Friday, October 8, 2010

Days of Lard and Lenin

My local supermarket has tons of stuff, but it lacks one thing that I use, albeit in moderation: lard. I don't know how the locals make pie crusts for their tartes, but I know I have to have it to make biscuits and flour tortillas, two things which often wind up on my Sunday breakfast table. But there's a solution: way down at the end of Tramline Number One there is the Odysseum, a mammoth mall which includes a Decathlon sporting goods store and an Ikea, as well as the supermarket/department store which always lives up to its name, Le Géant. If anyplace in France is going to have something you can't find elsewhere (but which is made in France, natch), it's them. So with nothing else holding me at home, I decided to ride down to the Odysseum and visit the giant.

That wasn't my only motivation, though.

The President of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, in which I live, is a controversial fellow named George Frêche, who is such a nutbag that the Socialists actually threw him out of their party, so he formed a sort of I-Love-George party, a lefty Lieberman move, if you will, and still managed to get re-elected. His Wikipedia article isn't up to date, though, because it doesn't mention his latest folly. Oh, building the Odysseum, with its annoying faux-ancient-Greek theme loosely based around Odysseus' travels, is one thing. But at one end of it (the one the furthest from Ikea) there's a huge round concrete plaza, around which Frêche has decided to install, at great cost, statues of Great Men. The first five have just been erected. There's Franklin D. Roosevelt and Charles deGaulle, of course:

And Winston Churchill, whom I couldn't get a good picture of, and Jean Jaurès, of course:

You can't do Great Frenchmen without including Jaurès, at least not down in this part of the country, and there's already one in the center of town that looks exactly like my brother-in-law Frank, in the Place Jean Jaurès, which is covered with tables where students drink and eat pretty much all the time. Jaurès was one of France's great socialists, and a pacifist who tried to head off World War I, but was assassinated first, and you can read all about him on Wikipedia, too.

But there's another statue there which has raised a lot of hackles since these first five were unveiled. It's of Vladimir Ul'ianov, called Lenin. Like each of the others, it cost €200,000 of French taxpayers' money, and, as someone who's slowly making his way through A People's Tragedy, by Orlando Figes, an 800+-page history of the Russian Revolutions and Civil War, I'm afraid I have to say M. Frêche has put his foot in it big-time. Figes paints a portrait of a nasty little asexual being, addicted to violence and adulation, who, like his successor Stalin (whom Frêche is, reportedly, not averse to adding in the future after the astoundingly mediocre sculptor delivers Gandhi, Golda Meir, Nasser, Nelson Mandela and -- another nice guy -- Mao Zedong), seems to have enjoyed killing people just for the hell of it.

I also love the way the statue is positioned:

After snapping this pic, I became curious about what this Altissimo place he's pointing at is, and it turned out to be (appropriately enough for France) one of those fake-rock places where you can practice climbing. There's plenty of fake French rock on the sound system at the Odysseum, too.

I have no idea what this plaza is supposed to be used for, and there's no clue there, either. That Frêche has already spent a million Euros on this embarrassingly bad municipal art and has another million's worth on order is bad enough. It's not that easy to find, and there was almost nobody there when I was except for a couple of French people who just had to see for themselves that there was actually a statue of Lenin at a shopping mall in Montpellier. How embarrassing.

Anyway, I got my lard, so breakfast tacos on Sunday, with home-made salsa picante.

A pound. A year's supply.


  1. Have you tried asking your butcher for graisse de porc?

  2. You're making the erroneous assumption that I *have* a butcher. That's a hurdle I have yet to jump. Meat is more expensive here than in Germany, for some reason (maybe because it's higher quality), and there's also a new vocabulary to learn. I'll conquer this somehow, but until then it's plastic-wrapped stuff from the supermarket. Not that I eat much meat these days!

  3. Loved this one. Learned something too. Every post should end with a pound of lard!

  4. Oh, OK. Graisse de porc isn't quite the same thing as saindoux anyway.

  5. Going to Wikipedia for accurate information is like going to a brothel for lasting love.

  6. I had no idea there was a statue of Lenin in Montpellier. But I'm not surprised at all. My little village has two political parties; Communist and Socialist. Right now the Communists are in power. (I hope they let me back in Texas).
    And what time will the breakfast tacos be ready? I would like a chorizo and egg and a bean and cheese please. Gracias.

  7. @Brian: yeah, but for bare-bones stuff -- like who Jaurès was, which I've been curious about for a while -- it's good enough. Ditto Ganesh: there are enough Hindus on computers that I'm happy enough with what I read, and I'd feel the same way about, oh, St. Peter or something.

    @Sara Louise: Enrique told me that when he dropped Lupe off for work this morning she was in a bad mood, but I risked your order with her anyway and she said "Tell her she want the whole menu, she gotta get up earlier. All we got left is potato and egg." And it looks like I'll be having them in about 30 minutes. Sorry, try again!

  8. Saindoux is easy ! When I first came to France, 27 years ago, I needed suet for a Christmas pudding; there is no word for suet in French. So I asked my local butcher if he had kidney fat from a cow & if he could sell me some. He looked sceptical enough and downright suspicious when I asked him to pass it through the mincer. When I'd paid, he couldn't help but ask me what I intended to do with it. "A fruit pudding" I said; hiseyes almost popped out of his head


Site Meter