Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mid-September Miettes

It's been a while since I posted anything about the market, mostly because last week I was consumed with tomatoes and when I woke up on Tuesday, I realized I'd better use some of the stuff I still had laying around before I bought any more. But today I went to the market and got mugged by the realization that time is passing. Gone are the mountains of tomatoes, the heaps of shiny eggplants. Oh, you can still get tomatoes and eggplants there, and I suspect you'll be able to for some time to come, but not in the quantities I'd been used to. I also suspect the prices will go up as the supply goes down.

Instead, there's suddenly a flood of grapes, both green and purple, which is hardly a surprise because the wine-grapes, too, are probably about to get harvested. I should -- and probably will, on Tuesday -- get a bunch of these. I'm a bit prejudiced against them because my grandmother had a small arbor of Concord grapes outside her house, and, well, they weren't very good. Then, in Berlin, there was always a time of year when huge green grapes (with huge seeds) appeared on streetcorners, and they had very little taste, but were consumed enthusiastically nonetheless. Another thing that's appearing is squashes of various sorts, and I'm going to devote a bit of research to how to use them. One farmer today had a few small heads of cauliflower, and various sorts of onions, too, are showing up.

I'm enjoying the discipline of trying to buy all my vegetables at the market and let the seasons guide me in my cooking, which is why I felt kind of stupid returning today feeling a bit resentful that the market was "out of" what I wanted. I still have a ratatouille experiment I want to do, and I'll do it this week, I hope, but the way the nights are cooling off after midnight and the fact that taking a walk in the sunshine doesn't dehydrate me should be clues as to what's happening. As should the date on the calendar.

And I'm not sure if it's seasonal or not, but Montpellier is about to play host to a giant beekeeping and honey conference, Apimondia, which will include, among other things, a working beehive in the Esplanade not far from my house, so I'm hoping my jalapeños bloom (they're working on it) so that the bees can visit my balcony and I can wind up with some chiles!

* * *

As I was walking in town today, a guy came up to me and opened his fist and showed me three bottles of pills he was apparently trying to sell me. He talked so fast I didn't really get what he was trying to say, but it was pretty obvious what was going on. Less obvious, though, was exactly what was going on, although I'd gotten a clue yesterday. He was wearing a white pharmacist's coat, and the pills were candy. It was part of his bizutage.

The word, I'm told, translates as "hazing," and freshmen entering some of the professional schools (including pharmacy school) here participate in it. This explains the group of kids wearing black garbage bags, hitting each other in the face with "pies" made out of shaving cream on paper plates. It explains the group of young men wearing cardboard wings and makeup running up the street, loudly hawking pieces of scrap paper for only a euro each.

I'm really sorry my professor friend has disappeared, because I'd like to know some of the history behind this. With some of these schools dating back a thousand years, these traditions could very well be ancient, although I've never seen any documentation of garbage bags or shaving cream that old.

The sudden return of students, who are suddenly visible by the score, even when they're not doing bizutage, is another sign of the changing seasons, and I guess I welcome it. French students seem incapable of doing anything alone, so they hang out in clumps. In the supermarket, this is great: a line which may look long may, if analyzed, be simply a dozen students buying a couple of 24-packs of beer and some Coke Zero. So you just get in line behind them and you're outta there in no time.

* * *

Finally, a bit of t-shirt watch, before it gets too cold to wear them. The Inno store has apparently got a line of fashion items called Peace Process, which I find amusing, selling bags and t-shirts with Peace Process Needs You emblazoned on them. But the one I really like (don't these people ever find native speakers to check with?) reads I Am A Love Result. (Note: I have yet to see anyone wearing any of this stuff).

But the winner was a guy I saw this morning. You know those t-shirt lines the big brands use that look like rum labels or ads for shipping lines? Kind of a Jimmy Buffett vibe, with tropical stuff like palm trees, and the lettering kind of weathered, in an old typeface. Well, this t-shirt was one of those, but what it said made me wonder if it were sly propaganda or some idiot in China with absolutely no clue. It read Guantanamo Bay: Psychological Warfare.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter