Sunday, July 13, 2008


We went to the outdoor market today. It has become our weekend tradition in the States and it seemed normal to load up in the van and go with all of the kids. Sam tried to talk me out of it because it was drizzling, but I insisted. I thought I was going to have to deal with the looks of "how dare you bring your children out in the rain without cover" because we've packed the shades for the umbrella (ironic?) strollers with the freight shipment, but interestingly enough, no one stared. In fact, just when I was starting to feel guilty looking down at Ryan's wet hair, I looked up and saw two girls about his age, walking behind their papa, as wet or wetter than he, and singing along like it was nobody's business. YAY!

Our first stop was a toyseller's booth because I noticed they had a sale on child umbrellas, but Sam wouldn't buy any. He always says that stuff like that that you buy at the market (anything that isn't food) is cheaply made and will fall apart before you leave the market... but I think that is just his optimism talking (tee hee hee). So, anyhoo, while we were taking shelter from the booth's awning, I noticed this cute little game that was basically a wooden puzzle with a bunch of fish of lots of different shapes and colors all jumbled together. Each fish had a little magnet in it. It came with two wooden fishing poles with a small magnet at the end of a string. Lily had been SCREAMING up to this point, but the puzzle/game soothed her immediately. It was 11 Euros and WAY too expensive, but I bought it anyway... Part of me felt like I owed her for letting us dry off under her awning, and part of me thought I should buy one because Lily so OBviously liked it. Also, surprisingly, the lady spoke a little English and was trying to talk to the kids. She didn't know the word for fishing pole and was grateful when I taught her (had to spell it) so that she'd know for the future.

Anyway, I had planned on buying lettuce at the market because I eat so much frickin' salad that I'm afraid I'm going to eat the garden clean, but then I realized that if I bought lettuce, my father in law would be insulted. Can't win for losing. So, instead, I thought about all the stuff that WASN'T yet ripe in the garden. TOMATOES!!! So, I stopped where there was another wide awning and had Sam buy us a few. They, of course, were beautiful!

As we passed by my favorite booth (always in the same spot), I realized my mistake. We shouldn't have come to the market that day. Tomorrow is a big holiday, but in our family, we get together as a WHOLE family the Sunday before weekday holidays. So, even though the smell of my FAVORITE kebabs sang a siren song to my senses, I had to pass by with a look of longing. No kebab today folks. Not unless I wanted to fake it at lunch (and as much as I love that kebab, I'm glad I didn't eat one... you'll see why...).

After wandering around the market a little more, I saw a table where they sell the olives and olive oil and it reminded me that I wanted to buy some local honey. This was some funniness, I tell you. It was basically a table piled high with UNSEALED jars of honey with water-faded labels. There were some that said, "Chessnut Honey" and "Forest Honey" etc. (but in French, of course). But I noticed that while they were all local, there were several jars of "Forest Honey" that were of different colors. I asked Sam to ask him why they were different colors (because he had that look... you know, where you can tell he's a man's man and wouldn't have felt quite as comfortable communicating with the woman of the family). The guy said, "'Cause they're not the same." Um, okay, we get that but WHY are they not the same? "They're not the same." Oooookay, then. So, he broke out some little plastic dippers and let us taste them. And sure enough, they WEREN'T the same. I guess we'll never know why. *shrug* We took the lighter of the two because Sam preferred it (although, I liked the darker one as it tasted--not surprisingly--earthier).

As we passed all the fare, I was torn between the compulsion to buy things just to support the market and the scrutiny of Sam's watchful eyes. That and the continuing drizzle on my kids' hair. So, I pursed my lips as I passed the tables of clothing, fabrics, belts, purses, BRAS and UNDERWEAR, sizzling rotisserie chickens (with little bald potatoes swimming in the juice at the bottom of the roasters) and countless other pretties. But as we passed the Chinese booth, and I saw the little packets of shrimp chips, I HAD to buy some. I don't know if you've ever had them but they are light like fried pork rinds but of a really smooth consistency. They are round and white and taste slightly sweet, slightly salty and a teensy bit like shrimp. I don't know how they are made (and I'm sure I'll never ask because I'm not sure I'll ever want to know) but they are so yummy. And the kids munched on them on the drive home... It quelled the pre-lunch I'm-hungries....

After a quick stop at the house to pick up the meat, we went to Sam's sister's house for the family lunch. As we walked in, the smell of something DELICIOUS attacked my nose and wiped out any memory of recent shrimp chips. The long table was set and ready to seat 18 (again, sorry, forgot to take pix) with the huge salad bowl on the table full of leaves waiting to be mixed into the pool of homemade vinagrette on the bottom.

