Whilst looking for some Christmas table inspiration I came across this wonderful French dining room.
And I thought - I know just the woman for this room: the highly imaginative, but unhappy, Emma Bovary, the heroine of Gaustave Flaubert's beautiful book, written in 1854, which I am re-reading at the moment. This book was listed in the top two best books ever written (along with War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy) in a poll of contemporary writers in 2007.
This was an excellent book for backpacking around the regional cities of France as a young girl, accompanied only by some mournful New Order music on my 'Walkman' (these large plastic portable tape decks seem so dated now don't they?) .
This room looks like just the place Emma, enticed by the money lender Lheureux, may have excitedly spent money she didn't have decorating, in an effort to make things and in particular, her life, more interesting. Really, who needs Eat Pray Love when you have a book like this to delve into a complicated female psyche? After all, Emma Bovary tries all the same things that that woman does from Eat Pray Love (am I the only person on the planet to have found the EPL woman appallingly self indulgent?*): turns to religion, has affairs, meditates on the meaning of life and indulges in romantic fantasies.
(Isabelle Huppert as Madame Bovary in Claude Chabrol's adaptation from 1991)
For Emma Bovary, in this dining room, I would serve salads. Something delicate but well flavoured.
Which coincides nicely with the no 1 item on my Christmas list this year, Salades by Sydney chef Damien Pignolet:
I really am very easy to buy for at Christmas. Just a few cookbooks and I am a happy girl. And this one looks to be a cracker. So Santa, if you are reading this, please can you oblige me?
Here are some of Pignolet's salads to entice you into summer (or winter!)
(cauliflower, beetroot and celeriac with horseradish cream)
(goats cheese fritters, baby beetroot and figs)
(warm salad of scallops, sorrel croutons, grilled red pepper and witlof)
I think I could pretty much happily live on salads for the rest of my life.
(* I am aware I have probably made some enemies by this comment. Please don't judge me by my loathing of this book..... I am of course just a lone voice struggling against the tide).