Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Pastis Dinner

We're staying with our friend Delana in Aix en Provence, having traveled from northwestern France, through the middle of the country to southeastern France, in a path that could be described as an ornamental sash across the chest of the country.
The Central Massif through a dirty window
I was sick the day we arrived, and I have continued to cough, stuffy nose, lack of energy. I made sure to avoid all contact with Delana -- no kisses hello. I sat in an isolation chair and avoided touching things, wiping off the door handles when I left the room.
On Monday night, Earl and I made dinner -- potato soup and rosemary garlic pork loin. Yes, I washed my hands several times and was careful to avoid touching my face.
On Tuesday morning, I noticed a container of Airborne -- that supplement full of vitamins to help prevent colds. Oh, no! I thought. What if I get Delana sick.
Then Earl started coughing again. Was he getting the same illness a second time?
So I emailed her while she was at work, asking if Earl and I should find another place to stay for the next three nights.
She responded that it was too late; she could already feel it coming on. She was coming home from work early to get some rest.
We had all planned to go out to dinner, but that was off the table now.
In the afternoon, while Earl lay down to rest in hopes of warding off more illness, I went for a walk to the beautiful Cours Mirabeau, about 10 minutes from here.
The sun shone on one side of the street in the late afternoon.
As I was out walking, I decided to buy some pastis.
Pastis is a specialty in this part of France. It has an anise flavor -- licorice. When Earl was sick first, he would drink pastis as an aperitif at our lunches out. He said it cleared up his sinuses. So I figured we'd have some to see if it helped.
When Delana came home, Earl and I had already started on a glass of pastis and were already feeling better.
The alcohol is clear when poured into a glass and then if you add water, it turns cloudy.

Delana joined us and soon one glass turned to two. She poured some peanuts in a bowl and we sliced some bread to eat with camembert. She put some cream cheese on crackers and added chili confit -- that should help with the sinuses too.
"You may be onto something here," she admitted. "Before I came home, my shoulders hurt, my head hurt. Now I feel pretty good."
So I looked up the medicinal uses of anise -- turns out, there are quite a few. It's antimicrobial, inhibiting bacteria. It has antiviral effects. It's an anti-inflammatory, just like advil but more enjoyable to take, and so it can relieve pain. And another effect, these are only the ones that benefit people with colds, I haven't touched on the digestion or sex drive benefits, is soothing bronchial irritation.
Toasting our good fortune to fall onto a cold remedy, Delana pulled out a bottle of artisinal pastis and we sampled them to see which smelled stronger or made us feel better.

The three of us sat in her living room sharing stories -- stories about sailing over the Christmas holidays in the Gulf of Mexico and more sailing to come, this time in Belize! (Okay, her stories are dashing and romantic while mine are a bit more midwestern about kids and cats.) We drank pastis until close to 10 when we decided another good remedy would be sleep, so we tottered off to bed.
I'm not sure I feel better this morning, but last night's Pastis Dinner was well worth it, and if someone had filmed our conversation, it would have been comparable to Babette's Feast, even though the food was sparse and the drinks were plentiful. The conversation was filled with laughs.
For a moment, I could settle down into this new life, put down all the figurative baggage I've been carrying, and just enjoy.


Anonymous said...

Many of the apƩritifs actually started out as medicinal treatments. When/if you get to Carcassonne, you must go to Cabanel, which has been making various liqueurs and apƩritifs since 1868. The shop is beautiful, and the owners will explain the history. I wrote about the place in November 2016.
Pastis turns cloudy because it oxidizes when it comes in contact with water.
BTW, your cold might be viral, in which case there's not much to do but wait, but if you need a doctor, keep in mind that the full price is a whopping €25.

Just Me said...

I'm bundled up on the couch with a cozy blanket all in preparations to read you posts. I wish I liked liquorice sounds fabulous but I don't. The pictures are gorgeous. Here's hoping you continue to enjoy and recover.

Jeanie said...

I love the concept of medicinal pastis! Not my favorite flavor but I could use a good sinus remedy these days. Beautiful photos -- I hope you're feeling well soon. (Rick has the sick and I'm on the edge.)

Lee I said...

I'm glad to hear Delana is still in Aix. We used to share occasional comments on her blog, but then it disappeared and I wondered whether she'd left forever. I haven't blogged in a few weeks, but it's if she remembers.

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