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Monday, June 6, 2011

French Travel Tales: La Belle Gasconne, 2006: A Story Part 2

Picking up from Part 1, our shopping journey began at the millhouse, La Belle Gasconne, in Poudenas in Southwest France. I was on board with the business of stick-shift driving. Hadn't I learned to drive stick in the "hills" of Colorado Springs? The first obstacle presented itself immediately: our car was parked on an incline that tilted into the Gelise River. As I attempted to put it in reverse and back up, I realized it was possible, and even likely, to plunge over the edge into the steep embankment. While I love the river Gelise, it didn't seem right to risk all my passengers, my son, his girlfriend and my friend, taking a swim so early in the morning, so unproperly caffeinated as we were.

The Pond at La Belle Gasconne

Unaware of my difficulties, the other two cars - housing Marie-Claude, Christian, Cathy, Mary, Glen and Jon - sped off. With nothing but duck, lettuce, foie gras and cafe au lait on their mind, they might have no idea that we were lost to them. My friend Constance offered to drive her car instead.

Constance, it turned out, was a race car driver and sped along the D656. We found the other two cars pulled over, puzzling over our absence. We pulled in behind them and gave the thumbs up, then we all pulled out again. Three tiny cars humped together on the road. Like ducks to market. We chugged up the hill, past the tiny village of Mezin, then hauled our patoots down the remaining 15 kilometers to Nerac.

Our first stop was on the road as you first pull into Nerac: a little unassuming ├ępicerie. We walked in and Marie-Claude was greeted warmly by the owners. She calmly went to the lettuces with Erick. Samantha was busy taking photographs of the whole outing. Mary and I spied the zucchini we needed for the courgettes a la creme. Marie-Claude picked them out carefully and I was reminded of the times I had worked as a food stylist, when you must look every zucchini in the eye to see if he is hero material or not. Marie-Claude preferred them small and tender sweet. It was a bit past the season but she knew we would enjoy this particular preparation of zucchini.

But there was a host other ingredients besides courgettes to procure. Marie-Claude seemed pleased in general about the lettuce and picked a number of heads of green leaf, batavia and escarole, and mache for a mix. Then she conferenced with Erick about his preference: Would he like apples or pears to caramelize and garnish the foie gras? He and she nodded over the piles of fragrant fruit.

An Assortment of September Salad Lettuces

I had to laugh. Because, would it matter? Anything Marie-Claude made would be stupendous. And so it was decided finally between the three of us: pomme (apples) would play faux pas to the foie gras tonight.

Now, Wine.

Marie-Claude divided the rest of our list into four categories: shallots, garlic, and pomme de terre; creme, eggs, and butter; foie graspoulet, and saucisse; and bread. We occupied ourselves with diligent squeezing, pressing and smelling of legumes et fruits. They must be perfect. Picture perfect. With solemnity, we approached the register. Marie-Claude drew a deep sigh of disappointment, no cream on these shelves that sufficed and so we would need to move on and purchase them elsewhere. We pushed out into the sunshine of the warming September sun and loaded the boxes of lettuce and zucchini in Constance's trunk.

Next on the list, Poulet! Come back next Monday, June 13th for Part 3 of La Belle Gasconne, 2006.

Just Plucked Pigeon in Nerac
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