Monday, June 27, 2005

One Frenchman’s Junk is Another American Girl’s Treasure

The sign for the fete d’ete at Aveize said “brocante” and while this word can mean a range of anything from junk to collectibles, to me it means potential treasure trove. In this case, all the local people from the town of Aveize had their personal stuff that they were fed up with out on tables. The range of stuff was huge. I must say, I am a master at these things. I can zip through and find the perfect things in record time. Let’s see...I bought 2 round rattan chairs from the seventies (12 E), the perfect painted white paper towel holder (3 E), 2 large willow laundry baskets (30 E), 3 marble egg cups (3 E), a beurrier (1 E), the perfect painted white bamboo style bathroom mirror (5E) and a few Barbies and Kens (bribery). All in all, a great haul.

So, I go to retrieve my car from far off and drive right up to the square where I must collect and pack up mes achats. These middle-aged men who are all waiting in line for le dejeuner a midi (which must be part of the festivities) all start harassing me, “Madame, you cannot park there, it’s forbidden. Watch out, watch it, you’re backing into something,” So naturally, not being a local girl, I am inquieté since the French are all about rules and regulations and doing things the right way – their way. I ask a nice seeming guy, former possessor of 3 marble egg cups, if indeed parking is interdit there. “No, their just teasing you.” And I think of what I would say to them if I was back home (not polite) and pretend I don’t hear their silly comments. These french men need a lot of attention, il me semble. Hmmmmmm

I’m sure I stand out like a sore thumb here in La France Profond – single mother, dressed in Agnes B black dress and brown flip-flops my mother recently bought me “down the shore” (with my best Rid accent). I clearly speak french, but everyone must immediately know that I am not a local girl. Perhaps they think I am from Paris until I open my mouth. I was once standing in line a la Poste with my friend Anne in Perigord, where I used to rent a house, dressed in practically the same black dress (but a size 8, sadly), and these 2 old widows kept staring at me with sympathy. It took me a while to understand. They had lost their husbands recently too, they wanted to reach out to me. I laughed then, but now I think it was so sweet and I wish I could tell them so and perhaps console them for their true loss.

Lunch at Z + J’s is always memorable. The Latvians are there and sing grace for us again, but in English this time. Isabelle, my dear friend, is back from Switzerland. It’s great to see her. She is my connection to this whole wonderful place. Pierre and his 3 daughters are there too, so as usual, lunch en famille, is a big event. Everyone pitches in.

Zizou is a great and simple cook. Her Poulet au Citron is legendary and I adore it. Here’s the recipe:

Take the equivalent of one whole chicken, season with salt, pepper and herbs (my preference, fleur de sel aux épices grillés and poivre de Penja from Basic French, cut in pieces and brown in olive oil in a large skillet on both sides. Brown really well, on high heat. Add 2 cups of piquant green olives (which can be hard to find, but I usually pick the ones with pimento or garlic at home,) 2-3 lemons cut in round, thin slices and one cup of water. Keep on medium high heat and cook covered for 45 minutes, turning chicken occasionally. Cook uncovered for the last 15 minutes so that the remaining liquids begin to thicken and everything begins to sizzle. You almost cannot overcook this — the chicken should be falling off the bone. Serve with brown rice, fresh salad with vinagrette and a bottle of St. Joseph.

The girls are still a bit shy, but the pool serves as an embassy, welcoming Americans and Latvians alike and by the end of the day, with sunburned shoulders and pink cheeks, all nations are one in an exuberant and splashy game of “avoid the shark”

We make our way home, bellies and car full. I wouldn’t change a thing about this day. I have discovered my own treasure.


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