Goat Cheese, olives, onions, capers, garlic, zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, rosemary, lavender—these are some of the simple, sunny ingredients that go into the zesty cuisine of Provence. In Jean de Florette (France, 1986), these full, fresh flavors are brought vividly to life.
Jean de Florette (Gérard Depardieu, above, center) wants to create a new Eden. After inheriting a small house and tract of land in the country, he takes wife and young daughter away from the grind of city life, and gets to work on some ambitious plans involving a kitchen garden to feed his family—as well as acres of African squash to feed the hundreds of rabbits he plans to breed.
The land itself is almost good enough to eat. The soil is rich and there are groves of olive trees, fig trees, wild rosemary, and game birds already thriving there. But cultivated crops need more than the sparse rainfall the area gets in summer, and scheming neighbor, César Soubeyran (Yves Montand), soon gives in to greed. Calling on "Providence," he hatches a calculated plan that takes on Shakespearean proportions, and involves a diverted spring.... (The story continues in Manon des Sources (France, 1986), which was released as a separate film, so we'll save it for a later post.)
In the meantime, a further taste of some of the food and drink of the region may be found here: