Sunday, December 4, 2011

To Market, To Market ...

Jambon sec du pays
So, how are things with you lot? Over here in our little corner of Ole Yurrup we is sufferingly mightily from an excess of sun and high temperatures, and no snow. Or at least, we're supposed to be suffering, apparently: personally I'd be more than happy if the current weather continued for another couple of months, until Spring arrives. Certainly keep the heating bills down. So far we've had all of two frosty mornings, which must be a record for a month of November.

The cheese platter
And amongst the many positive things to be said for an absence of snow is, quite simply, that it will mean an absence of Parisians. The English can no longer afford to come over and swan around on the slopes any more (and in any case they were never really a problem, as in the vast majority of cases they fly over and then take the bus or the train up to the stations) and if, to boot there's no white stuff on the ground there's really no point to even the most die-hard Parisian ski-bunny coming down this way to clog our roads, steal our jobs and, for all I know, rape our women.

The only downside, really, is that Chambéry is situated, like Grenoble, in a sort of bowel bowl inbetween various mountain ranges and massifs: normally there's a constant flow of air from north or south which shifts things around but for the last two weeks all has been still and so the dump is smothered under a yellowish haze of pollution, trapped under some sort of thermocline or whatever it's called.

So for those same past two weeks there's been a mandatory lowering of the speed limits all over the place by 20kph, which means toddling along on the VRU at all of 70k. Which, were I foolish enough to respect them, would add another 20 minutes or so onto my travel time every day, definitely not a pleasing prospect.

Of course, there's this Greek meteorological phenomenon called hubris, or something like that, which I suppose goes some way towards explaining why it was that, having written all about this marvellous weather, today dawned gray and drizzly. But not cold, and no sign of snow (except for a fine dusting up on the Belledonnes), and at least it wasn't actually raining as such as I trudged around the market, trying to avoid the joculators, mime artists and the old hags with shopping trolleys weaving precariously behind them.

Probably, paella royale
In fact it was even clear enough for Bryan and I to sip a few vitamins out on the place behind the hotel de ville as we watched the lacher des ballons for Telethon, hoping all the while that some small child would get entangled in the strings and be carried heavenwards, screaming helplessly under a flight of yellow and purple balloons. Alas, it was not to be. One of those days.

Of course I had to go past le Modesto and I'm afraid that the flesh is indeed weak for the smell of their ever-simmering dish of diots au vin blanc tempted me: so much so that I went off and bought a couple of diots at the market, en route for le Refuge. Which was kind of silly really, because the only person that will eat them around here is me, and even with the best will in the world I cannot stick away four of the things in a sitting.

Great Cthullu: bad hair day
Not really the sort of thing that appeals to Sophie either, and anyway she's up in Paris for the weekend, but luckily Stacey was at home, had no plans, and loves 100% pork sausages, especially when browned and then simmered in white wine with onions, rosemary and thyme, and potatoes. Problem solved.

(On the other hand, octopus really does not turn me on. Call me old-fashioned if you like, but with the notable exceptions of scallops and lobster I really do prefer my meat to have bones in it.)

And as luck would have it, I just happened to have a wee baby rougette and a beautiful crunchy baguette in the car (you can tell the boulangerie is good, the queue to get in goes around the corner and the carparks just in front are a clear and present danger) which, along with the wine (for not even I use a whole bottle for the diots) makes for a pretty good lunch.

In another couple of weeks the market, at least, should return to a semblance of normality once people have stopped coming just to gawk. It's a bit of a shame in a way because even though the old building was admittedly grot, at least the entire ground floor was there for the aisles of stands and wotnot, with even - if you were determined and had muscular elbows - room to move around.

In the new old building - for they've kept the grot façade, pointless exercise 'cos that was probably the ugliest bit - there's only about a quarter of the space available, the rest having been dished out to places like H&M and the FNAC. Now why they couldn't have stuck those on the upper floors, with escalators all over the place, and left the rest of the place to the market - which is, as they love to point out, open 5 days a week so it's not even as though the space is wasted - I will probably never know. Because I'm not an architect, nor a town planner. Happily.

