Saturday, July 18, 2009

Market & Miettes

I Never Will Marry: Well, I don't know about that, although, based on the next line of the song, I know I will be no man's wife. But summer is a great time to get married, and so a weird custom I thought was relegated to Germany has risen its head: the pre-marital embarrassment. What happens is that you and a bunch of your friends get dressed up, you in an outlandish costume, they in matching t-shirts, and you go out and do silly things to unsuspecting bystanders, although "unsuspecting" is probably the wrong word for someone approached by a woman in full clown regalia with a multicolored Afro wig.

As I said, I saw a lot of this in Germany, the most spectacular of which was a woman going through the main train station in Cologne dressed as a witch with little toys and packages sewn to her outfit. She and her entourage would walk up to people and beg them to take a gift, but she'd do it in a weird affected voice. When an American friend in Berlin got married, he wanted to go to a strip club. There turned out to be none: it's either cabaret or full-on sex, apparently. So his friends suggested he do...I forget what, but it involved dressing funny and giving out Obama buttons on the subway.

Then I started seeing people here do it: a guy wearing only a cardboard box (and, of course, boxers) walking around while his friends wore shirts that said "This is what she'll do to him." I just saw a girl wearing a t-shirt that said something about "thug life" rapping in French at a patron at an outdor café while her giggling friends took pictures.

I can't imagine doing this, myself. Not just now -- when I can play the "old grump" card -- but even in my 20s and 30s. Ritual self-abasement just isn't my thing, I guess. But if you're wandering around Europe some time and a clown offers you a cigarette, this is probably the explanation. I wonder if it has a name.

* * *

Speaking of names, there are always names in foreign countries that cause English-speakers to smile inappropriately. One of my favorites in Berlin was the newsagent on Kastanienallee whose name was Frank Offer. I always figured you'd go in there and he'd say "Okay, I knew someone smoked those cigarettes. I ordered them a long time ago, and they're probably stale. I'll sell 'em to you for two euros. The magazine just came out today, though, so that's full price. And that's my frank offer."

The one I see around here is all too appropriate to the United States: a heating and refrigeration tech whose trucks are all over the place with his name, Christian Rage, in large letters. Weird thing is, Frank Offer's name is meaningless in German, but according to my dictionary, the French for "rage" is rage. Guess his family would have been good to have on your side during the many battles that raged through this country in the dim past...

* * *

It's July, which means Estivales. This is a deal whereby artisans and food sellers set up along the Esplanade starting at 6pm every Friday, bands play, and everybody on the planet seems to hang out. I had some friends from Austin come in last night, and figured this would be a cheap enough place to get some food, so I went to the Tourist Department's website to see how long this went on (12:30, in case you're going to drop in). I discovered this on the English-language info page for the Estivales, along with the fact that they are "musical, greedy, and cultural evenings."

Hello, City of Montpellier! You have a native speaker who's made his living from his native language not 300 meters from the Office of Tourism who'd like to help you!

Yeah, yeah. I know how much good that does. Anyway, machine translators work cheaper.

At any rate, the shrimp, oysters, and sea-snails were delicious, and only 5 euros for four of each, although I'd like to go back with a bunch of friends and get a big coquillage and a couple of bottles of rosé like the friendly people with whom we shared a table last night did. And if you snake your way through the website there, you can download a .pdf file which will tell you which winemakers are showing on which week. Very impressive list.

* * *

Back to the market, since no holiday or bicycle race seems to be happening today. Those cherries are all but gone, but check out those tiny strawberries! More than I wanted to spend at 3.50 for 500g, and probably more than I can eat before they go bad, but who could resist? A couple of other pricey purchases: a saucisson sec covered with herbes de Provence which will provide lunches for some time (as well as seasoning for tomorrow's breakfast dish of eggs and potatoes and little cubes of the sausage), and a liter of La Colombe olive oil, which was 7.50. There are more expensive oils around (and one vendor at the market who must have two dozen olive oils marked with the place of production, some of which cost up to 30 euros per liter), but I found I liked this one for everyday use, cheap as it is. I also noticed that it's from Aniane, as is my favorite wine from around these parts Mas de la Seranne, so that tiny town is at the top of my list for a visit some day. Finally, nice organic lettuce, the usual half-dozen eggs and some funky-looking tomatoes that will probably be exquisite. And Tuesday's just around the corner, but I have to start finding some eggplant recipes because they're arriving in quantity, and are some of the best-looking ones I've ever seen. Til then!


  1. I beg to differ on the lack of strip clubs in Berlin. I celebrated a friend's birthday in a tiny one in Mitte, which ended up being a hoot because the strippers got the birthday boy to strip himself. When I walked in, he was on the little stage dancing around in his "birthday suit." Hilarious.

  2. Those strawberries look awesome!

  3. Also, I lived on top of a strip club in Prenzlauer Berg, if you recall. Oh and we have a Hooters now too. The Queer Beer contingent crashed it on opening night.

  4. Hello Ed, I'm in Le Gard this week. Olive oil at a low price is always mixed with some other oil. Pure olive oil is around 20 euros at least. I got a liter for 14 euros (if I remember well) in Ardèche last month, but the man who sold it to me was my friend Mireille's good friend. There was a program on TV a few months about organic products. They said that a lotion for the skin can be declared "organic" is 8 percent of its composition is organic. I think that's a shame. I learn a lot about French markets on your blog!


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