xxxix. provence

postcards from france

There is an opportunity to take cooking classes in traditional provençal cuisine with a local, professional chef, and I jump at the chance along with many of my ACCP classmates. The chef is an aixois named Didier, sleepy-eyed and flirtatious in his 50s, who owns the most expensive restaurant in the city. Supposedly there is an interior garden courtyard where you can eat your 60 Euro a bowl bouillabaisse. For this class we are making ratatouille, my favorite dish, but I am distracted by the way Didier is hovering over Alice, touching her hip lightly and leading her hands to chop the vegetables. She is obviously uncomfortable, but he doesn’t move away. He is so close that his breath stirs Alice’s light hair.

With much urging from the rest of us, Alice tells Helen what happened during class. Helen tells her that in southern France, men are just more forward, and that there is nothing wrong with what Didier, dear, sweet Didier, was doing. The next time he comes to the center, she hangs on to his arm as well as his every word.

Alice doesn’t go back to the last class, and I wouldn’t have, either.