My second Fourth of July spent in France was a success; last year we had a barbecue with friends, and this year I had a completely different time. With F away on a fishing weekend, I had all day to myself to enjoy the hot weather.
I walked down to the town center to buy some fresh local vegetables from the farmer’s market. I was pleasantly surprised to find a tag sale was going on at the same time. Walking around the tables at the tag sale, I was brought back to my childhood, when I loved looking them up in the classified section of the newspaper. I’d undoubtedly want to go if it were close by; it was an eternal Saturday morning wish, to hit the tag sales with my mom. So I bought a few cute dishes and a couple of stainless steel pots for a steal.
Past the tables of the tag sale, I got closer to the heart of the market; it was a pretty hot morning, and the windows of the buildings lining the narrow street were all open. The sounds and smells were wonderful. The sound of a tattoo artist’s buzzing needle resounded through the street that led to the farmer’s market: two seemingly contradictory elements that nevertheless coexist. There was a vender selling a variety of dried cured sausages that smelled vaguely like feet when I walked past; nevertheless, they looked quite appetizing. Another man was unsuccessfully trying to hawk loaves of brioche to passersby. I caught earfuls of the practiced rhetoric of salespeople as I walked by the shops: the carefully practiced jokes and puns and choreographed sales pitches.
In the heart of the market, as always, there were fruit and vegetable stands, some proudly displaying signs that show the food is locally produced and organic. Vibrant produce was laid out and waiting to be selected: deep red tomatoes, radishes, broccoli, cucumbers… One vendor was selling freshly shucked oysters, and the briny ocean smell caught my nose. There was also a man with a truck outfitted with two rotisserie racks, with whole chickens rotating and roasting, giving off a fabulous smell; underneath the chickens, whole potatoes were cooking in a tray, caramelized with chicken drippings. One of these days, I need to buy one of those chickens; if they taste half as good as they smell, I’ll be in roast chicken heaven.
I went home and worked on a couple recipes and killed time until… nighttime canoeing. 9 of us went down to a canoe rental place, right on the bank of an offshoot of the Loire River. By 11:30 pm, we were on the water for a two-hour casual paddle. The water was so warm, it was nearly body temperature after a hot day. It was also quite shallow: our oars occasionally scraped the sand at the bottom. We spent two hours canoeing in a black-and-white world tinted with blue, a bright carpet of stars in the sky. The moon was nearly full, and at certain bends in the river it illuminated us with surprising brilliance. It was so bright it looked like a far-off halogen light bulb. Funny how the moonlight can play tricks on your eyes. Huge dried fallen trees looked like beastly dinosaur skeletons on the sandbanks in the river. Bleached white by the sun, they looked like ancient fossils of mythical creatures: a large dragon head, a creature from a Maurice Sendak book… beautiful. The river was full of beauty that night. Happy Fourth of July indeed.