26 October 2008

Too early

That could be a title referring to the fact that we have now gone back on heure d'hiver — standard or winter time, they call it — here in France. I keep telling myself that it won't be eight o'clock until nine o'clock this morning. It's very confusing. Callie is going to wonder why her walk is so late.

But "too early" actually has to do with the street fair in Saint-Aignan yesterday. That's when we got there. I was up very early and we were out the door by about 9:30, after Walt took the dog out. When we got to Saint-Aignan we found a place to park and took a walk to survey the scene.

A view of Saint-Aignan's old towers from near the town cemetery

In fact, there weren't many people out yet and I think some of the vendors hadn't yet set up their stalls for the day. The morning weather was chilly but the sun was already peeking through thin clouds. The St-Simon festival is an all-day affair and I think people were waiting until later than we had to join the fun.

A lot of the vendors were selling clothes and shoes. I'm sure some of them had good-quality, fashionable pumps, jackets, shirts, and dresses on offer. But the overall impression I get when I see the merchandise for sale at these kinds of markets is that it looks very old-fashioned. And it can be pricey at these special events — one vendor was selling bedroom slippers for €30 a pair. Similar slippers go for €5 a pair at SuperU or Intermarché.

Carnival rides were being set up on the main town square.
That's the château de Saint-Aignan looming in the background.

Pricey is the word for a lot of the food on sale too. One vendor had cheeses like big wheels of Gruyère or Cantal, but he was asking €30 a kilogram for it. I bought AOC Comté, a similar if not better cheese, at Intermarché on Friday for €8.50/kg.

Sometimes you think these vendors, who most likely travel a circuit from town to town over the course of the year to sell what they sell, are playing on older people's confusion about prices in euros as opposed to the old prices in French francs. In other words, something that would have cost, say, 7 francs a few years ago is now on sale for 7 euros, like the little butter cakes from Brittany at one stall. The problem is that the euro is worth 6.5 francs, so that's quite a markup. Seven francs is just a little more than one euro.

Later in the day, the weather was nice enough for hot-air
balloons to be drifting over the autumn countryside.

There were also stands selling, or getting ready to start selling, hot food to eat. There were big long rolls of boudin noir (blood sausage) sitting in stainless steel pans over a warming fire (€11/kg). At another stand there was a big pan of andouillettes (chitterling sausages) steaming away in a sea of white beans with a light tomato sauce. It was pork'n'beans on steroids. It was too early in the morning for those strong odors.

Nobody was selling bernache yet. The stands were set up, the signs were posted (€1 a glass), and the tables were set out. There were even a few bottles of bernache on the tables. Well, not bottles as you might think of them — they were plastic Evian and Vittle mineral-water bottles that had been filled with the yellowish, cloudy bernache, which is the year's first wine and is still fermenting when you drink it. They say it can wreak havoc with your digestive system, but people think it's fun to drink some at this time of year.

It's the time of year when people burn leaves and other yard waste.
There was a big fire off on the horizon, across the river from us.

You can read more about bernache and a lot of other interesting topics on Susan and Simon's blog, Days on the Claise.

It was only 10:15 or so, so too early for bernache, blood sausage, or andouillettes and beans — at least for us. We did a fairly brisk walk-through, decided it wasn't really for us, and headed for the food market. We needed mushrooms, and the woman who grows them and sells them in Saint-Aignan on Saturday mornings was there. We bought 500 grams of white button mushrooms for today's blanquette de veau. Then we walked back to the car and drove home.


  1. Hi Ken,
    Are yard fires still allowed in France? When you burn waste in your garden in Belgium you're likely to get a large fine! Especially if your neighbours have complained about it :-(. More so, you are not allowed to cut your lawn or trim your hedge on Sundays or national holidays.

    Enjoy your 'Blanquette the veau'. We are having 'Tomates farcies' & frites for lunch today. Martine

  2. Martine, we don't have any real restrictions on burning leaves and other yard materials here. We do have noise ordinances, so operating noisy power equipment like lawnmowers and chainsaws is prohibited early in the morning, at lunchtime, on Sundays and holidays, and after about 6 p.m.

    The blanquette was excellent. We had it with boiled potatoes. It was veal, mushrooms, small onions, and a cream sauce.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?