“This is the ‘gold of Provence.’” a lovely older woman exclaimed us as she handed us each a sachet so that we could inhale the minty-floral aroma of lavender. To us, the purple blossoms are the signature scent of Provence. But, according to Béatrice, not all lavender is the same. She insisted that the best is grown in the fields surrounding the ancient fortified village of Sault in the High Vaucluse. She is dedicated to spreading the word. “I want to keep the tradition alive,” the former French teacher told us. “The family has been growing lavender for 400 years. The soil and sun around Sault impart unique flavor.”
Béatrice’s table at the Tuesday produce market in Aix almost overflowed with sachets stitched from traditional Provençal fabrics. She recommended placing one under each of our pillows for a restful night’s sleep and told Pat to tuck one into a lingerie drawer so that the scent of lavender would be close to her skin.
But Béatrice lit up when she showed us packages of culinary lavender. “Add one little spoon to two big cups of tea with a spoonful of honey,” she said. “It’s wonderful when you catch a cold.” To dress a salad, she recommended “one spoon of olive oil and a little lavender,” and admonished us to never add vinegar.
A little lavender goes a long way. “Put one little spoon of olive oil and a little bit of lavender on your chevre,” Béatrice continued. “Or put a little on crème brûlée.” It’s so French, we thought, to find an easy way to add sophistication to a simple dish.
But Béatrice wasn’t done. To season a leg of lamb, she recommended rubbing it with softened butter mixed with lavender. “It’s delicious and typical,” she assured us.