Saturday, March 25, 2006

Marché Batignolles

So I meant to get up today at 9:00 to check out the market on rue Batignolles early, but ended up sleeping in until 12:00 as I had woken up at 3:00 and didn't get back to sleep until 8:00. I was worried it would all be over and done with by the time we would arrive, but it was still going quite strong.
This market is the smaller of two organic (biologique) outdoor markets, and consists of maybe 40-50 vendors selling everything from oysters to charcuterie to wild honeys to teeny radishes to Pommeau to goat cheeses of every size and shape and even to a weird nut husk thing that can apparently be used instead of soap for laundry (?). You get the point, there was a lot-- and then there's also various traiteurs (prepared food vendors), from whom we bought a melting yet crisp French potato, onion and cheese (comte?) pancake (think latke), and crepes au confiture.
There was a small throng of French dudes in varying states of drunkeness hanging around the stand from which we bought our crepes, as the vendor also sells Pommeau (a mix of Calvados and apple juice, aged, with about 17% alchohol), cider, Calvados, buckwheat flour and other Normand products. One of the dudes was dressed in a homemade Superman outfit, clearly the most drunk. He ushered me over and within moments I had about 8 very jovial French buddies, and a small plastic cup of the aforementioned Pommeau. Serious stuff, I can see why they were having a pretty good time. I talked with them for a little while, and like everyone here, they guessed I was from Spain (which I take to mean I hopefully have an ambiguous accent). When I said where I was from, one of the guys said something I didn't understand, and then he repeated himself (in English) "ah yes, Minnesota... it is the middle of nowhere, n'est-ce pas?" So, friends, apparently that is our reputation in the world!! And then there was the guy who I guess makes the Pommeau (and I would guess drinks his fair share) who corners everybody into listening to his lenthy songs and poems which I'm pretty sure have to do with making and drinking Pommeau, cider, and possibly other things. His apparent favorite is a Micromachines Man-style piece which uses his business card as a prop, with about three dozen cheesy rhymes something to the effect of "See this apple here? Have no fear! I make my Pommeau all through the year! And because my farmland is kissed by the sun, when you drink my Pommeau, you'll say son-of-a-gun!!" Now imagine that pretty fast, about a minute and a half long-- and of course in French. This is where the smile-and-nod tactic works very, very well.
So, in the end, I walked out of the market with two little goat cheeses (a Picalou and a Saint-Marcellin), some nice starchy potatoes and fresh garlic, some long, skinny raw saucisses aux herbes (herb sausages), and some huge spinach. For dinner we made mashed potatoes, the wieners, and sauteed spinach with garlic. The sausages were actually kind of weird, fairly salty and reminiscent of Chinese ones, only not dry. My guess is that maybe they should be more of a component in a dish, rather than an independant element. The potatoes were good, considering we had only milk, salt and pepper in them-- I just know a ton of butter and maybe some green onions would have made them out of this world. The spinach was the real winner, tender and utterly mineral tasting. France cooking effort number one: not too shabby.

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