Now, I pay as much attention to the Tour de France as I do to every other sports event, which is to say none whatever. I trace this back to my childhood, when I was becoming a baseball fanatic and doing pretty well at it -- well enough that I was really enthralled by the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. when my parents took me there -- until my chosen favorite team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, announced they were moving to Los Angeles. At about that same moment, I met a new kid in my class whose brother had become obsessed with rock and roll. When I discovered that there was this statistical side to that, too -- chart positions! -- I figured it was a lot more fun. Well, that and the fact that I was a totally miserable athlete. I wish I could remember who it was that said that the only thing their friends had in common was being picked last for teams in gym, but boy, did I relate: "Coach, do we gotta have him? We had him last week..."
Anyway, this means that I'm as far outside the sports mainstream as it gets. Sports plays as large a part in my life as the bond market. I vaguely knew the Tour would be in town, and that it would be in the Comédie, but that was all I knew. So while the rest of the world watched guys on bicycles zooming around, either live or on television (hence the noisy helicopters all day long) I stayed home and wondered how I was going to get fruit and vegetables. I got them at the supermarket and, while they didn't suck, they weren't very good, either.
But today we were back on schedule, and once again I was amazed at how little it costs to stock up. Here's today's haul:
That basket of what looks like plums is actually tomatoes. I have no idea what the yellow ones, let alone the purple ones, taste like, but at 2.30 for the basket, I couldn't resist. The melons are the type called Charentais, and are very close to American canteloupes. I bought them from a mute farmer who works at the very back of the market. He had tons of tiny yellow plums and a couple of other things, and weighed his produce on an ancient balance. He really can't talk, and when I payed him 1.50 for the big melon, which came out of a box offering two for €3, he made all kinds of signs that I should take one from the 3/3 box, too. They're both quite ripe, so he was probably trying to get rid of them since it was late.
There are a few of the fine green beans -- the French seem to esteem beans by diameter, which is unsurprising because most of the green beans I've bought here have had strings -- that I've been getting from a young guy who's in constant motion at the market, processing people's orders, but looks like he probably kicks back with a fattie when he gets back to the farm. I've been making salade niçoise a lot recently, because it's a great hot-weather meal. I cut a small, peeled potato in to coins and steam it until it's soft, then a handful of these green beans. Then I let them cool off. Put down a bed of lettuce, drain the oil out of a can of tuna, plop that into the center, ring it with beans and potato coins, and toss a bunch of the teeny tiny Niçois olives over the whole thing. I then take a shot of vinegar I bought at the market from a winemaker (€3 per liter), add a bit of Dijon mustard to it, whisk it like a madman, and drizzle in some olive oil and dump that over the finished salad. Serve it with a nice baguette de tradition from Ortholan, the bakery on my corner (half of one is in the shot), and pour one of the many cheap-but-amazing rosés in the shops.
Finally, some more of the fantastic organic eggs -- €2 for six -- and €1.30 worth of the cherries from the family whose stand I always hit. They have tons of peaches now, and I'm going to pick some up on Tuesday, along with the wild strawberries everyone's suddenly got here, which they have in quantity. They're just a bit larger than a pencil eraser, and I'm really looking forward to them.
Adding this all up, I spent €8.80 on all of this, and have breakfast, lunch and dinner -- once I score some lettuce and tuna, another maybe two euros -- for much of the week.
Just more proof that I'm broke, not poor. Mind you, I wouldn't at all mind not being broke, either.