Throughout my travels, some of my fondest memories revolve around food. Whether it be walking the streets of Bangkok, nibbling at any street delicacies I could get my hands on, gobbling down fresh fruit on the beaches of Copacabana, or slicing into a beautiful bistecca fiorentina at a little hidden gem restaurant in Florence. Food has brought me closer to the culture and the people of the places which I have traveled. Yet one town in particular holds a special place in my heart, Viré-en-Champagne. A village located in the Loire Valley, just two hours outside of Paris, which you could quite literally drive through in the blink of an eye, was my childhood sanctuary.
Built in the early fifteen-hundreds my grandmother’s stone cottage sits upon land rich with nutrients and history. As a child, visiting this home was my very own version of entering a fairytale. Each summer I would wander along ancient carriage ways, climb into the high branches of chestnut trees, and sneak onto the grounds of the local chateau to feed the horses; I would set out on adventures at dawn and return by dusk, motivated by the promise of a warm home cooked meal.
My grandmothers dark oak table sat prominently in the middle of a cozy kitchen. The history was visually written on the walls; over the years, my grandmother had collected antique scissors, spoons, forks, baskets, and cooking posters from brocantes (flea markets) around the area and collaged them together like a wallpaper of history. My family and friends, French, Italian, British, and American would crowd around that table, in mix and match chairs, sharing stories, cracking jokes, and of course breaking bread (fresh baguettes no doubt). As bottles of wine were stolen from the cave (French wine cellar) and emptied on the table, the meal would progress from grass fed steak to homemade strawberry rhubarb crumble with crème fresh. My grandmother’s specialty.
No matter my age, Viré still seems as though it has been stolen out of the pages of a storybook. To some, the fantastic magic may lie in the castle atop the hill, the tiny blue wildflowers, or the white horse running free in the fields; but to me the magic will always live within the food eaten around the table and the company with which it is shared.
Photos: Bella Braconi
Have you ever been to Viré-en-Champagne? Share with us in the comments.
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