28 days in Provence: the virtue of French regionalism
Shannon Bennett’s cookbook ‘ 28 days in Provence ’ is an ode to the simplicity and wholesomeness of regional Provence. It is also dedicated to uncovering the fresh and non-commercial cooking of the area.
French food culture is promoted by chefs and restaurateurs throughout the world. Among these chefs, Shannon Bennett is an active proponent of French cuisine in Melbourne. Bennett aims to engage with differing aspects of French identity and ‘ 28 Days in Provence ’ encapsulates this ethos.
Shannon Bennett spends 28 days in Provence
The cookbook doesn’t endeavor to present the Australian reader with French nationalism found in the grand kitchens of master chefs. Rather, by spending September with his family in Provence, Bennett extols the virtue of rusticity and the individuality of regionalism.
Spread throughout ‘ 28 Days in Provence ’ are specific references to boulangeries and boucheries. These recommendations are accompanied by advice on how to find the markets with the freshest ingredients. The reader is invited to join the Bennett family on their trip to the Provençal countryside, without leaving the comfort of their Australian home.
Provençal delights – in your own kitchen
Each chapter is divided into days and Bennett includes his recipes of the main meals. Day two is a useful example of Bennett’s construction of French regional identity and cuisine. The dinner recipe entitled ‘Roast chicken from next door with roasted fennel’, highlights the relaxed character of Provençal living. Bennett describes the “luxury of roaming around the farms and orchards”, summarising the overall ethos of regional France.
The recipe for day two’s poached peach dessert also validates French regionalism. Indeed, when Bennett explains how to prepare the raspberry coulis, he does not encourage the reader to pass the liquid through a sieve. This is because doing so gives a more refined, formal quality to the dish. Despite spurning such techniques, it is Bennett’s authority and formal education as a European-trained chef that affords Bennett credibility in his cookbook.
Terroir and technique
Bennett isn’t French, however familiarity with the terroir and the simplicity of French cooking techniques allow him to convey this knowledge. Bennett’s consultation of a local recipe book indicates his equal reliance on his own knowledge and the regional identity. With this knowledge, he composes an authentic French culinary identity for his readers.
Have you made any of Shannon’s recipes? What’s your favourite Provence-inspired meal to make? Let us know in the comments.
1. Shannon Bennett, via wikipedia.
2. 28 Days in Provence, via Random House.
3. Les Baux-de-Provence, via wikipedia.
4. ‘Farm house in Provence’ by Vincent Van Gogh, via wikipedia.
Bennett, Shannon. 28 Days in Provence: Food and Family in the Heart of France. Carlton: Miegunyah Press, 2012.