husband and I acquired our farmhouse in Provence…, our visits were generally
limited to weekend getaways from Paris. For the train ride back to the city, a
snack was essential, and pan bagnat, or "bathed bread,"
the Provençal sandwich found at every bakery and market in the region, became
our standby. It's inexpensive, travels well, and includes many of our favorite
Provençal ingredients: tomatoes, local bell peppers, black niçoise olives,
anchovies and tuna, salt, and pepper—a salade niçoise, effectively, between
slices of crusty bread. I'd prepare the sandwiches on Saturday, scooping out
some of the crumb of the bread, then letting the pan bagnat marinate,
tightly wrapped and weighted down in the refrigerator, until departure time the
next day, which always made for moist and satisfying sandwiches.” You have no idea how I wish I didn’t have to add the
quotation marks around these words from Patricia Wells,in her most recent book —“Salad as a Meal”(William Morrow, 2011). Because
if there was ever anywhere on earth I’d love to live it would be in
France. And memories of a long ago visit
to Provence come sweeping back at the mere mention of Pan Bagnat.
Over the holidays, when we were snowbound and had plenty of time
to make lunch, I jumped at the opportunity to make French Onion Soup—or at
least, some poor misguided soul’s idea of onion soup. The
recipe, clipped from a magazine I’ve since tossed, claimed you could enjoy
France’s gift to soup tureens everywhere in 30 minutes. Tasting nothing like any version of onion
soup, foreign or domestic, that I’ve ever had, this flour-y insipid brew was a
huge disappointment and a waste of time.
Some things should never be rushed.
French Onion Soup is one of them.