18th august 2004


Having stayed by the sea a few days and hung around on the beach in the crepuscule, and seen a horse and rider pass by, I remembered this Calvino quote I last read nearly twenty years ago:

Beyond was the sea. A faint clatter of stones. It was dark. The clatter became a hammer: the pony racing along struck sparks gainst the pebbles. From the low twisted branches of a pine tree my brother looked at the clear-cut shadow of the girl cross the beach. From the black sea rose a wave with a faint crest, it curled higher, advanced all white, broke and grazed the shadow of the horse and girl racing at full speed; Cosimo on the pine tree found his face wet with salty spray.

- Italo Calvino, The Baron in the Trees

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20th august 2004


Having been fingle-fangled into buying Steingarten's excellent It Must've Been Something I Ate by the ravenous Ms Gaw, I was all agog to large it in France.

Steingarten Task No. 1: Baguette ancienne must be bought instead of baguette ordinaire, despite being three times the price. It is three times as nice but was disallowed by children because of too spiky a crust and was never eaten again (at least they saved themselves from the wrath of the Gallic kitchen gods by refraining from asking for proper bread out of a bag as they've done in the past).

Steingarten Task No. 2: Acquiring a quantity of fleur de sel; easy I thought, since the Ile de Ré where it's made is shimmering just there on the horizon. Sad disappointment. No-one sells it. Presumably some goes to Paris delis and the rest is shipped directly to Steingarten.

Steingarten Task No. 3: Boudin noir. Boudin noir just does not exist. Even in Perigord where we went next, where they're past masters at squashing bit of animals into tins and selling them to tourists at crazy prices. Where the obsession with geese runs so high that most postcards to buy portray geese, and I had to back out of an exhibition of local paintings because of the subject matter. Maybe I should've been somewhere with a pig obsession, over to the southwest.

And so it went on, most food experiences confirming that although France is a proud nation with a great cooking history, the population now (in keeping with most of the rest of the planet) would rather eat mediocre pizza.
Although there was one idyllic restaurant evening where the oysters were extraordinary and the skate was cooked with salicornia, and the children ate langoustines off our plates.

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