Not much different from the rest of the summer, with one difference: the grapes in the upper left hand corner of the board, which are everywhere. They have seeds, which I've learned to ignore instead of spitting them out except the odd huge hard one, but they have remarkably little taste, due to a lack of acid. I was really hoping for something better. Ah, well: there are now tons of pears, although they seem to be coming from Italy, and I'm keeping an eye open for them and for heirloom apple types, which seem to be coming in from Provence, which is nearer.
The rest of the bounty here is fixin's for ratatouille, which has been running through my brain recently because of a breakaway idea I had for it (to be reported if it works). That's what the long tomatoes are for; the regular ones are from the tomatologist, and wound up in salads, except for the two small ones, which were in a pizza with one of the eggplants, an experiment which worked okay, but needs a bit of fine-tuning. Unfortunately, my pizza stone shattered during the cooking of this, and I need to hit some building-supply stores here in search of untreated terra-cotta tiles. Or maybe start a pizza-stone company to sell them to the many fancy-cooking places.
The blobby looking thing with the multi-colored exterior is a pepper saucisson sec, which seems to have too much fat for just slicing and eating, like I usually do with them for a light lunch. I'm going to cube up a bunch of it and throw it in the scrambled eggs with crisp potato cubes tomorrow for breakfast and see if it's got any redeeming qualities at all.
This photo is from Tuesday's visit. Today I got more stuff -- another melon, some green beans, some lettuce, the usual -- and added a pound of these things:
They're called cocos at the market, but what they are are fresh white beans. After buying a can of white beans the other day to make pasta a la fagioli I felt like an idiot, with these things fresh in the market. But on the other hand, I didn't know how to cook them. Turns out, the ever-reliable French Letters did, and I refer you to her post for further info. Not sure quite what I'll do with them yet, but there's always pasta a la fagioli! (Known to barbarians as pastafazool, if it sounds familiar...)
* * *
One thing that's at the market and on the streets these days is not (to the best of my knowledge) edible: kittens. Is this the time of year that cats have kittens? Because there are these old women pushing boxes on wheels and selling baby animals. The first one I saw was just off the Comédie, and I thought there were little Davy Crockett hats on sticks and it was a performing kittens show until I got closer and noticed that the "hats" were furry mice on springs for the kittens to bat. These old ladies are kid magnets, unsurprisingly, so you get to see lots of French parents being importuned by lots of French kids to buy a kitten to take home. At the Arceaux market last Saturday there was another one, and she also had a couple of puppies. These ladies are apparently in the business, because the boxes are decorated with pictures of baby animals and clowns, which latter would keep me from adopting one, no matter how cute it was. I also wonder: is this a scam of some sort? Their sudden appearance on the scene just makes me wonder. But then, I'm the kind of guy who'd look at a kitten and see a scam, aren't I?
* * *
Mentioning the great meeting of Montpellier's associations a couple of weeks ago, I seemed to have missed one I would have joined in a heartbeat: yesterday I learned about the Right To Sleep Association, which is concerned about the growing amount of noise in the streets late at night. I'm okay with a certain amount of it, and living just behind the Comédie, I get to hear some late-night drunkenness, but my downstairs neighbors, Les Lunkheads, have, as I've noted, overstepped the boundaries numerous times. The worst came a couple of weeks ago, when a woman went utterly insane about 5am and was pushed out the door and into the street, where she continued to scream incomprehensibly. The landlord got told about this, and took some kind of action.
But what's odd about Les Lunkheads is that they're not, as you'd guess, 20-somethings. "People into their mid-30s are acting like this," my Right To Sleep informant (who must remain anonymous for fear of late-night reprisals). "It would be one thing if it were teenagers feeling their hormones, or encountering alcohol for the first time, but it seems like it's becoming a regular form of behavior. My wife and I were sitting watching a film and we had to turn it off because we couldn't hear the soundtrack, thanks to the bar down the street -- and we had our windows closed in the middle of the summer!" Having experienced his own chapter of Lunkheads, he and some similarly affected types had meetings with the city, but as yet no plan has been hatched and no action taken. By the time the city figures out what to do, we'll all be sleeping with our windows closed and the problem will abate until next spring, just you wait and see.
* * *
I'm trying to remember: what French entity has my age on file? The telephone company? The bank? The reason I ask is that last week, along with my New Yorker, I found another magazine in my mailbox: Notre Devenir. On the cover, a hot woman with salt-and-pepper hair has placed her hands over the eyes of a guy her age, who's clearly enjoying it. "Our development?" What was this? I looked at the small type below the logo: "Magazine of information about services and pre-planning for funerals." I note that this is issue number one, dated August. Somehow, this is a magazine I can't imagine working for, and I wonder how often it comes out. (Interestingly, I've discovered that there are people who subscribe to bridal magazines for years and years, even after they get married, so I guess anything's possible. Well, except for the dead renewing their subscriptions to this one.) I didn't even break the plastic on this, though, so I can't tell you about how to get into Père Lachaise in Paris, which was one of the articles featured on the cover.
Okay, that was bad enough. This morning's mail, however, had a special offer for Siemens hearing-aids. Although, given the number of ear-bud wearers I see around me, that may not be an age-specific campaign at all...
* * *
This is second-best:
When I first visited here, in 2005, I chanced upon a bakery with a plaque outside which said that the baker there had been selected as the second-best baker in France. The Vieux Four St-Anne, though, isn't the kind of place you go into casually. It's small, and you'd better know what you want because there's always a line. I was intimidated, and on all my visits here, never went in. Then, when I moved here, I was around the corner from a fantastic bakery, so when I wanted a sandwich, it was no problem just to walk a couple hundred feet for a fresh baguette.
But this morning, I decided it was time to stick my head in the place, since it was on my way home from the market. I was in the mood for a sandwich, and I'd get a baguette to cut in half for one. There were several different sizes available, including a huge one that, after it went stale, could be used for a baseball bat. Interestingly, too, the baguette here was 85 cents instead of the €1.20 at my corner bakery. I ordered one, and the woman asked "Bien cuite?" ("Well done?") Great idea! She disappeared into the back, stuffed it into a paper bag, and took my money and handed it to me. I almost dropped it: it was still hot. Not warm: hot.
I let it rest while I took care of some business at home, and then made my sandwich. It was perfect: the crust was sturdy and flaked all over the place (I still have to sweep the floor: I mean, it was flaky!) and the crumb was the perfect consistency, chewy but not even close to tough. There were some large holes in the crumb, too, indicating that the leaven was natural. There was a slightly sour flavor, balanced with some sweetness. And I have the second half to eat with the mussels I picked up for dinner, too.
While I idly wonder who walked off with the plaque for best in '04 (the sign has long been taken down), I have to say, second best is good enough for me. And there's all those mini-pizzas and other pastries to check out...
Le Vieux Four St-Anne, 10, rue Eugène Lisbonne, 34000 Montpellier. Phone: 04 67 84 45 58.