvergne:
- This week I stayed in the beautiful Auberge de Chassignolles. It is an auberge of the old days, of Elizabeth David's roadside adventures, with a demi-pension available for your meals each morning and each night. The food is exquisite. The first night the restaurant was closed and so I was invited to eat family meal with the staff - frittata made with wild spinach, a panzanella salad (with the bread tossed in the most fragrant herb oil), olive tapenade, a warm potato salad, fresh leaves and, of course, baguette. A la bonne franquette - my very favourite way to eat.
There is a thriving vegetable garden behind the auberge where all the salads and vegetables are picked daily. Norwegian chef Thomas Haugstvedt is at the helm, who tends both the vegetable garden and the kitchen. He is currently accompanied by Giuseppe Lacorazza, he who cooked my favourite pea dish at P. Franco when I was in London a couple of months back. A formidable team.
The kitchen's simplicity is beautifully complemented by their creativity - hidden among the pigeon and cabbage were tiny elderflower capers, the berries of the tree - a total revelation, with the flavour of a caper in a tiny seed pod. Poisonous if not treated properly, the berries are salted for three weeks and then soaked in elderflower vinegar for three more. They were incredible.
I have also been spoilt by sharing in the family meals at lunch. I love the French tradition of a proper meal, for every meal: table set, wine, conversation, conviviality. Yesterday, I spent a little time in the vegetable garden, somewhat helping to pick produce for last night's dinner, but mainly eating the most delicious raspberries, still hot from the sun. As I mentioned, the vegetable gardens are everywhere and the competition is fierce. The garden beds are abundant, which is in part necessity (it's a long drive to any shops), and in part the fertility of the soil. What a lovely way to live.