L’Auberge de la Fenière is known for the beauty of the surroundings, the charm of the main old mas (farmhouse), the warmth of the welcome and the quality of the cuisine. It’s also known for great impromptu parties, with Guy’s rock band on stage. Mention Reine and Guy Sammut in these parts and people smile. I don’t know them personally but I’ve long admired their accomplishments. And yes, her name means ‘’Queen’’—how great is that?
So when Reine’s publisher (Hachette Livre, Editions du Chêne) got in touch recently to see if I’d like to give away a few copies of her new book, I couldn’t have been more delighted. Reine Sammut: Mediterranean Cuisine comes out officially next month…but it's already popping up in bookstores and can be found on Amazon here. It’s Reine’s second book, it’s available in French and in English, and it looks fantastique!
Born and raised in Frizon, a small village in the east of France (in the Vosges), Reine arrived in Provence when she was 14. She planned to be a dentist but fell in love with Guy…and his family…and Provencal food. She started to work at Guy’s family’s inn, the Fenière de Lourmarin, alongside his mom Claudette. Step by step, she mastered the flavors, techniques, ingredients and signature dishes—and became a serious Provençale chef. (She also delves into the cuisines of Sicily, Malta, Tunisia and other Mediterraean neighbors.)
Eventually, Claudette passed the business to Reine and Guy…and they’ve been welcoming friends and strangers here for a remarkable 35 years. Daughters Julia and Nadia have their own careers but are often around as well.
To help her produce the 256-page book, Reine chose author Anne Garabedian (who who started cooking and baking seriously at age 10) and her husband, photographer Jean-Philippe Garabedian (also an accomplished cook). The two spent a full season at the Auberge, to capture in glorious detail the experience of learning to cook with Reine in Provence.
‘’We didn’t want to create an impersonal book, with recipes and a accompanying photos,’’ Anne explains. ‘’Rather, we wanted to tell the story of the cookery course so that readers would feel as though they’d taken part. A cookery course ‘as if you were there’, with recipes, tips, variations, know-how, and accounts from delighted students.’’
Peter Mayle, a neighbor and good friend, wrote the forward to the book. Peter says:
‘’I have admired and enjoyed the cuisine of Reine Sammut for at least 10 years – years during which I never had a disappointing meal, or even a disappointing mouthful…. I hope Reine will forgive me when I say that, for me, what she produces from her kitchen is home cooking, but home cooking elevated to the highest degree of sophistication and refinement. It is generous, it tastes wonderful and, as you will see from the pages that follow, it is remarkably accessible. You don’t need a kitchen filled with test tubes, a team of assistants, or a university degree in multi-sensory perception. Good ingredients, enthusiasm, and close attention to Reine’s tips and advice will help you achieve a level of cooking that will surprise you.’’
OK, on to the free books! The publisher and their US distributor, ACC Distribution, have offered me two to give away. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment under ''comments'' below. The more creative your comment, the better! And please be sure to leave your email address too or we won't be able to reach you if you win; signing in with your Google address is not enough.
Meanwhile, if you want to experience the Auberge de la Fenière, you can read all about it here. And if you go, don’t be surprised to find Mr. Mayle at the next table. ‘’One of the great treats of spring, for my wife and I,’’ he writes, ‘’is the prelude to that first lunch eaten outside on the terrace of La Fenière, menu in one hand, a glass of rosé in the other, taste buds tingling with anticipation. Heaven!’’
Photos: The book (which is available in French and English), the Auberge de la Feniere, Reine Sammut...and photos from the book, which is meant to capture the experience of a class at Reine's cooking school. All photos except landscape by Jean-Philippe Garabedian.
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