Bécasse*, a story in two parts: A Hundred Years of Bécasse: Part I
I wanted to fix what was wrong, here, in this – this place, this time I remembered so well. When I loved. Where I loved. And yet how ironic as here was where everything started unraveling on the first night of the Bécasse.
The drive into the setting sun from Agen made me wish we hadn’t missed our earlier train. But we had. It was my fault, but how could I leave Paris without visiting Rue Daguerre and picking up a perfect brie, rosy pears, a few chestnuts?
We pulled into the Auberge and barely missed hitting the stone wall. The millhouse still sat undisturbed by time, hell, it was time itself. Flanked by the millpond and the rushing river, the river Gélise coursed through it, cleansing and cooling the fires inside.
Once inside it seemed important not to disturb the shadows and gentle aura by flicking a switch and turning on a light. That would be too easy. I wanted to remember, I had to be careful. With the last little bit of sun on the kitchen, I found a white plate for the bruised tomatoes from the Paris market. The girolle mushrooms looked small and insufficient, but they had survived better than the poor tomatoes; all they needed was heat and a little butter. There was plenty of time for that in the morning. I was already relishing coming down in the morning and hearing the whoosh of the burners.
In the shadows of the kitchen, the baguette might be a knotted tree, the baker’s slashes on the crust that birthed the ears and eyes of the bread. My husband drew the knife from the block and pressed its teeth against the curved length. I gently took it away and slid the saw-toothed beast back in its slot.
“Wait. “ I touched his arm. “Open the wine, while I light a fire?”
“I’m starving!” he said.
I was nervous to get it going, adjusting the air and the draft. The wood was damp, and my mind leaped ahead to the next day and perhaps finding cèpes or porcini in the forest. The bottle slowly emptied. Maybe she wouldn’t let the fire begin again. She being grand-mère. Had she forgiven me? I had kept her secret. I hadn’t told the tale of what happened here. Yet, that time was over now. It was safe to begin again. We sat back and raised our glasses. The flames twirled like the bird in the tapestry, the Bécasse, flying past the whispers of clouds over the moon, and the millhouse.
The Auberge was unchanged, I breathed, wasn’t it? Twenty years was nothing in a place already hundreds of years old.
Much to his satisfaction we broke the crust, and playfully teased the heels of the baguette over the fire, turning and toasting. Smearing the hot pain with soft cheese.
I peered around the dark room, the fire reflecting our forms in the picture window.
To be continued.
*A bécasse in French is a woodcock.
Influenced by French heritage and traditions of the Pennsylvania Dutch country where she was born and raised, Dorette Snover graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, was a private chef to the rich and eccentric, a food stylist, NPR commentator, and now teaches les bases de la cuisine at her cooking school, C’est si Bon!
In writing, Dorette’s plat du jour is strong female characters woven from her thirty years in the world of cuisine. and her personal journey through landscapes of culinary history. Dorette also leads tours to France for adults looking for truffles in all the right places and for teens interested in exploring the world through a culinary map.
October 24, 2019
Nice story… but the birds in the photo (with a dog) are pheasants, not woodcocks.