There’s nothing like being with people who’ve made something of their own from scratch. Looking at the world through the eyes of a cheese, bread, wine, cabinet maker, potter, or painter. Understanding their unique expression of care and attention. Sometimes there’s generational history — a maturing of craft over time. The passion is personal and what they make is nourishing and soulful.
I’m grateful to have had that experience more than once including on a private group tour of Bernachon in Lyon. I’d pressed gently for its inclusion in a program. We were greeted in the shop by Mme Bocuse-Bernachon who was a vision of French elegance. For me her welcome was a surprise and an honour.
Then we went into the production space behind the shop and with no sense of hurry they showed us their métier. There was a fearless transparency. They were confident that beyond the process was the finger print of the maker. The myriad decisions that gave the chocolate its enduring character. It felt like an atelier. A place of mastery and grand tradition.
Seductions were everywhere — the scent of cocoa beans roasting, the natural light from the back windows facing on to a quiet street, the women in pastel work dresses with kerchiefs over their hair, jars of fruit steeping in liqueur, stainless-steel two-pronged forks deftly dipping into basins of tempered chocolate, the velvet coating dripping off batons of orange peel.
Being in their care was sublime. It was haute hospitality.
My mind trips into the pleasures of that afternoon when I think of their Mendiant — the Cleopatra of fruit and nut bars. An embossed ribbon from a box of their chocolates is secreted in a cookbook on my shelf.
Hands up if you are feeling vulnerable. I thought getting through the pandemic was hard. Then along came Fall 2023. I’m tired in new ways.
I have a few weeks in big sky country on the western edge of the prairies — buttery sunshine and apricot jam sunsets. There will be parental love and care. And a reprieve from the early morning alarm.
The extraordinary performance by Jacques Brel found me after midnight on Friday. I’d been searching for the music for most of the week. The writing had stalled. The song revived me — woke my heart up. It sent me down a Jacques Brel rabbit hole for a lovely few hours.
Maysa Matarazzo’s version is another beautiful expression. Finding all the covers of this song is another rabbit hole.
The story behind the song is heartbreaking. We all know this kind of loss.
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