It’s 1970 and you find yourself in the South of France, gathering around a table for dinner with James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, Richard Olney, Simone Beck, Judith Jones, and Julia Child. Perhaps you are feeling intimidated? A bit out of place? Yet extremely lucky to be part of a moment that will forever be known as the meal that changed the way we eat and experience food today. After reading Luke Barr’s account of that historical meeting and all the events leading up to it , in Provence 1970, I felt inspired to do a little more research. I am really glad I did as I came across- The Courageous Cooking School, hosted in Julia Child’s summer home in a little French provincial village in the South of France. Grab your apron and Chef’s knife and let’s go.
Fast forward to the summer of 2021. You have jetted across the Atlantic and landed in Paris. After some time in Paris, you board the TGV at Gare de Lyon station for the 5 hour journey. From your window seat on the train, you watch beauty of the countryside of France unfold before you. The train travels along rivers, over rolling hills, through fields of lavender, and past small picturesque villages. The terrain begins to change as mountains appear and you spot the terra cotta tile rooftops from the seaside villages of the Mediterranean. The train pulls into the station, you must change trains in Cannes. With the few moments you have there, you step out into the city. The sun is so bright that you pull out the black Jackie O glasses that you brought with you and wrap an elegant silk scarf around your hair to keep it from blowing in your face. There are street cafes, designer and boutique stores around every corner. If only you had more time. You don’t want to miss the train so you hurry back to the station, making a mental note to return here one day.
Approaching La Pitchoune, Julia’s summer home in Provence ( or “La Peetch” as you will come to know it ), awakens the hopeless romantic in you. ” How do you find yourself to be in such a magical spot?!” You pause for a minute to soak in magnitude of the moment. Imagine if you will; all the conversations that Julia and her husband Paul had here as she worked on her cookbooks and built her empire, the guests that have dined here, the recipes that were created and perfected here. I bet if you listen closely, you hear laughter coming from the kitchen, it must be Julia herself! Behind you are a group of women from California , all filled with that same sense of amazement and excitement.
The week begins with introductions and overviews of what to expect. At the Courageous Cooking School, no recipes are used. You are cooking with inspiration and intuition while guided by accomplished Chefs and the culinary director. A new way to cook that seems rather risky..but you are in France, and you are standing in the legendary kitchen of Julia Child so just go with it! As you sip your Rosé , you notice the pegboards on the kitchen wall. There are copper pots and pans, cooking utensils, and things you don’t even recognize but hope to use this week.
Each day is more exciting than the previous as you learn new techniques with your favorite dishes and explore new flavors from meals created in class. You begin to rely on your instincts, becoming an expert at blending herbs to create that perfect flavor. The meal preparation is like a performance. You are gliding from one step to the next with the ease of an artist or dancer. The grand finale– a masterpiece of sense, sight, and taste. You are proud of your work; your creation , you join fellow students at the table in the courtyard to enjoy the feast that you created together. What is even more glorious is that you get to wake up and do this again tomorrow!
When you are not perfecting your culinary skills, you can enjoy the beautiful gardens or relax and catch up on your correspondence (sounds better than email) in the courtyard of La Peetch. It can get quite warm during the days so perhaps a dip in the pool may be just what you need? If you are feeling adventuresome, a trip to the “fragrance capital of the world” , Grasse is just a short drive away.
This charming town, nestled along the French Rivera can keep you busy for hours. Explore the perfumeries, the 18th Century Costume museum or wander through the lavender and olive farms that are sprawled out over the hills and valleys of Provence.
The week has come to an end. It is sad yet a part of you is excited to come home and share the stories of the week with your friends and family, You, have joined a community that is rather exclusive and will impact how you cook and entertain for the rest of your life.
If you would like more information on the 2021 and 2022 trips available, please let me know. I am thinking of going in the summer of 2022. I think it would be the perfect girlfriend’s getaway, don’t you? https://www.lapeetch.com/cookingschool