Lucie “Lulu” Tempier Peyraud died Wednesday morning, two months before her 103rd birthday. After she married Lucien Peyraud in 1936, her father gave the couple a farm property on which to live. Through decades of hard work there, the couple and their seven children developed a world-class vineyard and successful family business. Lulu cooked for the family—not fancy Parisian fare but hearty country food. https://www.winespectator.com/articles/lucie-lulu-peyraud-matriarch-of-france-s-domaine-tempier-dies-at-102. Their Domaine Tempier reds, whites, and rosés were so good that they changed the way wine people thought about wines from the Bandol region. https://artofeating.com/lulu-peyraud/?fbclid=IwAR19Z1hH8Iv1jflC9TQ5fBxLML6g0QoP4KqYbRSi3pnWbIzTpEu8XEEQKIk
As word about their wines spread across the world, so did awareness about Lulu’s cooking. Her quintessential Provençal comfort food—and her welcoming joie-de-la-vie—brought serious and famous food types into her life.
Domaine Tempier’s wines continue to excite wine lovers, so we can say that her father’s gifting the young couple with the property offered them a turning point in their lives, one that, no doubt, has led to wonderful turning points for many others. Her father didn’t give them a “going enterprise.” Much hard work, talent, and vision enabled the couple to make something of that gift. In other hands, such opportunity might have been squandered.
Lulu’s cooking had and will continue to have impact on other cooks—including this amateur. She was not a trained restaurant chef nor a cookbook author. But such people found their way to her rustic kitchen in southern France. As Nina Caplan described her in a 2017 piece for New Statesman, she “was the cook of the century.” https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/food-drink/2017/09/secret-life-turns-out-be-ruby-glow-glass-bandol
A few years ago, working my way through a box of used cookbooks in Maine’s summer-weekend-only Lobster Lane Bookshop, I came upon Richard Olney’s Lulu’s Provençal Table. Olney, author of a string of books about French cooking, created a book as valuable for its stories about diminutive dynamo Lulu Peyraud and her family as for Lulu’s recipes that he faithfully shares. For practical reasons, we tend to keep cookbooks in or near the kitchen, but this one deserves space near our favorite reading places.
In the mid-nineties, I discovered such a book at a Baltimore Inner Harbor bookstore. It finally was time to acquire a book about French cooking, but my interest was in simple country food. I’d cut my teeth, so to speak, on such hearty food through my Québec family. That day I brought home Sarah Leah Chase’s Pedaling Through Provence. Hire a trained and curious food-caterer to lead bicycle tours in the south of France (with time for food stops, of course), and don’t be surprised if she writes a book like this. Of course, she quotes Richard Olney quoting Lulu Peyraud. My dog-eared, sauce-stained copy of Pedaling Through Provence still deserves bedstand space in our house—sharing it with Olney’s book about Lulu.
Lulu Peyraud’s death has put her in my thoughts all week. I made one of her chicken recipes a few months ago, and have been trying to decide which dish of hers I will turn to next.
As someone who loves to learn about how we learn things and who is kind of obsessed about particular moments of important change in our lives, I’ve also found myself thinking about and appreciating the blessings of living with my mother, Hélene Pellerin Bachus, the first great cook in my life.
And I’ve thought about Hélene’s sister Lucienne and Germaine Pellerin, my aunt by marriage, two other mothers right out of the Lulu Peyraud mold. Smart, hilarious, creative, people-loving, and food-loving cooks whose influence goes on. It’s worth calling to mind the people who made a difference in our lives, be they our teachers, mentors, teammates, students, co-workers, or family members.
To honor Lulu Peyraud’s passing, I tracked down a bottle of Domaine Tempier red, which we will open for a special family occasion–when I might have to slip off to the playground to get my fifty swings in, too. Seems about right. Merci, Lulu et vos soeurs de la cuisine. Santé!
Ned Bachus is the author of Open Admissions: What Teaching at Community College Taught Me About Learning (Wild River Books, 2017) and of the TURNING POINTS blog on nedbachus.com. City of Brotherly Love (Fleur-de-Lis Books), his book of stories, was awarded the 2013 IPPY Gold Medal for Literary Fiction. Like Open Admissions, his Facebook Page and follow him on nedbachus.com.