The war has not made much of difference in Alix’s life. Her father has seen to it that she grows up unaware, unworried, but safe in her tiny village under the cliffs of the Vercors. All around her he has built a fortress whose walls are impregnable—until the 27th of April, 1944. That day he makes a stupid mistake up on the cliff, and the walls of the Fortress start crashing down. Reality breaks into Alix’s life with unrelenting violence, unforeseen possibilities. From now on, every decision she makes will mean life or death.
Six weeks before D-Days, a thousand kilometers from the beaches of Normandy.
There are no generals in the French Vercors, just a handful of men and women against the Nazi war machine. They come from Bretagne, Paris, and Slovenia, and the villages up on the cliff. They are the Fortress.
“By now they already know something has happened, and sooner than later you’ll be linked to Rieder’s disappearance. Now if they catch you, you will talk…”
“What makes you so sure of that?”
“You will talk, and then it becomes my problem. But that’s only part of it. Once they figure out he’s dead, they’ll come for us too, and again that’s my problem. Then there is the fact that my people, your co-dissidents whom you didn’t consult, want to kill you.” He was leaning against a joist, head down, eyes almost closed. “They think you are an informer.”
“And that’s your problem?” she snapped.
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Create a dinner menu, drawing inspiration from your work.
Home-made Pate and cornichons
It’s 1944 in the French Alps. Mimi lives in a little village underneath the Vercors cliffs with what’s left of her family, a daughter-in-law she never cared for because she is Italian, Alix, her adored grand-daughter, and a great big German Shepperd, Mikko, named after her first and secret love, a Finnish migrant. They just killed a pig, unbeknownst to the German occupant, and are hiding pork meat everywhere in the house.
Alix’s favorite. Rillettes remind her of before the war, and are somehow associated with romance in her mind, maybe because she happens to share some with Lieutenant Marc, who comes one night to explain to her how, whether she wants it or not, she is now a member of his resistant network.
Grattin Dauphinois (with illegal Italian bacon)
The king of all French dishes! That night, four Nazis, two German two Ukrainians, have invited themselves at Mimi’s. She doesn’t know it, but they know there is a secret connection between her house and the resistant camp beyond the cliffs, and they’re staking the premises before the attack in a couple of days. They also know that Alix is involved with the murder of Major Rieder, and are looking for her. One of the Ukrainians is describing a battle in the Don Cossack valley by flying a tartine de beurre over the table, and crashes it in the grattin in a thunder of drunken laughter. Then something rustles at the door…
Ravioles and fresh watercress
Ravioles are tiny fresh cheese and herb-filled paper-thin dough squares which are only made in the Vercors. Mimi would never forgive anyone who confuses them with vulgar Italian ravioli. That’s what they are eating one night, just the three of them, after Alix has escaped the Nazis raking through the village for hidden terrorists, and Mimi couldn’t resist aggravating her daughter-in-law by asking Alix whether Lieutenant Marc was romantic.
Fraises des bois in red wine and cream
These tiny wild strawberries exist only in the Vercors area, the sweetest, most heavenly flavor you can imagine. Alix has picked a handful just for Marc, and when she gives them to him, she knows, and he knows, that these aren’t just strawberries she’s offering.
Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey was born in the French Alps, moved to the United States twenty-five years later, and currently lives in the mountains of Virginia with her husband, two daughters, and Mikko.