Late Summer 2007
More than anyone else, Lulu Peyraud has guided my thinking about choosing and cooking fish. I first met her in the mid-1970s at her winery, Domaine Tempier, only a few miles inland from the small port city of Bandol on the Mediterranean. I was immediately struck by her love of the pleasures of the table and her deep connection to the earth and sea of southern France. All her food is delicious and appropriate to the moment. But nothing expresses her sensibility better than her approach to fish.
Lulu never knows what she is going to make until she has been to the market. She arrives just as the boats come in. The fishermen dump their catch onto outdoor tables under a canopy of plane trees: Fish jump around, crabs try to crawl back to the sea. If the catch is particularly plentiful and guests are expected for a special occasion, Lulu may decide to make a bouillabaisse, the celebrated Provençal fish and shellfish stew. She will buy tiny rockfish, small lobsters, shore crabs, grouper, mussels, anglerfish and any of a dozen other varieties prized on the Provençal coast. Back at the winery, she places an enormous copper cauldron over a fire of vine cuttings near the garden. The guests gather around and watch as, in well-rehearsed order, she adds potatoes, onion, fish and, finally, shellfish. Then we move to long tables under the trees set with mortars of rouille to stir into the stew. Lulu’s bouillabaisse is a pure expression of the sea and her exact place on the planet.