It was mid June when our train pulled into Nice and Serge and Betty, our French friends of twenty-five years, were waiting for us. We had just come from Venice where we had stayed at a lovely hotel near Saint Stae. For four days we road the vaporetto down the serpentine canals and walked the labyrinthine streets. We dined at fine restaurants and peered into colorful shop windows coveting Merano glass. As my dad would say, “We had a big time.” But by the end we were like little sister in the Bernstein Bears who had had too much birthday.
We got off that train tired and craving a home-cooked meal, and coming to Serge and Betty’s was like coming home to Mom and Dad. Betty’s one of the finest home cooks I know. In fact, she was part of the inspiration behind my second book, How to Cook Without a Book.
Her meal that night was simple and exquisite—Roast Duck Confit with Figs. At first I was a little worried about the tedious preparation until I realized her duck confit came from a very large can that she bought at the grocery store! She simply opened it, placed the whole duck legs in a casserole and slowly warmed them, adding enormous, ripe deep purple figs the last few minutes of roasting. We started the meal with a little mache salad and ended as we always do, with cheese. Having shared a simple meal with dear friends, I was very deeply content.
Turns out this big can of duck confit only costs about eight dollars. Forget souvenirs. I wanted to bring home as many cans as I could. Our last day there, Betty took me to the market. I picked up one for me, then another for Maggy, and finally one more for Sharon.
Walking back to the apartment I realized how foolish I had been to buy three. I sheepishly showed David, who was a little miffed but did what he could to clear space in his suitcase for his share of the booty.
Serge and Betty helped us board our train to Barcelona where we were to spend a couple of days with Sharon and Tony on their honeymoon. Our plan was to tapas hop ‘til we dropped, but our first day there Sharon developed a serious cold. She tried to put up a good front, but at the end of the day, she gave into her condition. We decided to stay in for dinner rather than go out.
I headed out to the market to pick up salad, cheese, and fresh figs. It was my turn to be Mom.
(Click here to see what I did with can number two.)