Monday, June 24, 2013

The Secrets of Pistoulet

 Welcome to Pistoulet, a farmhouse in the southwest region of France.

 However, this farm is much more than a place.

The Secrets of Pistoulet is the first in a series of charming books by Jana Kolpen and designed by Mary Tiegreen. This little gem captured the imaginations of the Novel Bakers, a small group of friends, readers and cooks:  a quiet life, Home Is Where the Boat IsOnce Upon a Plateand Rattlebridge Farm. 

We've devoted the week to explore and cook our way through these novels . . .

Let's begin with Pistoulet
Some people refer to the farm as "the Place of Secrets."


Pistoulet is a healing place for world-weary hearts.
"Hidden from most everything, Pistoulet is an unknown paradise....Everyone
who passes through the farm has a story which unfolds. All who
spend time at Pistoulet leave with their hearts and minds transformed.
Some never leave."

The story begins with Mademoiselle J.
When she arrives at the farm, she is greeted by Marcel, a huge
lovable dog.
But not even Marcel can lift Mademoiselle J.'s spirits.
  "She was feeling withered and wounded, and without a smile."
Mademoiselle soon discovers that Pistoulet is a magical place where frogs sing in the trees and a chicken lays golden eggs.
Even the snails "blend into the scenery until they decide to appear."

Each day Mademoiselle J. rides a bicycle to the market, picking through the ripe eggplants and tomatoes. Before returning home, she dashes into the cheese shop for a wedge of Brebis.
"Some might say her passion for cooking is a bit extreme." 
She has come to the right place, because her hosts, Madame Claude and Monsieur Andre,
are intuitive cooks. They can look all the way into the backs of Mademoiselle J.'s eyes and see that she is at the end of her emotional tether. The hosts know exactly how to nourish her soul, but they need special herbs--these are kept in a special blue box.
It has a star engraved on the lid.

When the sun climbs into the highest place in the sky, the hosts set a table in the garden,
adding cheerful pottery and a sunflower bouquet.

Menus are created with great care, and each one is tailored to the guest.
Madame Claude's cheese platters are unique (as is the Madame herself).
They calm wild, tangled thoughts and induce happiness. 
Potage of Passion is a specialty at Pistoulet, and it must be "served with discretion," as it has been known to induce hot flashes, a galloping pulse rate, and a rush of emotions.
It can even cause a guest to "fall in love with the cook!"

"Passionate choices have potent consequences."
-- a comment on Pistoulet's recipe card.

This potage is best served with garlicky, herbal "Celestial Croutons."
It's traditional at Pistoulet to cut the croutons into half-moon and star shapes.


One guest, known as the "Odd, Artful Gentleman," proposes to Mademoiselle J. after eating this soup.
(She gently refuses.)

The Potage of Babble is another Pistoulet favorite.
 This soup is made from the freshest leeks and potatoes, with pinches of basil and garlic.
It has an unsettling side-effect--whoever consumes the soup might become loquacious.
In fact, the recipe comes with a warning:
"When you speak, be sure to speak the truth."

Homemade bread and rosemary butter are farmhouse favorites,
enjoyed by all of the guests.
Dessert is a special event.
The Tourte of Friendship is made with farm eggs, butter and almonds.
It reminded me of a soft biscotti, with a dense rich crust, a melty center, and just-right sweetness.
Serve with rich, thick whipped cream.

Pistoulet has a remedy for whatever ails you.
However, the cures aren't traditional.
The "Charm for Prosperity" might not fill your coffers, but you soul will be enriched.

It's wise to remember that "prosperity comes in many forms."
-- Note on the recipe card, Pistoulet.

When Mademoiselle J. left Pistoulet,
her heart ran over with peace and happiness.
She couldn't stop smiling.
And she was ready for a new adventure.

The Secrets of Pistoulet touches on themes of hope, transformation, and hidden joys.

Secret joys are everywhere if you know how to really look at the world.
If life is a series of journeys, then don't be afraid to take a detour.
And don't be afraid to take a healing break from the mad dash of daily living.
It's never too late to find joy.

My visit to France has come to an end,
but a dazzling array of adventures await you with the Novel Bakers. 
 I can't wait to see what Jain, Mary, and Mari have created.
Won't you come with me?
The Novel Bakers will return on Wednesday, June 26th, with a visit to Villa Della Luna in Italy,
then we will move to Ireland on Friday, June 28th.
See you there!

