Île d’Oléron is an island set–at its narrowest–5 kilometers off the western coast of France; the wilder cousin of comparatively posh Île de Ré. The island was once inhabited by pirates who hung lamps around the necks of donkeys at night, in hopes of tricking returning ships into wrecking along a shore that ebbs dramatically with the tide.
At the Frenchman’s paternal grandparents’ home–or, more accurately, a series of small homes for renting, each named with flowered tiles brought home from Pays Basque along with wheels of brebis and black cherry jam–there is no food processor. In fact, aside from stacks upon stacks of dish detritus–and one surprisingly versatile pair of scissors–there’s not much to aid in the cooking of a birthday lunch for nine. (I can’t locate a pen, until my father-in-law pulls one from another room.) I have the good sense to bring my own sharp knife.