If you ever comb through my annual recommendations for summer reading for food lovers, you'll recognize that I have slight obsession with French food memoirs and books about Julia Child. WhenI read the stories of the dinner parties that Child and her husband hosted at La Pitchoune — their cottage in Provence — I drink in every detail.
Last fall when I read that Child's Provencal home was up for sale for what seemed like an incredibly reasonable $860,000, I considered starting a GoFundMe campaign. (I really did!) The thought of cooking and entertaining at La Peetch, as Child affectionately called it, where she created amazing meals and entertained icons of the culinary world like M.F.K. Fischer and James Beard appeals to my soul. (Read "Provence, 1970" for details on the food, wine and conversation that took place during some of these meals.)
As reasonable as $860,000 seems to own the magnificently haunted kitchen and the rest of the cottage in Provence, I was skeptical that others would invest in my fantasy dinner parties — the ones where I would host Alton Brown, Jamie Oliver, Ina Garten and many of my real friends in the food and wine world.
I decided against the GoFundMe, but my dreams of cooking in that kitchen haven't been dashed. La Pitchoune has been sold, and it will become a culinary retreat center. Sign me up now.
Makenna Johnston, the new owner of the home, told Boston Magazine that when she heard La Pitchoune was for sale, she needed to act. At first she didn't think owning it was a possibility, but after the Paris attacks in November 2015, she started seriously looking at the house. She decided to buy it with her wife, Yvonne Johnston.
La Pitchoune is now the home of La Peetch Ecole de Cuisine, and classes start in April 2017. One week of cooking school runs $2,650 and includes "four courageous cooking classes taught in the gorgeous kitchen, daily breakfast & lunch, excursions to local food hot spots, wine, and daily (optional) yoga classes," plus lodging.
The kitchen at La Pitchoune, which has a similar layout but a much different vibe from the kitchen Julia Child had in her Cambridge, Massachusetts, home now on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, has been used as a culinary school before, according to Boston Magazine. After Child's husband Paul died in 1992, the property went to Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" collaborator Simca Beck and her husband. The house had been built on their property. They rented it out and eventually sold it to Kathie Alex, who turned the home into a cooking school. She did some upgrades to certain parts of the home, but she left the kitchen intact.
When I had thoughts of buying La Pitchoune, I only wanted it for myself. I never entertained the thought of keeping it open to the public for a cooking school. The home and its magnificently haunted kitchen is probably better off in the hands of someone like Johnston who's willing to share it with others who feel the culinary pull of Child's legacy and the desire to cook and eat in her kitchen.
So I shouldn't be jealous that someone else got to buy the home. I should be grateful that there's a chance I will be able to cook in that kitchen some day. Honestly, I'm a little of both.