"Like so many events in the small Périgord town of St. Denis, deep in the gastronomic heartland of France, this story begins in the market that takes place each week in the square between the 17th century mairie
and the old stone bridge that crosses the River Vézère. On a Tuesday morning in early summer, Kati, a young woman with short, fair hair and a little redness on her bare arms from her first exposure to the sun that year, was staring entranced at a stall displaying a wider selection of strawberries than she had ever known. Her eyes darted eagerly from the deep crimson of the Mara des Bois to the plump red of the Gariguettes, from the almost orange Charlottes to the purple Rosa Linda that looked so moist she imagined the juice seeping through their skins.
“'Try one of each,' the stallholder called out cheerfully. He placed oranges in a careful pyramid. Kati noticed his lively dark eyes and tumble of curly hair before she realized that he was limping as he walked toward her. 'See which one you prefer,' he said.
"With the deliberation of a woman used to watching her pennies, Kati tried the cheapest first, the Gariguette, which would have tasted as she expected a strawberry to taste, except this was her first of the year. And since it had been picked just after dawn that morning it was as fresh a piece of fruit as she had ever eaten. Without thinking, she closed her eyes, feeling the flavor intensify until she felt she was eating the very essence of summer.
“'Try this one,' the stallholder said, offering her a small berry impaled on a cocktail stick. 'It’s my favorite, Mara des Bois.'
"It was like tasting perfume; a sweetness that was intense without being sickly, and with a sparkling zest that seemed both full of energy and deeply comforting. She thought to herself, This is why I came to France."
Copyright © 2014 by Martin Walker. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.