Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mainly food ... a morning at the market

Well, I finally made it down to the paddock on Sunday afternoon, ignoring the strict prohibitions on the use of noisy semi-agricultural implements (hey, if it's good enough for the bloody vignerons to wake us up at 6 on a weekday as their tractors scatter powdered sulphur - for mildew, you understand - all over the vines, why can't I wake them up from their post-prandial nap on a Sunday afternoon?), and to my surprise the lawnmower started up first pull, despite having spent its winter wrapped in a tarpaulin under the tilleul. We'll not speak of the damp red haze, which didn't last too long anyway, as I rather briefly woke up a couple of squirrels who'd decided to nest under it - that'll teach them to ignore warning signs. Learn to read, little woodland folk.

Only joking. That was last spring. This year they do actually seem to have learned that hibernating in a small, low room where the ceiling fan goes round at 2000 rpm is not really a good idea if you're planning on seeing a lot of summer. Anyway, after three hours down there I finally managed to bludgeon everything into submission: it really was getting rather long. From now on it's every bloody weekend, at least until the height of summer. And even then I bet the stuff'll sneakily grow on me every time my back is turned.

Whatever, we've had a week of wonderful weather - it's even almost warm outside at nights now - and I'm wondering when it'll all go titsup. Probably on Saturday, just after I leave for the market in a T-shirt, it'll turn to snow. Or something.

And I've finally bumped into a badger: much to our mutual surprise, no doubt. Headed down past the cemetery tonight for a last cigar, then back up again, and at the top, just as I got round the corner, there was this clicky scuffling noise and a spastic bag of furry shit on big hairy legs came hurtling around the corner headed straight at me. Luckily - or not - it saw me, and did this amazing (for such an ungainly creature) barrel roll/somersault, turned round the way it'd came and disappeared into the night. Never have a camera on you when you need one - not that it'd have done me much good.

Usual trip off to the market today, and as it was so fine I thought I might as well get some photos done - if only to be able to supply documentary evidence of the existence of these old hags with their evil killing machines. Don't let their looks fool you: under those white locks ticks the well-oiled brain of a sociopathic Moriarty, and the wizened, feeble fingers cleverly short-changing the stall-keeper are quite capable of pointing an Uzi and pulling the trigger. On the plus side, she doubtless quite likes cats. A white-haired Persian, probably.

I do not know who this man is, but you must admit he's a marvellous specimen. Note the flowing locks, the carelessly just-so knotted silk cravat, and the fine collection of chins. I'd personally put him down as one of the last of that sadly too-rare (and disappearing) species, the authentic French bon vivant. I didn't get a photo of him in flagrante delicto, as it were - I was getting enough odd looks as it was -  but I swear he was in fact caressing (there's no other word for it) some baby melons. Probably reminded him of something. (And no, they were not the green and warty kind. More soft, yielding and delicately perfumed - should you wish to know that.) He reminds me a bit of Peter Ustinov. On the other hand it does rather look as though he's about to be attacked by two little old ladies - rather like being worried by a dead sheep, as Denis Healey once said. (Mind you, old ladies at the market are bloody persistent worriers. Once they get their dentures in they don't let go, at least not until they've had the last triumphant, senile mumble.)

I never actually buy anything there - except once, many years ago, when I picked up a large amount of coquilles St-Jacques in the shell - but I'm always drawn to the fishmonger's. If only for the beautiful paella. Mind you, everyone else is drawn there too so getting this shot required heavy use of my elbows.

I did manage to pick up (not, fairly obviously, at the fishmonger's) some lovely asparagus. Not exactly the first of the season, but certainly the first lot I've seen that I could buy without taking out another mortgage. Lovely stiff slender glossy green shoots which are going to go down really well tonight, just boiled rapidly in a little water with a good 50gm of butter and a sugar cube and heaps of chives, with a bit of barbecued steak and maybe some sliced potatoes, cooked with olive oil and herbs en papillotte. on the grill. (Which reminds me I must go and soak the meat in a bit of Encona and some bourbon, thanks ever so for bringing it to mind.) Unfortunately Jeremy has decided he likes asparagus. Things used to be so much easier when he disliked everything except ham, pasta and chocolate-bombed breakfast cereals.

Of course, we're only an hour or so from Italy (in fact, the north of Italy used to be part of Savoie - or vice versa, depends who you're talking to) so it's not too surprising to find all the different types of pasta around. Bloody expensive mind you, and whilst I actually rather like stuff like ravioles de Royans (which are, from memory, stuffed with goat's cheese  and herbs) I'm not going to pay 14€ the kilo for them. But they do look nice.

And then, of course, you get the little apiculteurs (for such is the word for these good people) selling honey. I don't often buy it there, because I know a couple of people who do their own and who will occasionally slip me a big pot for 6€ which is, as we say, imbattable - still, just once in a while I pick up a jar of bean honey (which is outrageously good) or pine honey, which may be an acquired taste. It's not exactly ouzo, but it does have a resiny finish - bit like boot polish, really.

 One of my favourites: a good stinky goat's cheese. These particular ones are semi-dry and the red stuff isn't mould: it's a mixture of crushed pepper, dried poivron and paprika that's been pressed on to the surface before the little buggers went off to a nice airy cellar for a couple of weeks.
 Don't know quite why this guy is looking so depressed - at least he has enough to drink. And it's beautiful weather. Many vignerons seem to be depressed, must be something in the water.

Anyway, I'm off to fire up the barbecue again. Bye!


  1. you rotten beggar - now I will be drooling over the asparagus recipe for ages.
    Just as a little revenge: last night we had stir-fried veges in a coconut curry sauce with soba noodles & schnitzel. And tonight I just might make pumpkin (butternut variety) & spinach cannelloni. Possibly with feta, maybe not as it would necessitate a supermarket stopover on the way home & the puppy (who is at playgroup today) may not approve of that. Barry's just harvested an excess of butternuts & the everlasting spinach is getting above itself. Yum... Oh yes, the cannelloni part will in fact be freshly made creps, rolled around the stuffing. I can't be having with this dried tubular stuff.

  2. Could've been worse, you could have said "craps", which would not have been good. Sounds good though, without the crap.

    And I've discovered that if you don't have any bourbon, a 15 year-old Scotch does very well for marinating the steak. A tbsp of that and a tsp of Encona rubbed in with the back of s spoon on to one side, turn and repeat the performance on the other, pour over another tbsp of whisky just for luck and leave for two or three hours before slapping it on the grill ... mmm.