Living in Provence: The Cancun Express

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Living in Provence: The Cancun Express
My friend Laurie was organizing a pizza evening in Villedieu (population 518). The summer had barely begun, but pizza truck MUU-MUU was back on the main square Sunday nights; the weather was warm enough to eat outside in the Place by the mossy fountain under the plane trees. The oyster and Chardonnay Fridays at the Bar du Centre were over now until Fall. At some point midweek my phone rang; it was Laurie on her portable (cell phone) calling from her truck. “Hey, I found the guy!” “What guy?” “The Mexican!” “What Mexican?” “THE MEXICAN-FOOD-TRUCK GUY!” I vaguely remembered her talking about a man who went from village to village during the summer selling Mexican food from his truck. She explained Pizza MUU-MUU couldn’t make it to Villedieu that Sunday; the Mexican was filling in. We would need to make reservations, but she didn’t have the number. Her husband, Hubert, had it at their winery, Domaine de Deurre. The only problem was Hubert was in China. She phoned Shanghai from her truck, quickly said hello to Hubert and got Jon Larum’s (“the guy”) number here in Rasteau. When I called to place my order, I was surprised to discover he spoke perfect American English. He’s from the Napa Valley. His wife, Françoise, is French and runs the family winery, Domaine des Girosols, with her sister and parents in Rasteau.  I asked about the menu and placed my order: guacamole and chips, quésidilla, and mentioned I was part of “Patricia’s Table.”   “Oh, that’s a big group; I’ve been getting calls from them all week. You’re just one person?” “Er, yes. Actually, I’m Patricia….” Sunday night, my Westie Emily and I hopped into the cute little red Citroën and headed for the medieval village of Villedieu, a 15-minute drive from Nyons. The “City of God’s” population was about to swell. As we tootled along the D7, surrounded by endless hectares of grape vines, a large dog ran smack in front of the car. I violently swerved to avoid hitting it. The “dog” was quickly followed by four other exactly identical “dogs.”  “Ohmygod!” I screamed, “Emmie, look, look at the marcassins (baby wild boars)!”  The sanglier siblings trotted off and we continued up the hill into town. A white C35 Citroën truck decorated with Mexican flags and brightly painted designs was parked just off the main square. There was already a line at the window; a few gosses (little kids) were circling the truck on their bikes while two others were busy counting out pocketfuls of small change. A mangy brown dog sat patiently in the street, licking his lips, staring intently at the food being passed over the counter from the truck’s tiny kitchen. The square was already filling up; people were pushing tables together, moving chairs, reserving places. The serveurs (waiters) from the Bar du Centre  were busily running back and forth across the street with drinks from the bar, dodging kids, dogs and an occasional car. Emily ran off to join a group of dogs playing around the fountain and I searched for “Patricia’s Table.” My friend Renée was just arriving with Hansje and Hugo, her wire-haired miniature dachshunds, followed shortly after by my friend Deloris and Spice, her black Labrador.  Laurie was already seated with a large group of friends and her 13-year-old daughter, Mareva. They were rapidly devouring three enormous plates of guacamole and chips.  “Dig in!” she urged, pushing the paper plate in my direction. I took a chip and scooped up some guacamole. WOW! I couldn’t believe how good it was! I hadn’t had guacamole like that since I’d left New York three years before. (French guacamole is the consistency of baby-food puréed peas, the kind that comes in little glass jars; the blandness and taste are about the same.) This was the real thing–and the chips were freshly made, as in just fried, as in still warm. I trotted myself over to the truck. A round-faced cheerful man in a green T-shirt was busy cooking, taking orders, answering the phone, counting out change and talking and joking with customers.  Every few minutes he’d join a couple of regulars parked with their food and drinks at the counter to discuss a recent soccer game. Jon Larum, the famous Cal-Mex “guy.” “Hey, you must be Patricia!” he greeted me with a big smile and a handshake. Did I want my entire order now? I decided to have the guacamole and chips first and come back later for the quésidilla. Chatting back and forth in French and English all the while, Jon took a stack of flat corn tortillas, quartered it with a big knife and dropped each flat little rounded triangle into a round deep fryer. A group of elderly très chic French women joined the line behind me. One of them ventured forth: “Monsieur, qu’est-ce que c’est guacamole et chips?” (“Sir, what is guacamole and chips?) His description was priceless, his French impeccable: “Purée d’avocats, tomates, oignons, épices et crèpes à maïs friteuse, madame.” He handed over a sample plate for the ladies to taste. Delicately they each took a sample; then their faces lit up. With many smiles and much politesse they ordered “les sheeps avec la sauce guakkeymoll.” While they awaited their order, they polished off the plate. Not wanting the rest of us in line to feel neglected, Jon offered up another generous round of samples. The gosses with the small change had now counted up, presumably having emptied their tire-lires (piggy banks). They clearly were regulars and knew exactly what they wanted–les pizzas mexicaines, otherwise known as quésidillas and “les soo-pair booraytoos,” super burritos. When I returned for my quésidilla, Jon and…
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