Mean-looking dead fish. Possibly daurade.
Whatever, although I admit I am not blessed with great patience I do in fact have spiteful bony elbows and no shame (yes, I can in fact turn around, having poked someone sharply in the organs, and say "oh sorry" in an accusing tone so that they apologize) which means that navigating around the place, once I've worked out where I want to go, is not overly difficult.

So that in a little while, once I've discovered where everyone is these days (still haven't found the cheesemonger who does the batusson, hope he didn't get lost in the move), things will be good. Until, of course, the snow finally arrives, because now half the stands are outside, exposed to the elements. And believe me, trying to get small change out of your pockets when you've got gloves on is a breeze compared to trying the same act and at the same time trying to balance an umbrella over your head in a Siberian wind blowing sleet horizontally.

Zombie lobsters, wanting dead fish BRANES!
Anyway, we're not there yet, and I came upon the mushroom man again, and as the shitake looked so tempting I wound up staggering off with half a kilo. They could go into a Chinese-style mushroom stew, with oyster sauce and all, but I rather think they're destined for a mushroom and bacon strudel, seeing as there's a packet of filo in the fridge.

At which point, as I'll have the oven on anyway, and the filo already out, a pear pastis would seem to be called for. Which is tonight's dinner taken care of, at least.

Or so I thought, until Beckham - who'd been conspicuously absent from our midday libations - texted to invite us over for her 30th birthday party: the idea being, I suppose, to get the old folk tanked up and then pack them off home for their bedtime cocoa whilst she and the yoof celebrated in style.

Bloody Corsican clementines
So we left poor Jeremy to his own devices, and the mushrooms sitting sadly in the fridge for another day, grabbed a bottle and a few leftovers to nibble on, and headed back to Chambéry for the evening's entertainment.

It's a funny thing, but for some strange reason if you get a group of, let's say, thirty people, all of whom speak English and with maybe two or three native French-speakers in there, pretty soon everyone will be speaking French. Out of consideration? Don't know, and I rather doubt it, for the converse is definitely not true.

I think it's maybe some sort of stealthy cultural imperialism, with the poor oppressed French sneakily getting the anglo-saxon invaders to speak an obviously superior tongue.

Pooey, so good!
Whatever, it was a good old-fashioned student-style party, with the whole crowd of us crammed into Beckham's ridiculously small bedroom, drinking out of plastic cups and jamjars and leaving cracker crumbs in the sheets. And luckily she has a little balcony, so that the smoking contingent was not obliged to take the creaking old lift seven floors down to the street to stand in the drizzle for a quick nicotine fix.

(Actually, I cannot for the life of me think why that lift is so damn small. You could possibly squeeze three people - close friends - in there at a time, but there's no way you could use it to shift any furniture bigger than a hat-stand. This fact alone may go some way to explaining why the French apartment-dwellers tend not to shift out once they've finally got their stuff in there. Also, perhaps, why when they are forced to move, they go about it seriously, with a sort of fire-engine style truck coming along with an enormous bloody telescopic ladder. Still a bitch getting the furniture out the windows, I guess.)

Tomme des Bauges
But I digress. Sadly we're not really in training for that sort of thing anymore, so we only spent four hours or so remaking the world and making sure all the bottles really were empty before persuading the car to take us back home.

And now, I'm afraid, it's a dismal gray Sunday, with a ghostly silver light coming through the clouds down south behind Grenoble, and quite literally overnight all the leaves seem to have fallen off the trees. Which probably means that I should go down to the garden with a rake, but quite frankly I can't be arsed.

Come to that, there's all sorts of things I really should be doing, but somehow it's not really the right day to be doing them. I do dislike Sundays.

You know this is honey, right?
Maybe I'll just go find a good book and curl up in the comfy chair with it and a coffee, before going off and contemplating those mushrooms ... or perhaps I should go and do some baking. Or both.

(Just in case you wondered, all the photos are from Saturday's market, taken with the faithful 35mm lens 'cos neither of the zooms will let me get in close enough when I want to. Also the lighting is kinda random - being a mix of neons, halogen spots, incandescents and, should the stall-holder feel like it, tallow candles or oil lamps - which makes getting the white balance right a bit of a hit-or-miss affair. So up to four or five shots to get one that's not tinted red, or blue, or too flat ... thank god for digital cameras, I say.)

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