I relaxed as much as I could and hung out with my sister in law while the menfolk were outside grilling the meat (because we were going to eat "barbecue" which basically means grilling meat outside... it has nothing to do with sauce or finger lickin' or slaw or anything... just boring old grilling--insert eyeroll here). I was JUST about to find a peaceful place when my other sister in law arrived. I love her and her husband to death. They are some of the most soft-spoken, gentle people I know. That's why I don't understand how they could have produced such rowdy young'uns. Now, I LOVE this children. I always have since they were little. But either they have gotten wilder or my nerves have gotten more frayed... Probably a combination of the two... But, I can only take visits with them in small doses. I hope they never read this blog (they speak English) and if they do, I hope they are not offended by my honesty.

The good thing about their arrival was that it signaled the beginning of lunch. My neice is about 12 and is just starting to dabble in the kitchen. They brought a huge bowl of pasta salad that was lightly tuna-ed and had a hint of lemon in it. Not a strong flavor. Not off-putting. Soon to follow was a dish of baked tomatoes, large slices covered in a reddish savory sauce and topped with bread crumbs and parmesean cheese. There were little pate de fromage--some little dumpling looking things that I at first thought to be large buttons of baked mash potatoes, but no, they were little drop biscuits of a light batter with a hint of cheese. There was also a vegetable loaf--a specialty of my older sister in law and one that, try as I might, I can NOT duplicate... I make something similar and mine is good, but it never has the same flavor or consistency as hers. And there were two piles of meat. One of long skinny sausage--a local type and another called muguez that is of Morroccan origing, both were extremely juicy (which is rare for muguez, I have to say) and deliciously seasoned; and another with thin, rosemary-seasoned pork steaks, which were ALSO ridiculously juicy and flavorful (and I'm no fan o' pork--in the words of a great sage, I just don't dig on swine).

Everything was delicious and followed by a plateau of cheese. Then there were three desserts: a light lemon cake loaf, a tiramisu ice-cream and a chocolate mousse made by my neice. All tasted delightful! We followed that with coffee or tisane (herbal tea) before congregating outside on the stone terrasse to watch the kids expend their lunches. Thankfully.

During the whole event, I watched everything in a state of "en garde"... I'm always on my guard around my in-laws. I don't know how your families are, but in this one, there is a fine line between real humor and ridicule. Because I only come here twice a year and lose a teensy bit of my French when I'm away, I can't always tell the difference. It'd be nice if I couldn't tell the difference at all. That way, I could be ridiculed in ignorance and oblivion. But no. I know just enough to sense when I'm about to be the butt of a joke. I wish I were a better sport. Maybe that's something I should work on. I don't know. But right now, in my state of jet-lag and anxiety about the next two years, I'm not very open-minded about being mature.

Anyway, my senses went on HIGH ALERT when one of the older kids came into the kitchen, handed my brother in law a PISTOL and said, "Is this yours?" It wasn't the fact that there was a gun in the kitchen. It could have been a fake or a sucky-dart gun or something. No. It was the fear and surprise on my brother in law's face that shook my whole body. "Where did you find this?" He asked. And the next thing I heard made me nearly faint. "Ryan found it."

Ryan found it. Okay, so it's just a beebee pistol. And yes, Ryan went into a room where the door was closed (I myself had closed it) but it was a GUN. And Ryan is not good with that. He has a very overactive imagination. I can easily imagine finding it, pointing it and shooting it at whomever is close by... which is usually is two year old sister!!!

That did it for me. I was ready to go. Gone was the peaceful morning. Gone was the relaxation the wine and good food had started to coax in me. It was replaced by anger and frustration. I'm going to stop there about that for now because I'm not sure I can be diplomatic and I know that not everyone agrees with me about guns.


NamMom said...

Glad to hear that you're doing well. We miss you hon! There's a thunderstorm starting to rumble in the sky here this afternoon, so it's a great day for this Chick w/ Sticks to knit =).

Annette Rine said...

Joelie! I'm loving your blog. Will definitely be tuning in for more. As it happens, I can explain the honey color differences! My family used to have hives and last year we visited a local honey house and got a little lesson.

The honey comes in different colors and "flavors" based on what flowers the bees go to get their pollen. In the states you can get "clover honey" which is a light honey and my personal fave and it means the bees are getting their pollen from clover patches. As a side note, when you're tasting honey you should start with the lightest and work to darkest because if you go the other way you can't tell the difference in tastes as much! Also, if you have allergies they say to eat the local honey to help fight them.

I hope you can enjoy France to the best possible degree. Your blogging makes it so poetic! Did I get it right that you're there for 2 years (as opposed to the twice a year you referenced was typical for visiting)?

Take care of yourself (and the little ones).

Catherine said...

Ah les Merguez les jours de fĂȘte!
You're so good at describing everything.
Your gun story is pretty crazy though. I would have freaked out too!

Rozzo said...

I am just testing this to see if I have managed to create an account.