Most of the food that I cook with my mother, however, is neither French nor Italian: it is Occitan. Occitan is an ethnic group that dates back to the fifth century and is distinguished by its langue d'oc, an ancient tongue (which happened to be the language of the legendary Knights of the Round Table) from which Provençal and Catalan are derived. While the Occitan community inhabited large swaths of western Europe in the Middle Ages, it has dwindled to just a few geographical pockets in Spain's Catalonia, southern France (including the Languedoc region), and several valleys in the Italian Alps, such as Val di Susa, where Oulx is located. In Italy, the Occitan population is tiny—about 200,000—but we have a strong identity, defined by our language (which I learned from my parents) and our foodways, to which we cling fiercely. Occitan cooking in northern Italy is rustic, based on the cheeses and grains and vegetables that have long flourished here. While local Piedmontese food evolved over the centuries to become richer and more refined, Occitan cooking remained true to its roots as simple, satisfying peasant fare.