My favorite stories are always the ones that feel like an escape.

Which is why the ensemble cast from my novel The Honorary Italians needed a weekly diversion. I had an absolute blast dreaming up the delicious escape from the winter doldrums for this motley crew of Minnesotans. It involved an Italian feast that spanned all 20 regions.

So when my friend told me about the Le Pitchoune: Cooking in France Show, I knew this story had “me” written all over it. I’d just been to Provence this past summer and that’s where the festivities take place. If that wasn’t already exciting enough, the cooking school known as La Pitchoune was Julia Child’s actual home complete with the famed peg-board backsplash in her kitchen.

The premise was simple: A group of travelers learn to cook in Julia’s kitchen. But with a significant caveat. They wouldn’t be pouring over elaborate recipes for souffles and profiteroles. The instructors encouraged the students to shed all notions of perfection. To not worry about what flavors “technically” work best together. Cooking was a joyous act of improvisation with the freshest ingredients from the local farmers markets and an enviable spice cabinet.

While Le Pitchoune is one of those shows begging to be binged, I was stingy with a one-episode-a-day rule because there were only seven to begin with. It was such a joy to watch the dishes come together without a road map. To see people make different choices than I would with what they thought would taste good together. Mostly, I loved hearing about their lives and why they wanted this French escape in the first place. As if you’d need a good excuse, right?