Last Saturday we went to a vernissage at the Beddington Fine Art Gallery in Bargemon. Bargemon is a little town perched on a hill in the Var, above St Tropez about 2 1/2 hours from where we live. The Vernissage was for Lume, who is a young, up and coming French Artist based in Barcelona. Her work is bright with vivid splashes of colour, no doubt inspired by the light and colours of her adopted country. It was her first solo show in France and was a great success.
Besides showing their Artists’ work in the gallery, Michèle and Guy Beddington also exhibit their Artists’ work in their own garden (‘The Artist’ is one of their Artists).
The sculptures are placed amongst the olive trees, in the grass and on the rocks with the hills beyond creating a natural backdrop to the Art. It is similar in spirit and intent to the Fondation Maeght created over 50 years ago in St Paul-de-Vence, about 1/2 an hour from Bargemon. I went there once many years ago, but The Artist had never been so we decided to include a visit there on this trip.
La Fondation Maeght is a very special place.
The building and gardens were specifically designed for the Artists whose works are permanently exhibited there. There are sculptures by Calder, Hepworth and Takis, placed between the tall pine trees in the garden in the hills above Nice. There is a labyrinth with scuptures by Miro, a room and a courtyard dedicated to 50 Giacometti sculptures and drawings, a pool with a mosaic designed by Braques, a mural painted by Chagall, a chapel with stained glass designed by Braques and Ubac, a cafe with chairs and tables designed by Diego Giacometti (Alberto’s brother) as well as paintings by Légere, Bonnard, Braque, Matisse, Chagall and Kandinsky amongst many others. What is so wonderful about the place, besides the Works of Art themselves, is their juxtapostion with nature and the countryside around.
Many of the Artists were friends of the founders, Marguerite and Aimé Maeght, and frequented La Columbe d’Or, the restaurant up the hill from the museum which is now World famous for the many works or Art that were donated by the Artists in return for food and lodging.
Speaking of food and lodging, whilst in Bargemon, we stayed with our friends, Nigel and Alain, who have a wonderful property just outside the town. We have been visiting them regularly over the last 10 years, and have witnessed the transformation of their house and garden during that time. Nigel (Scott Harden) paysagiste extraordinaire (landscape gardener) and Alain spend most of their time in the garden, creating and maintaining their terrain, (land). I love nothing more than getting up in the morning and sitting on their terrace with a cup of coffee and looking out across vines, the potager (vegetable garden), and olive-groves down to the lake (with its own Indian Temple) and to the oak and pine woods beyond, where wild animals, including Sanglier (wild boar) roam and dig for acorns, (last time we were there in the summer, a fox ran off with my bikini bottoms which I had left out over night, naughty Monsieur Le Renard!).
The garden merges seamlessly into the surrounding hills and except for the village of Bargemon in the distance and the tinkling of goat bells from the farm behind, you could easily imagine you were the only people for miles around. Whilst we were there the garden was bursting with daffodils, hyacinths and wild orchids and the Artist and myself decided it was time to sell our town house and move to the country; the dogs, who thought they were in doggie Heaven scampering freely about the property, I’m sure would have agreed.
When we left, they gave us a huge cauliflower to take home with us, freshly picked from the vegetable garden (I’d already pinched enough thyme, rosemary and bay leaves to keep me in bouquet garnis for quite some time).
Now it just so happens that in the UK at the moment, there is a drive to try and get more people to eat Cauliflower as it has become a forgotten, or neglected vegetable. Angela Hartnett posted a recipe for Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry in The Guardian and Yotam Ottolenghi cooked cauliflower with The Hairy Bikers, in a bid to save it from obscurity. I thought I’d add my bit by giving you a Cauliflower Soup recipe. I don’t add milk or cream, as the Cauliflower is quite creamy on its own and I think adding cream sort of defeats the object of soup being a healthy option. Instead I topped it here with some lardons, onions and Roquefort, (blue cheese) and a sprinkling of toasted mustard seeds (there goes the healthy bit, but you can always skip the topping if you’re feeling abstemious).
So remember, next time you reach for the broccoli, just say no and take home a cauliflower instead and make this delicious soup. I love its pale creamy colour and if its hot where you live, try it chilled with some chopped chives.
- 1 tbl Olive Oil
- 30gm Butter
- 1 Onion, chopped
- 1 Leek, the white part sliced
- 1 Celery stalk, chopped
- 1 Head of Cauliflower, broken into florets
- 1 clove of Garlic, squashed with a knife
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1.5 l Stock, vegetable or chicken
- 12gm Lardons, chopped
- 12gm Onion sliced lengthwise
- 12g Blue Cheese, crumbled
- 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
Melt the butter and oil in a big casserole. Add the chopped onions and cook on a medium heat for five minutes or so until translucent but not brown. Then add the chopped garlic and chopped leak and celery stalk and cauliflower and bay leaf and sweat for eight minutes with the lid on. Next add the hot stock, I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Vegan Bouillon (much less salty than their regular one) with water, or home made if I have some. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 mins or so, until the cauliflower is soft. Then take out the bay leaf and whizz the soup, (I use a Braun hand blender) adding salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile throw the lardons with the onion into a pan and saute for five minutes.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the onions and lardons and crumble over the blue cheese. Dry fry the Mustard Seeds until they pop and scatter over the soup.
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