24 April 2011

Market day in Saint-Aignan

I didn't take my camera. Walt wanted to stay home and roll some more paint on the walls, so he sent me off to the market. It being the day before Easter, we knew that the market would be crowded and busy. We also knew that the supermarket would be a zoo, and I needed to go there to get bags of kibble for the cat and for the dog.

And a zoo it was. Inside the store it wasn't too bad, actually, but the parking lot was a minefield of hazards. I had the impression that a lot of people who don't drive very confidently and who aren't used to navigating a crowded parking lot were out and about. The weather was of course beautiful (but it rained later in the day — hooray for that).

At the supermarket I got, for us, a big bag of prunes — nice pruneaux d'Agen — to go into a stewed rabbit dish we're planning to cook this week. I got raisins, purple and gold. I got red wine and white wine. Neufchâtel and Valençay cheeses. Des oignons et de l'ail. Lettuce. It was all very appetizing.

Then I drove down into the center of town to pick up a couple of things at the open-air market. The main thing was a special chicken Walt had ordered from our favorite poultry vendor a week ago for pick-up this weekend. It's called a « géline de Touraine » and it's an heirloom breed of chickens that has been rescued and revived after nearly going extinct.

I'd seen a French TV show about these birds a year or two ago and have been wanting to cook and taste a géline ever since. Wikipedia says about the géline : « C’est une volaille de type fermier, rustique et vive, à la chair compacte, blanche, très délicate et fine. À rechercher le type ample et allongé et le squelette plutôt fin, pattes légèrement emplumées. » — "It's a farm-raised fowl, hardy and active, with dense white flesh that's very delicate and fine. Look for a long plump bird with thin bones and sparsely feathered feet."

You always have to special-order a géline in advance. Nobody seems to sell them right off the shelf (or out of the market stall). There are a couple of breeders in the area that specialize in raising gélines, but I haven't visited them yet. If you're coming to Saint-Aignan to see us and are interested, let me know and I'll try to set something up.

The price came as a surprise. The bird cost twenty euros! That's nearly thirty US dollars at this point. Eleven euros a kilo. And I got the géline from the vendor who in my opinion not only sells the best poultry but who also has the lowest prices I've found.

I'm going to cook the géline today. I'll just roast it on the rotisserie in our little oven. Plain. Just to see what a géline really tastes like and what the texture and consistency of the meat is. From the poultry vendor I also bought a rabbit. That's for later in the week. I got a kilo of white asparagus spears too, from a local grower.

Then I started running into people I knew. First it was a French woman who lives in Austria and whose mother lives in Saint-Aignan. Then it was an English friend, a woman who has lived in France for 25 or 30 years. She and I went to sit at a table at the Lapin Blanc — the White Rabbit — café to have a glass of wine. Soon another English friend, a man who has also lived in France for 25 or 30 years, stopped by and joined us.

Then an Englishman of my friends' acquaintance, a man who has a house in a village five or six miles down the road, stopped by to chat for a minute. A Dutch friend I hadn't seen in a year or more stopped to say hello too — she spends summers in Saint-Aignan and winters in the Netherlands. The sister of a French friend who passed away a couple of years ago also came by — we hadn't seen her in a year or two. The French wife of my English friend also joined us for a glass of wine.

And so it went. We stayed there talking with all these friends and acquaintances, who were out to buy food for their Easter dinners, for about an hour. It was very pleasant, and I'm sorry Walt missed it. But when I finally got home, he was just finishing up the latest stage of the painting project, and it's looking really good.

Late in the afternoon, we started hearing rumbles of thunder off to the north and west. Then it rained for a while, a nice gentle shower without much wind. I never saw any lightning, but the thunder kept rumbling off in the distance. We were on the southeast edge of whatever storm it was that went over.

Walt just got back from walking Callie and says we got half a millimeter of water in the rain gauge from yesterday's shower. That's hardly a trace. Maybe we'll get another shower or two today.


  1. Three drops as I was walking from the métro to a friends' on Montmartre.

    I went to the market on Friday, ran into a friend on the way home, walked back towards the market with her a bit while we caught up, started home again, saw another friend.... It's always like that. Paul was wondering what took me so long -- and how I managed to forget the bread.

  2. a friend's -- sorry 'bout that. Fingers flew too fast.

  3. Not a drop of rain yesterday but did get a very faint sprinkle an hour ago.

  4. Happy Easter Ken! C. and I had a Géline de Touraine in 2009 at the 'Val Joli' restaurant in Vouvray. It was delicious, served in a Chinon red wine sauce with mushrooms and spetzels. I bet your roasted version will be just as good!

  5. Sounds like you had a nice day.

    White Rabbit, eh? That reminds me of Jefferson Airplane (showing my age).

  6. Happy Easter to all!

    Ken, that market day experience sounds just lovely -- what a treat to leisurely visit with friends after gathering such fresh and exciting food for today's feast :) I hope there will be photos of the Géline!

    I offered to make and bring the potato dish for today's Easter meal at a friend's house. I am working from the recipe you posted somewhere along the way for Gratin Dauphinois. I'll let you know how it goes! Thanks for the recipe and the inspiration!


  7. That's what I call a great afternoon; drinking wine and chatting with friends. Have a good holiday.

  8. p.s. Yesterday on "Paris Daily Photo", Eric posted a photo of "L'Hôtel de Saint-Aignan" in Paris. I've certainly never seen it before, and wondered if any of you had? Here's the post.


  9. Judy, thanks, BettyAnn sent me a link to that post by e-mail. I wasn't aware of the Hôtel de Saint-Aignan in Paris, or at least I've never visited it. I know the neighborhood and the next time I'm in Paris I'll make a point of seeing the place.

  10. Now that was a perfect trip to the market! It's so nice to catch up with friends.

    Looking forward to pics of your très cher chicken.


  11. Joyeuses Pâcques, Ken.

    My gratin was never made because the Easter Dinner I was to attend this evening was cancelled due to illness of the host. Oh well. I will rustle something up for myself.

    Your eventful day at the Market sounded like fun. I bet you had a lot to add to the conversation after your visit to the East Coast.

    Today is our rainy day after several dry ones. It is so superior to having to pull out the hose, n'est-ce pas?


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