Victuals, Nuptuals and Criminals

Comfortable chair, fourth floor, rue Carnot, Poitiers, France




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Farmers’ markets are not only colourful and good places to eavesdrop if you’re trying to pick up another language and tasty produce at the same time, they’re where small producers can, without embarrassment, lay out two bunches of knobbly carrots looking like uncles you’ve known, one cucumber, a hand full of potatoes, and for the heck of it, several small bunches of cheerfully colourful flowers. Yes, If one had managed to arrive earlier perhaps there might have been a few more potatoes, but it feels good being able to buy small amounts of blemished and tasty fruit and vegetables pulled this morning probably, right out of the earth (or off the tree) belonging to the person selling them, while he or she grabbed a bouquet or two from the garden for those wanting visual rather than visceral nourishment.

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The range of fish and molluscs and crustaceans and other sea entities and meats is amazing. Especially the meats. I haven’t seen anything like it since vet school. Even than I doubt I could have identified everything. The French eat absolutely anybody. Sometimes they leave heads unplucked so you (and possibly they) know what exactly it is you’re taking home to put in the pot. But you have to hand it to them, they waste nothing; they eat absolutely every part one way or another. Remember this at dinnertime.

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Of course, getting engrossed in the market can mean you’re too late for any of the real estate agents who may have been on your agenda given that they close at noon on Saturday, but instead you may be rewarded by running into a wedding at the Town Hall (Hotel de Ville) then a wedding later at the cathedral. It may even have been the same wedding as there are two ceremonies I think, one civil then the religious one.

They really do hats at weddings here.

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Later as you sip a glass of rosé while reading through real estate brochures at a café next to the Palais de Justice (Courthouse), you may see two men being escorted briskly down the long flight of stone steps from that very building and across the cobbled plaza through strollers, lovers, map graspers and hip-hugged jeansters, wrists handcuffed behind their backs.

It certainly is all action on Saturday.

Later, when you decide to have a meal out, you may not be too hungry after demolishing a number of pepperoni type things you picked up at the market. You may not know what they’re called because you may have cheated and just pointed.
The salad looks good. Just water, thanks. No, just the small salad. Then it appears, a mightily heaped plate of, certainly lettuce underneath, slices of prosciutto around the side and then some chopped warm unidentifiables in the middle. You eat the beansprout garnish on top. So far, so good. Unfortunately, last night you may have looked up a few gastronomical terms to explain menus which you’ve enjoyed being surprised by up till now. The words, gizzard, and offal spring to mind. Unfortunately you can’t remember their French counterparts, and even if you could, you don’t remember exactly what the menu said was in the salad you ordered.
You eat the lettuce out from under whatever it is, and wonder how on earth you’ll decorously get out of eating the rest as there are more and more pairs of diners mounting up on both sides of you, watching your progress and blocking your exit. The only option you have is to catch the waiter’s eye with confidence, then do the hand across the throat international sign language for, “I’m afraid that this might be gizzard which I’ve never had before and which I don’t wish to start having now besides I had a pepperoni type thing for lunch, in fact, several, and am not as hungry as I thought and can you take it away please because even if it isn’t gizzard I don’t think I want to know what else it is” . He nods.

Your stomach is relieved when it recognises coffee, which also makes it look like you’re coming to the close of a normal meal, all of which it could be assumed you have eaten.

Tomorrow you will explore whether it is possible to be vegetarian in France. Apart from that other salami type thing in the fridge...