The Little Things


    Jean-Yves showed me a big box of vegetables – zucchini, tomatoes, turnips, eggplant and mushrooms – he had purchased at the coop yesterday. “For ratatouille,” he said. “Very bueno! You cooking?” Umm, oui. I had never made ratatouille before but I figured it couldn’t be too difficult. I would sauté the veggies in a big pot with olive oil, onion and garlic, add rosemary and salt to taste and voila. Jean-Yves thought it should include lamb as well and said that before he left to run errands, he would get the lamb out of the freezer and put it in the kitchen. When I returned to the house around 11am, after spending a couple hours with the goats, I found the box of ratatouille ingredients but no lamb. Jean-Yves hadn’t left yet to deliver his cheese to local restaurants and families, so I asked him, “Ou et le mouton?” (“Where is the lamb?”) And he replied laughing, “Suis le fil!” Right. What does that mean? “We’ve run out!” or “Butcher it yourself!” I had no idea. Jean-Yves then flipped through the hefty French/English dictionary and found “fil.” It means “thread.” Something about thread? What? Now I was completely confused. I looked once more at the box of ingredients on the floor. There was a blue string tied around the handle. I followed the string to the counter top near the window. It was attached to a plate covered with a glass bowl. The mouton! I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed it before. Turns out, “Suis le fil” directly translated means “Come with the thread.” In this case, Jean-Yves meant, “Follow the string.” Very clever! I sliced and chopped all the veggies, sautéed the lamb with onion, garlic and rosemary and let it simmer together for an hour or so. It was savory and good and just enough for lunch and dinner that day. Bon appetit!

    La Fete est Chouette

    When Lucie and I returned from the market on Saturday, Jean-Yves asked me if I liked driving. “Oui.” I replied. “Very bueno, you et Estelle take beer to le concert du rock. D’accord?” Lucie then explained that there was a fete (party) in a town about 50 kilometers away and the organizers had purchased twelve cases of “Belmonthe” beer. Estelle wanted to go to the fete anyway, so it would be great if I could drive, drop off the beer, hang out at the party with Estelle and then return with the empty plastic cases. It was all fine by me as long as Estelle would navigate. We unloaded the market items from the van and loaded the beer, ate lunch and left around 5pm. Estelle played good music the whole way and I would point out the window at the green hills and exclaim things that a four-year old French kid might say, “Tres vert! Tres jolie!” (“Very green! Very pretty!”)

    When I first heard the phrase, “Le concert du rock,” I was picturing something entirely different from what it turned out to be. The only “rock” involved came at the end of the night in the form of a tres terrible band called “Crazy Hot Pop.” They consisted of four middle-aged guys who spoke no English but sang only American rock songs from the early 80s. The lead singer put on his sunglasses halfway through their set, just as the sky was turning dark. “Crazy Hot Pop” aside, the fete was, as Estelle often says, “Super chouette.” (“Super cool.”) So I started saying, “La fete est chouette!” (“Chouette” sounds like sweat with a “shh” and rhymes with “fete.”) It was an all-ages affair – kids and adults dancing to the beats of an African drum circle, a room full of onion tarts for sale, and fire dancing in the streets after dark. Estelle and I got back to the farm after midnight. It had been a long day with the market in the morning and the fete at night. Long, but totally “super chouette.”

    Les Grande Salades

    For the past week, I have consumed, on average, about two large heads of lettuce per day. The abundance of salad on the farm would be deemed a surplus by most, but not by us. For both lunch and dinner, Jean-Yves, Alban and I have started each meal with our own gigantic bowl of lettuce, dressed in a simple vinaigrette. Each bowl is big enough to serve at least four people a generous portion of salad. We pick lettuce from the garden and it’s supplemented with more lettuce from the coop. “Salade est very bueno. We eat beaucoup du salade! ” Jean-Yves declared last week. “Beaucoup du salade” is an understatement.

    I like what Michael Pollan writes of salad in The Omnivore’s Dilemma: “There are few things humans eat that are quite so elemental – a handful of leaves, after all, consumed raw. When we’re eating salad we’re behaving a lot like herbivores, drawing as close as we ever do to all those creatures who bend their heads down to the grass, or reach up into the trees, to nibble plant leaves. We add only the thinnest veneer of culture to these raw leaves, dressing them in oil and vinegar. Much virtue attaches to this kind of eating, for what do we regard as more wholesome than tucking into a pile of green leaves?”
    There are two things I love most about our grande salades – the preparation of the lettuce and the few seconds before we eat.

    Preparation: I always soak the lettuce leaves in water for a few minutes. When I first arrived on the farm, I would let the lettuce sit in a colander, then pat it dry with a kitchen towel before dressing. It wasn’t long before Jean-Yves introduced me to a new, more efficient and much more fun way of drying the lettuce leaves. Now, after they’ve soaked, I dump the lettuce into a big, clean pillowcase. I close off the opening with my hand and swing the case around and around a few times, then dump the lettuce into bowls, dry and crisp.

    At the table: I make a vinaigrette with olive oil, vinegar and mustard, mix it in a jar and place it in the middle of the table. Right before we eat, we individually dress our big bowls of lettuce. This is when I laugh. Always. The bowls are enormous and we look miniature in comparison. We toss our lettuce; forks clanging against the side of our bowls, then say “Bon Appetit!” before diving in.

One thought on “The Little Things

  1. Pingback: Happy Things, Big and Small « happelsauce

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