Soaking in Some Mediterranean History
After the snow and the rain, the sun finally shows its face and that’s good because we are joined by family, here in the little town of Le Brusc in southern France. Though the light is always trying to make an appearance, when it is full sun, the landscape shines in its turquoise, deep greens and pink earth tones. We take the bus to the next town to stroll through the Saturday market. It is less busy than usual. Many families are away during this local school vacation week. But I find what I am looking for. My menu for tonight calls for rabbit wrapped in bacon and I wait in line to order both at the very popular artisan butcher stand. Madame is working by herself and takes her time with each customer, slicing by hand or by machine, chopping, sawing, making sure each person gets exactly what they want. For me, she cuts the plump rabbit legs in half and thinly slices the fresh bacon. I put my packages in my bag and then we go to the windy square for a cup of coffee before we head up the hill.
The sun comes out from behind a large cloud as we start ascending the mountain. It is a steep climb up a zigzagging road lined with gnarly cork trees, fresh rosemary and lavender, and the first blooming cactuses. Each turn in the road brings us higher above the Mediterranean coast and our small village becomes only one part of the conglomeration built along the sea below. As we reach the top, the panorama opens up. Mountains carved by age loom behind us, some with hilltop villages, and the Mediterranean sea spreads out in front of us from left to right like a glittering carpet. We soak it in as we wait for the gates to open at the 11th century church perched on this hill.
Soon the curator is there and lets us in. We always stop and marvel at the 200 year old tree growing in front of the chapel, throwing its shadow on those ancient walls. This year, we enter and see the renovations in the chapel as well as the remains of those buried here a thousand years ago. Inside this structure of stone, we can feel the history around us. Our voices echo just like others have before. We are happy to walk back out into the bright sunshine in that deep blue sky. Then we slowly make our way on the zigzagging road, going down this time.
We take the bus home. As we approach our cottage, I pick some fresh rosemary from the hedge out front. It’s time to fix the rabbit. I wrap it in bacon, poke the rosemary through, chop some shallots. I could use some brandy to flame it but don’t have any on hand. Just then, my brother walks in with a bottle of Armagnac! Perfect timing. We brown the rabbit, flame it and let it simmer in wine, a rosé given to us by our hosts here. After our 18,700 steps today, it’s nice to gather around good food and take our time eating, laughing, sharing stories, as humans have done forever. We are part of the ongoing history of this place, right here, right now.
If you want to make the rabbit dish, here is the recipe.
Bacon Wrapped Rabbit with Shallots, Rosemary and Wine
4 slices of good quality bacon
4 rabbit legs
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 shallots, sliced thinly
1 T. olive oil
1/4 c. Brandy
1 c. Rosé wine
salt and pepper to taste
Wrap each rabbit leg with the bacon using the rosemary stems to hold it together. Fry the shallots in the olive oil until transparent and starting to brown, then remove them to a dish. Fry the rabbit pieces on all sides, until they are nicely browned. Quickly add the brandy and immediately light with a match. Be careful! The flames might reach high. Let the flames die down. Then add the fried shallots, some salt and pepper, and the wine. Cover and simmer until the meat is tender, about 40 minutes. Serve with small boiled potatoes and a salad.