A Festival for a Chickpea: Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume in Provence

A Festival for a Chickpea: Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume in Provence

France has a uniquely magical ambiance. On any visit I arrive knowing no-one and barely 10 badly pronounced words of the language and within five minutes I am so involved I can hardly draw breath. On my most recent visit, to Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, I took refuge during a monsoonal deluge in a shop selling American Vintage (yes, the brand is French) and bought a sort of (French, ergo: chic) T shirt and the wonderful women invited me to the Fête des Pois Chiches organised by the Confrérie du Pois Chiche de Rougiers.

© Nigelle de Visme

A snippet of local intelligence relayed by chauffeur Pierre, during my drive to the foothills of the Massif Sainte Baume the previous day, informed me that Rougiers was famous for truffles. He was picking up a priceless box of them from there to deliver to a restaurant in Saint Tropez on Monday. I’ve never had truffle. But there it was on this day amongst the humble chick pea. Chickpeas! imagine a Festival dedicated to Chickpeas; no wonder everything tastes so good in France – a people who exalt Earth’s produce will most surely be rewarded in kind.

So, after a few samples of chickpea tapenade and chickpea flour cakes and chickpea wine it was time for a truffle omelette made to order. Oh! My moans of delight and pleasure at every mouthful brought chuckles and happy commentary from all at my table. The French know how to live, and after truffles the dancing, the band (oh the band!), the food, the tables displaying life in the 1900s (and the development of le culottes – knickers to you and me – from 1900 to now) so much pure fun and graciousness in the Art of Living. The goatlette, by the way, was a charming pet – infinitely cute and preferable in my view to any variety of K-9.

Photos reveal much more than words so I shall write no more, but share my photos for all to enjoy the joyous colours and atmosphere of the day!

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Nigelle de Visme is of Swiss and English origin and currently lives in Glastonbury. She has lived in Australia, India and France and still travels extensively. A published author, she was nominated for a French Media Award in March 2017. At the age of 68 she walked the Chemin Saint Jacques from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela and is at her happiest in gardens, wild places and the thirteenth century. Après Brexit she is exploring the possibility of applying for political asylum in France.

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