Sunday, April 3, 2022

Faithfully Every Friday

Before I head out the door I remember to tuck a hat into the pocket of my raincoat. The car heater is turned up high so I can soak up some extra heat on this damp morning. I drive straight into town because the “Road Closed” sign isn’t up. The Brantome market happens every Friday. But the road is only closed seasonally, when there are so many market stands that they choke the narrow road between the Abbey of Brantome and the River Dronne. It’ll be Easter before that happens.

I don’t envy these vendors that are faithfully here every Friday all year long. This core group is not big, but they are committed to their role in the life of the Brantome market. Rain or shine, freezing cold temperatures or bitter blowing wind they are ready for customers by eight o’clock and hang on until the stroke of noon.

On these cold, often dreary, mornings they rely on a slow, but steady flow of equally dedicated regular shoppers. This is the season when we take the time to get to know each other. With no line behind me I ask the fromagier about the cheese process, I ask the honey lady how the beehives are surviving the winter, I hear about children, grandchildren and dreams of retirement. Laughter floats on the cold air.

Over the years I’ve worked out a shopping loop based on the weight of the items I will purchase. There is always the chance that things will have to be rearranged if some fragile delicacy unexpectedly shows up- chanterelles, blueberries, walnut cakes. This time of year there isn’t much chance of the unexpected. Maybe in the next week or so I’ll be surprised by asparagus or spring radishes.

Here’s pretty much my routine:

Two fresh trout fit perfectly at the bottom of my basket. Did you know that trout only get as big as the pool they are kept in? I don’t know what size Mr Trout’s pond is, but each trout sold measures almost exactly 30 cm.

The singing tomato man only has onions and garlic for now. He sings for them, too, so I’ll pick some up. 

We’re pretty much sick of kale, cabbage and rutabagas, but if we are going to eat local they’ll have to do for a bit longer. Thank goodness one can buy half of a cabbage and pumpkin can be bought by the slice. A couple of rutabagas will do for the week. All year there are three vendors working at this stand, but for now two of them are just along to help unload and load. They spend the rest of the morning visiting with their Friday friends.

Funny how I never tire of the homemade madeleines  They are little seashell shaped pound cakes. The baker knows I’ll pout if he’s sold out of these gems, but I’ll be willing to substitute a croissant or pain au raisin if I’ve arrived too late. Not missing out on the madeleines is what gets me out of bed early on market day.

Crossing over to the other side of the market I’ll decide if there is enough honey in the cupboard. I’ve tasted the sunflower, locust flower, and forest honeys, but my favorite is the flavor of the wildflower fields, a hint of summer to come. Mrs Honey and I always chat about her two adorable girls. Sometimes during school vacations the girls come along to help and I can keep an eye on their growing up. 

I save a lot of time when there are only one or two people in line to buy homemade dumplings and samosas from Jean Baptist. Summer mornings there will be at least six or seven people patiently waiting to be served. I know he prefers the hustle of a busy morning. Hustle or not he is always smiling and we find little tidbits to talk about while he calmly wraps up my order.

If there is a line at Jean Baptist’s I’ll go first to the stall with my favorite cheese. I hate to confess this, but I usually bypass the goats cheese from over the hill and the goats cheese from up the road in favor of the sheep cheese from I don’t know where. We talk about the herbs they use to flavor the cheese, the age of the cheeses, how many animals they milk, but I have never bothered to ask where the farm is. I’ll have to remember to look at their banner next Friday. 

I always stop for a visit with Kay the Irish potter. We could chatter for hours, but she’s popular and I have to share her with other shoppers that enjoy her and her happy pottery. 

The last stop is the Flower Lady’s stand. There is no better way to brighten a grey day than topping off my shopping with a colorful bouquet or a couple of pots of cheery primroses.  

Tossing my damp hat in the back seat along with my overflowing market basket, my toes and fingers glad for the blast of heat, I thank goodness for my morning out with this dedicated core of vendors.  We cannot take for granted this quintessential image of French life.


Katiebird said...

Beautiful 😍, I’m there with you 😁

Katiebird said...

Beautiful 😍I’m there with you 😁

Unknown said...

Susan, We eagerly await every post from you. Thank you for bringing glimpses of life in France where you are!
We miss you and Tom and look forward to another visit when we can. love, Jil and Charles

Kathie K said...

I'm going to sound redundant, but oh, how I wish I were there shopping with you.

Kathi Lengel said...

We’ll be there again in July!