13 December 2015

“Fruits of the sea”

That describes what I saw at the open-air market in Saint-Aignan yesterday. Fruits de mer. It's the holiday season, and people's thoughts here in France turn to seafood. Crab, shrimp, prawns, gambas, oysters...

Saint-Aignan is lucky to have a seafood vendor who drives up here every Saturday and sets up a big stand on the market square to sell about the best seafood you'll find anywhere. The seafood people come from the coast near the Ile d'Oléron, about four hours south of us and an hour or so north of Bordeaux.

The big stone crabs above, sold cooked, are going for for 14 euros per kilogram — that's about 7 U.S. dollars a pound. The crab claws are selling for 26 euros a kilo, or just over $12 per pound. I bet they are both really good, but I didn't buy any.

There are also shrimp, or what you might call prawns. They're almost always sold already cooked here in France. The ones above are advertised as "wild" — in other words, not farmed. They're priced at 48 euros per kilo, or about $24 a pound in U.S. terms. Yikes! The euro is trading at about $1.10 U.S. right now.

There are different kinds of shrimp/prawns in the photo above. The big ones in the middle are, I think, farmed, and they're imported from Ecuador. You can get them for about $8/pound. On the right you see crevettes grises, or gray shrimp. They're tiny. They cost more than the aquaculture shrimp and supposedly have better flavor. I don't think I've ever tried them.


  1. "It's the holiday season, and people's thoughts here in France turn to seafood".....
    It is cold, grey, damp and foggy... my mind's turned to porridge!!

    1. Typical December weather in this part of France.

  2. I had a conversation with 3 French female friends the other day. We were comparing what we would all have for the meals over the Christmas period and what is traditional. It was obvious that for the French the only absolutes were fruits de mer and foie gras. Everyone was going to have those two, then the main course could vary, but chapon was probably the most popular. Most people would have a buche de Noel for dessert.

    1. Sounds about right to me. Goose used to be the tradition, but turkey and capon have taken over. I like chapon de pintade myself, but we are having a turkey this year. I ordered it from our favorite poultry vendor at the market yesterday.

  3. Even though are host are, by request, giving us curry we seven expat English will be eating an Xmas pudding imported from Sainsbury's !
    Bliss on all counts here in SW France.

    1. potty... turkey curry is traditionally eaten on the 28th December...
      25th... hot roast turkey
      26th... turkey volovents [because you have got all sorts of people around for Boxing Day drinks] and possibly sausage rolls... oh... and bits of orange "cheddar" and pineapple on cocktail sticks... and bowls of Twiglets...
      27th... cold turkey salad
      28th... curried turkey [English style... with raisins!] served in a nest of rice
      29th... turkey soup with turkey and salad sandwiches
      30th... turkey soup second incarnation... all the leftovers added, especially the curry
      [and ham sandwiches]
      31st... turkey soup leftovers... eaten on the fly... the haggis needs to boil!
      And our Christmas pud this year is also a Sainsbury's one

    2. Sounds like you all need to go spend Christmas in England.

      By the way, in America we would have turkey sandwiches on one of the days after Christmas, and then turkey-barley soup, and then maybe turkey à la king. Here, we might make a dish of hachis parmentier with some of the leftover turkey.

    3. Ah... Turkey Volovents... Boxing Day...
      but it would appear that the nearest place for me....
      to get the ingredients...
      based on my location...
      is Cincinatti....
      I think not!
      the power of modern technology!

    4. The above listing is the torture my bro'n'me would be forced through every year...
      I didn't bother to mention the overboiled sprouts!
      I haven't roasted a damned turkey since '85!!
      The only saving grace was my Gran's recipe for chestnut stuffing for the neck end...
      50% chestnuts, 35% minced pork and 15% onion... salt'n'pepper to taste...
      couldn't get enough of that...
      then I discovered half-cooked sprouts...
      fried up with chestnuts and onions to finish them off.
      We'll be having that with the capon we've ordered for this year...
      but, capons are quite large... and there's only the two of us....
      oh, NO!

      25th... hot roast capon
      26th... capon volovents or supreme of capon served in a nest of rice
      27th... cold capon served with a rice salad
      28th... curried capon [English style... with raisins!] served in a nest of grains
      29th... capon soup with capon and salad sandwiches
      30th... capon soup second incarnation... the curry added... served with ham sandwiches
      31st... capon soup leftovers... eaten on the fly... the haggis needs to boil!

      I think I'll buy some tins of Heinz Baked Beans as an antidote!

    5. The 47xxx postal (ZIP) codes are in Indiana, which is just to the west and north of Cincinnati OH. I imagine the site is reading your Indre-et-Loire postal code. Isn't it vol-au-vent? A franglais term. Usually in French what you are talking about is called une bouchée à la reine.

    6. The best turkey I've ever had has been turkey in France. Did you know that there's a town (or village) not that far east of us that specializes in raising farm turkeys? I can't remember the name, but it's on the other side of Bourges, south of Nevers somewhere.

    7. The turkey town in France is farther south than I remembered. It's called Jaligny-sur-Besbre, and it's not far from Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule, south of the town of Moulins. It's a destination for me... some day.

    8. We have just returned from Sunday lunch out and six (out of the seven)of us had a traditional Xmas Day lunch with Turkey, ham, roast potatoes and parsnips, sweede pureé, peas and sprouts.
      Meal put on commercially for some 30 paying customers. Great start to the festive season!

    9. I agree about French turkey....
      in fact all the free range fowl meat I've eaten and cooked in France has been moist and full of flavour....
      and the turkey meat is darker, too...

      To return to topic... I'm on a seafood diet.... seefood and eat it!

  4. I think my seafood post got trampled by a herd of turkeys.

  5. IIRC vol-au-vent is an extra large bouchée à la reine!

  6. I think in England the vol-au-vent is served as a sort of finger food.

    1. Yup! No more than 2" in diameter...

    2. So, in France that would be a bouchée à la reine.

  7. I've always been impressed with the quality of seafood vendors in France, whether market stalls or shops and even when the town was a good distance from the ocean. I remember one late afternoon when we were staying in Sete, on the Mediterranean, and walked by the wholesale fish market as the day was ending. There were trucks from towns all over southern France loading up with seafood and heading off towards their towns.

    1. Interesting, Bob. I agree that the French seafood shops an market displays are impressive.

  8. The farmed shrimp are about the same as what we pay here; ours come in bags cooked and peeled. But, wow, those wild shrimp are pretty pricey...I'll have to check our seafood counter here out of curiosity. I remember growing up in Texas, Gulf shrimp were very cheap, but that was 50 years ago, lol.

    As for seafood traditions, we always had smoked oysters and crab on New Year's Day. Along with black eyed peas.

    1. When I was growing up on the N.C. coast 55 or 60 years ago, shrimp were so inexpensive that we bought them to use as bait when we fished for small fish called "spots" and hogfish, among others.

  9. Ooooh, beautiful displays of fruits de mer, Ken! :)


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