across the river, but still in Uzerche, France
He stood at the baguette basket and picked up first one and then another, handled them gently, pressed a little, returned them until the best one was found. He was a young man, perhaps mid-twenty-something wearing a pinstriped suit and pointed leather shoes. A middle-aged matron did the same with the sliced pain campagne. And an old lady too. Not to be left out, a distinguished-looking elderly gentleman took his time selecting his pain au choice.
At the cheese cabinet a lady opened the wooden boxed brie and sniffed deeply. She, too, prodded, searching for the right degree of ripeness. The first, second and third rounds were not to her liking, but the fourth victoriously dropped into her shopping trolley.
Similarly, salamis were surveyed and selected. Plaited bunches of garlic perused. Plastic-packaged pates prodded.
And me? Well, I certainly didn’t take the discarded bread. That is to say, following French example, I too *picked up* one of the offcasts, but shaking my head ever so slightly, put it down, preferring an identical one. I took the same pate as the lady before me – besides, it looked big enough to feed our lot. At the tomatoes, overcome by the smell of summer garden, I forgot to be choosy and simply piled the Christmas colours into a bag ready for weighing. By the time I got to the cheeses, the game was over. Any observing shoppers would have felt as much despair as Monet being asked to paint by numbers, if they noticed La Foreigner making her selection based on the per kilogram price.
That was all at the supermarket in Rouen (make sure you hold your nose before you try saying *that* name if you want le french accent) a few days ago….and a few days before that we had visited another supermarket in Calais, which I wrote about, but failed to mention that when we emerged, a half hour high speed acrobatic air show demonstration was taking place high above the housetops in commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of Bleriot making his crazy but now famous sea crossing in a single-engined plane. And what a spectacle it was – eight planes weaving and darting about the sky in perfect formation; red, white and blue smoke frequently spilling behind them creating parallel lines, pictures and in one absurd instance, a line for another plane to spiral over and under and over and under, right way up, upside-down, right way up, upside-down. That was our first day in France!
Now, a week later, the contagious French attitude to food is rubbing off, but the price obsession remains the dominant feature. Maybe this is why we were unable to take away anything more than pictures from La Marche that was set up in “our” carpark this evening.
Earlier in the day we had been evicted to an altogether more beautiful spot across the river while the space was overtaken with vans full of honey and summer fruits and wine and cheese and fresh bread and colourful beaded necklaces and singers, who crooned their way late into the night. It all looked delicious and organic and local and seasonal, but it was so pricey that we just admired and looked forward to our supermarket cheese and the range of breads we buy at the newsagent around the corner. (Grandpa had spotted the DEPOT PAIN sign – in the middle of the books and magazines and stationery items is a huge paper sack of metre long baguettes and a couple of wicker baskets of other delicious breads. As good as any market loaf, and undoubtedly as fresh and local – and half the price.)
In the morning we’ll vacate our idyllic spot….
….in favour of the hardly-any-less-pretty carpark with electricity and toilets (and friendly neighbours)….
….and we’ll pass another wee temporary market….and this time we will buy. One massive Savoy cabbage, fresh green beans (very French, y’know) and yellow zuchinni, the latter to grate into spaghetti.
Much nicer than the emergency English mushy peas we forced ourselves to finish off the other day – but even then, France was taking hold and we added Persil (that would be French for parsley, not a washing powder) to the Pease Pudding and served it on a plate instead of straight from the can <wink>
Time on the road: minutes!
Distance covered: 1km