Monday, May 23, 2011

More Merry Maytime Miettes

Sorry, I promised a quick report on the wild asparagus, but what with one thing and another, I forgot to come back and give the report.

First, I looked at it and figured it wasn't a meal by itself. It did, however, need to be steamed, because it may have been thin, but it was still pretty fibrous. So I went up the hill to the covered market and bought some side-dishes, then laid them out on a plate, and boiled the steaming water.

(Yeah, I hate the yellow cast these energy-saving bulbs imbue everything with in these shots too, but when I went to Photoshop to try to fix it I wound up with something that looked like "Meal On Acid." I really must conquer that program some day).

So what we have here is a couple of slices of Iberian ham, a pâté en croûte, a hunk of baguette from the corner, and M. Bou's finest Camembert (his only Camembert, in fact). Also a bottle of Domaine de la Prose's low-priced stuff -- hardly low-priced, but it's a St.-Georges-d'Orques, probably the best local address for wine. (They used to brag that Thomas Jefferson used to buy wine from them, but suddenly stopped, probably because it's demonstrably not true).

When the water boiled, I stuck the asparagus in the steamer basket and steamed it for 45 seconds on the nose, then laid it out on a small plate, doused it with a bit of olive oil and a little salt, and it was dinner-time.

The final verdict: it was too much for a single serving. It should have been steamed longer -- a minute minimum. The taste was very delicate, somewhat bitter like asparagus, but with a sweet edge. I wonder if another 15 seconds' steaming would have brought out the flavor more, or maybe a tad more salt. The ham, as I suspected, made a good foil for it, and the rest was kind of superfluous except for filling me up. The wine was way too big for the asparagus, but it went nicely with the pâté and cheese.

I also suspect this stuff has a diuretic effect, because I was up and down all night. Again, a half-dose might not have had that effect. I noticed a couple of days later that the same greengrocer in the Halles had more bundles of this stuff, but, at €4.95 apiece, I'm not likely to buy more until I have a place big enough to have dinner-guests in. Which, I hope, will happen soon.

And, in the uncovered market this weekend, more cherries -- still not there -- asparagus, amazing strawberries, and the first melons, which sure smell good, but are waaaay too expensive. I can wait.

* * *

It must be hard being a street artist here. Someone went around with a stencil and hit a couple of likely walls, spraying on a very realistic-looking phone and the highly ambiguous slogan (in English) TALK TO GOOD. I'm still trying to figure that one out. Is it a misspelling for "talk to God," making the point that there is no God, and this isn't a telephone? That's as close as I can come. But I walked past one of these twice and forgot to grab it, and when I went back the third time, it was so well painted over that I couldn't even see where the phone had been.

Likewise a great paper piece on the side of the Panacée, the ancient seat of the University's medical school, which is being turned into some sort of arts space. There, a winsome little girl in 19th century clothing had her hands on a detonator, from which a long string of paper led up the wall to a sconce in which there was a bundle of what was labelled TNT. All rendered in paper, all gone when I went out with my camera. Conclusion: this isn't Berlin, and it may just be a place without the ability to discern between art and gang tags. I'll try to be quicker on the uptake.

It's also a place with a curious command of English, as that caption proves. I've been meaning to note another one here, a boutique which advertises itself with the slogan "Be Fashion Think Seven's." I don't know about you, but that invitation seems quite resistable.

* * *

Yet to come, the photo show, which I see is not only at the Pavillon Poplaire, but also at Ste. Anne's church, and, from what I can tell, shows the latest acquisition of the municipal photography collection. I'm happy to live in a city that collects art, but, because one of the acquisitions is a huge number of Ralph Eugene Meatyard's awful Lucybelle Crater series, about which I complained at some length here last year, I've been slow to get off my duff and go get disappointed. Also in the new acquisitions are some shots of East Berlin by a Japanese photographer, whose samples in another recent show were little better than tourist snapshots. Don't worry: I'll go. And I have a good excuse, in that I've been working on a book proposal. I still am, but I do promise to go see this show.


  1. I have to disappoint you - this is not actually asparagus (wild or otherwise) even though it can be called l'asperge des bois. It's apparently from the lily family - Ornithogalum pyrenaicum in Latin.

  2. The mystery deepens, then. Does it have a name in English? I first saw it at markets in Paris, and then went to Lausanne to visit a friend and found it there. I was still living in Germany at the time, and never saw it there. My friend in Lausanne was the one who identified it as "wild asparagus," although you're right; it doesn't look much like it. Tastes a bit like it, but so, supposedly, does salsify, which is called "poor man's asparagus" in Germany. (Well, also Schwarzwurzel, or black root).


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