It is a real Ouzilly summer.
We feared we would be alone this summer. Our children almost all grown, we imagined ourselves sitting on the veranda and talking just to each other, like a pair of old shoes left in the closet. No family was coming from the United States to visit. Our daughters were pursuing their careers. Our sons had plans of their own.
But then a Swiss friend came. And then his mother came. And then the boys showed up. And then an Irish journalist. And then an Italian egg producer. And then an Argentine singer. And then, a girl from across the street. And then a girl from the village. And then…the house was full…
In the kitchen yesterday, three women busied themselves…making jam…polishing the old stove…sharing gossip and jokes. It was like a scene from an earlier era…when people had regular kitchen staff. Our ‘staff’ are all volunteers and part-timers. Still, the ambiance was rich and convivial.
“Do you want a cup of coffee?” one asked.
“Yes…but I’ll make it….”
“No…I’ll make it…you shouldn’t make it. You’re the head of the house. You’re the one who keeps the place going…”
“Oh…yes…well…that’s a nice way to look at it…”
“Yes, without you, we’d have to go to the beach for the summer…and we wouldn’t have the pleasure of working in this hot kitchen. I’m just joking. It’s fun working in the kitchen. This is where the action is. Did you know that? It was always the kitchen that was the place to be in these big old houses. That was where the maids and gardeners and all the staff hung out…in front of the fire. It was often the only warm room in the house. Everyone wanted to be in the kitchen. And it was where the food was.
“And people in the kitchen know what is going on… The maids come down and report on the state of the bedrooms…and who is sleeping with whom. Yes…that’s the way it was…at least in France. And they hear who is arguing with whom…and about what. And the staff keep their eyes and ears open…and then they come into the kitchen and talk. There were never any secrets in a place like this…the people in the kitchen knew everything…”
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