Since it has been a few days since I posted anything, here is a quick update of what has happened recently:
Last night was the first client-free night we had since last weekend, so to celebrate, I cooked dinner for everyone. Having been asked to prepare a speciality of my home region, I had a lot of trouble coming up with a famous, New Jersey treat and decided to go with the fail-safe American Breakfast-For-Dinner. The three specialities that came to mind were hash browns (made with potatoes I harvested earlier in the week), blueberry pancakes with real Vermont Maple Syrup (a gift I brought from home), and a family speciality called “toad-in-holes.” Essentially, it a piece of bread, buttered on each side, with a circular hole taken out of the middle. The bread is then put in a frying pan and an egg is cracked into the hole, resulting in a combination of fried bread and egg deliciously united.
This morning we had a little bit of free time so I decided to descend into Les Vans to see the local farmer’s market. Coming out of the mountains, we got a great view of the city nestled in a valley and surrounded by mountains. (If you have a chance, I suggest you google image search the city to get a taste of what I saw.)
Now, if you are imagining a little farmer’s market with maybe twenty vendors, you need to think much, much bigger. Covering maybe eight streets and curving through the Medieval town, the market had everything you could imagine. Vendors were selling artisinal cheeses, breads, and beers in addition to clothes, jewelry, homeopathic medicines, and more. At the same time, the streets were crowded with a combination of tourist searching truly local specialities, locals buying their weekly supply of goods, and one random American boy astounded by the selection of goods.
After wandering for forty-five minutes, I rejoined Mikhail and Lea at an Indian tea salon for a leisurely beverage and a conversation about French society, agricultural trends, family histories, and more. I was a bit sad to hear from Lea (an ecologist currently studying agricultural regulation in an internship) that the gross trend is towards the industrialization of the food supply in France. Much like the American history, the French began subsidizing the modernization of the agriculture following the Second World War and the hunger that many of its citizens knew during the conflict. Unfortunately, this means that supermarkets are becoming the norm, local producers are giving way to agribusiness, and the consumer is mostly naive about the whole process.
Fortunately, the way of life here at the Petit Ane Bleu and our own purchases at the market represent the beginning of a counter-culture. Like the growing popularity of local cuisine and farmer’s markets in the US, maybe buying a Pain au Chocolat from a local, organic producer helps fight the industrial norm. Only time will tell, but one thing I am sure of is this: chocolate croissants taste a lot better made locally than bought in a big supermarket. If that is not motivation enough, I do not know what is.