Saturday, June 24, 2006

entre deux

Entre deux. Between two: between mountains and sea (like Pierrerue), between two worlds (like me).

Madison’s Saturday market. It’s my first this year. Slow going. The foods are good though. But it’s different than back in St. Chinian. There, one cheese guy would sell ten, twenty different artisanal cheeses. Here, each producer displays her or his own. I note one but want to check out another. I have to backtrack. Where you begin the “circle around the Square” becomes quite strategic.

On the up side: the flowers today are magnificent.

Madison summer 06 004

In St. Chinian, I wanted to buy flowers for my Sunday lunch hosts. I thought, perhaps, that bringing a bouquet of 15 roses was overkill so I asked for something smaller. The flower seller shrugged, pointed to some lesser flowers and went on to form his giant bouquets. It took a while to convince him to do a smaller one for me. Here, the mix and match opportunities are infinite.

But oh, do I miss the olive stand. Spicy, garlicy, herbed, dried, brined, so delicious, served at every meal I ate in France, Sicily and Croatia. Missing from our markets here. Face it, Wisconsin can never become the olive capital of the world. It’s fussing with vineyards, why I do not know. We should stick with cheeses.

On the up side: we have the greatest number of artisanal cheese producers in the country. We let California pick up more and more of the mass-marketed stuff (go for it, California!), but we are leading in the beautiful chevres, sheep’s milk camemberts, cows’ milk beaufort-like aged tommes.

I go to Steve’s Liquor to stock up on rose wines.

What great ros├ęs do you have from the Languedoc region?
There’s one good one. We try to promote them, we really do.

I sense the frustration.

I see you heard about the EU discussion of wine subsidies this week. [10% of French wines do not get consumed and I’m sure the percentage is higher from Languedoc. It winds up being converted to industrial-grade alcohol. Producers receive subsidies, but the writing on the EU wall says: no more.]
Don’t make me feel bad for promoting Australian wines today!
I think any time you promote quality, you are doing a good thing. It’s when people buy cheap new world stuff that the moderately priced old world producers suffer.

I’m going this September for the harvest. Are you?
No, September is a terrible month for me to travel, unfortunately. How is it? I’ve always wanted to go…
A lot of prostitutes on the side roads! They follow the pickers as they move up north with the harvest.

On the up side: we don’t get prostitutes in the States for the harvest. I don’t think. But what do I know – California is so far away. California, where 80% of the wine is made by 4 major producers. France, where in any one region you will find over ten thousand small producers.

Changes, I note that even in two months a place can change. Berries ripen, buildings get torn down. What happened to the corner building on Park and University? A new Bruggers’ Bagel store went up next to Starbucks. Ed, who had been with me in Sicily, is driving a new (but very old) truck.

The other one rusted out so much that the bottom was threatening to fall out. I wanted a small one and could not find one. This ’92 Ford Ranger has V6 engine and power steering. What can you do… I see gas prices are going down again. People will drive more and keep on using bigger cars.

Music, I hear music. Off to the side of the market, two couples are dancing in traditional costumes. Wait, I know that folk costume. It’s Polish. Polish pride, here at the Madison market. Basque pride at the St. Jean de Luz market.

Madison summer 06 006

I check Ocean comments. People write such nice things! I see Carole and Jean-Francois from Aigues Mortes are commenting. I go to their website to see photos of their Camargue days. I am transported to the hour at their two-table eatery and wine tasting shop. If I could be anyplace right now (5pm, as it was then), it may well be there.

I unpack my Pierrerue neighbor artist’s paintings. I stand them against the wall for now. It will be a while before I can think about the extravagance of good frames. They deserve good frames.