Welcome to The Aix-Files

Thanks for checking out The Aix-Files, my

blog postings inspired by my time in and around

Aix-en-Provence and the Vaucluse. The spot includes travel tips,

discoveries of local food and wine, recipes,

cultural events, interviews and historical

tidbits about Southern France. Enjoy!

Friday, May 20, 2011


Come run the Aixoise!

I'm the one in pink

After the first hill  . . .
French women don’t like to exercise. So says Mireille Guiliano, author of “French Women Don’t Get Fat”. Yes, I realize, these last two statements don’t add up. But it’s true, in the eight months I’ve been in France I’ve encountered very few female runners on my routes.

Therefore, I was more than a little surprised to see the announcement of a 7 km run for women in Aix-en-Provence. Would anyone even sign up, I wondered? I did.

On race day, as I walked down to the Cours Mirabeau, dressed in my requisite pink tee-shirt (we were all asked to wear these pink shirts in support of breast cancer), I was again surprised to encounter so many other women wearing pink tee-shirts gradually emerging from streets and alleys, left and right. I noticed a trio of women descending from a street near mine, so I eventually sauntered over to introduce myself.
Elise, Christine and Natalie are tall, sveldt, and very fit. As soon as the race began, they took off like bats out of hell.

So much for ‘French women don’t like to exercise’. Forty-four minutes and 36 seconds later, Christine, already relaxed and rejuvenated, leaned on the railing and cheered me on as I made my way to the finish line.

The race itself was invigorating, euphoric, challenging (hills!) and deeply satisfying. And they did not play Chariots of Fire as we set off.

One funny incident was that a wind blew up (the mistral) and sent clouds of pollen into the air, so everyone started sneezing uncontrollably before the race, including me (and I have no allergies), and continued to do so after the race while we milled about drinking water and nibbling on bananas.

La Torse

This park was part of the route of our big race. It’s a five minute walk down from the house we have just moved into, and is my destination for my morning runs (therefore a steep hike back up at the end of my run!) so I am now familiar with all of the dangerous bumps and roots sticking up. It is a beautiful oasis running along the Torse river, definitely the training park for serious runners, but also the place where friends walk together pushing baby strollers; where fathers teach their young sons to pee on trees; where people walk their dogs; where older people get their exercise hobbling with canes; where families spread picnics on the grass; where couples stroll romantically.

-The Luberon, Oct. 2, 2011 http://www.marathon-luberon.com/
-Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes, Nov. 20, 2011. This is a one-way marathon along the Côte d’Azur from Nice to Cannes. What you do when you get to Cannes, I don’t know. Stay forever? www.marathon06.com

Book launch with Reine Sammut

Farinoman Fou

Yes, I climbed to the top of this mountain!

Traditional music festival, Cours Mirabeau

-attended the very swishy book launch of Reine Sammut’s new cookbook at L’Auberge la Fenière in Lourmarin (there’s a picture of me in it!)
-interviewed Farinoman Fou, a baker in Aix-en-Provence, for the Montreal Gazette (June 1)
-climbed the knobby Garlaban in Pagnol country (where Jean de Florette is set)
-stumbled upon a traditional music festival in the street
-decorated our salads with wild borage flowers
-dropped wild pansies into our apéritifs
-found my first wild stalk of asparagus in the woods, and prompty ate it (I shared it with Danielle)
-sampled my first (good) strawberry from Carpentras
-admired the poppies, irises and valerian in front of our new house in Aix
-picked fresh wild fennel fronds in front of our house to cook with our fish

Wild Borage - delicious

Irises in front of our house

Poppies in front of our house


I am always trying to do the “right” thing here in France, in terms of following the market and buying only what’s in season. I was so excited when I saw the first asparagus, back in early March, I bought some and decided to make this recipe for Danielle and Jacques. But then, while hiking with Monique, she said “Oh no, it’s far to early to buy asparagus. Those things have been growing under plastic.” Later Danielle and Jacques confirmed, “The first asparagus – that’s for the Parisians. Here in Provence, we wait for the price to go down, for the taste to improve.” Same goes for strawberries and cherries.

So now that’s it’s “safe”, feel free to make this dish.

If I were in Corsica I would use brocciu cheese. Here in Provence I use brousse, elsewhere in France I would use fromage frais and at home, ricotta. This one-pot pasta dish comes together in minutes and would make a delicious night-before-the-race meal.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt it and add the penne (75 g per person).

While the pasta cooks, put a cup-full for two people of your fresh cheese (brousse or ricotta) into a large serving bowl. Mix in a minced clove of garlic (optional). Add the zest of about half a lemon, then squeeze the juice into the cheese. Season generously with salt and pepper. Keep it in a warm place, such as in an oven preheated to 170 degrees or just beside the stove.
Trim off the woody ends of the asparagus and cut the stalks into lengths the size of the penne, keeping the tips separate. Depending on the thickness of the asparagus, when the pasta is 3 or 4 minutes from being done, add the asparagus stalks to the water. One minute later, add the tips. When they are all tender, scoop out some of the cooking water and set it aside, then drain the rest into a colander. Add the pasta and asparagus to the bowl with the cheese, stirring in enough cooking water to make it creamy. Stir in some minced chives (and mint if you’re in a Corsican mood) and serve with parmesan cheese to on the side. Enjoy!

A la prochaine,


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