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  1. Just like Mlle J, I can't stop smiling at this delightful post! I should have known better than to try to bake or cook alongside a novelist... I would like to bow out now before I embarrass myself any further :) Your post is so magical from the flowers, charm bag, adorable ornaments and Celestial Croutons! Your almond-studded Tourte of Friendship looks delicious! Such fun to travel through the pages with you!

  2. I want to run out and buy the book after reading your post and viewing your outstanding photos of the wonderful food. I think I was just transported to France! Thank you for sharing your creativity with us, Michael Lee. Now I want to make soup, croutons, bread and Tourte.

  3. oh you have no idea how deep i am grinning... to the point of pain! your first shot captures the heart, french ducks to dazzle us on our arrival to pistoulet... oh how i love seeing others play!

    each shot is prettier then the next... i am so enchanted to slip into your world. but tell me how did you do that pistoulet plate, my heart is racing with delight!

    the chicken, frog and snail. are you serious? you are excellent at this girl!!! i am green with frog envy...

    and the box, i too have a pretty moon box, but i was not as clever as you... and dang i am a MOON!

    your soup is so french and pretty, we are twins in thought here, i adore your french blue and gorgeous tureen... oh i am still smiling to hard, you will freeze my face this way! i may need to charge you for botox... each shot is hurting me more and more, but the enchantment shines through the pain... the bread with rosemary butter, oh my goodness, i am getting weak in the knees with it all...

    just when i feel i could collapse, you revive me with dessert. i never miss dessert ;-) and such a thing of beauty...

    and you leave us with prosperity... you have done a magical presentation and we have all prospered through your eyes, i am feeling as light as a feather and joyful deep into my bones. this was a without a doubt the most delightful morning i have spent online in ages, such creativity and beauty from you all, my little heart is soaring with joy, i know we all had the fun of creating, but to see it all spread out from blog to blog has just frozen my face in a deep smile and i can feel the heavy sigh of contentment will stay with me long into the day. thank you so much for playing so well, what a fabulous french morning with you!

  4. You all have created such a picture with your tablescapes and recipes. I love each take on the book and with every blog I visit, I am inspired more!

  5. Me, too Jain! ML, my face hurts too, from grinning all the way through your beautiful, 'coffee-table-book' worthy photos... and so very creative! I'm going to have to linger a few more minutes to take it all in again ~ so much to see. You did a fine job ~ I adore it! xo~m.

  6. Stunning photos! Love those snazzy croutons!

  7. I just adore your post, Michael Lee!What a fabulous idea... and you picked two other bloggers that have portrayed this book just perfectly! You have outdone yourself!!! Pure bliss, reading your post!

  8. I am totally in paradise looking at your fabulous pictures. YOU INSPIRE ME!!!


  9. it is a cold rainy day and i keep coming back here to bask in the warm country french jardin with you... i am so smitten with your dishes, this morn i was so shell shocked with that plastered smile i missed the link to the company, so many cute pieces, you did a fantastic job showing them off in their very best light. i love the pieces you got, they looks so good in your sunny garden. again what a treat to visit pistoulet through your eyes... i saw the rabbit tureen, i think i would have gone insane if you had added that piece on top of all the fabulous ones you have, thank you for letting me not have a heart attack this morn! thanks for keeping me warm on this cold day, its a brilliant post~

  10. This is a wonderful post, the photography is stunning, and I feel like I may have had a mini vacation. Just what I needed.

  11. Michael Lee, what a treat for both the eyes and palate! Thanks for the healing break from the mad dash of daily living. I love this post!

  12. I am so loving this series!....You all are a very talented group and I am loving each blog post...As always, I am in awe of your creativity and photography...Such a perfect "series" for the summer...I am off to get the book as the themes of the book seems to warm the heart and soul.

  13. I could linger here all day, there is so much to see and experience~your photos are enthralling and draw the eye in, so many clever touches and details that honor this beautiful book. You have all out done each other in your incredible presentations, thank you for this lovely gift and special treat of a visit to Pistoulet!

  14. You did a wonderful job ! Sounds like the Darling Bakers are reading again. :)

  15. Wonderful post today. Awesome photos thanks for sharing Pat H

  16. Wow, the photos were outstanding. What a gorgeous place! Thanks for sharing. Susan