On Mondays we go to the local market to stock up on organic veg. The organic veg man sets himself up on the square in front of the school. To his right is the bearded goat man (Is he the son of the bearded goat lady, I wonder, who was banned from the markets because of new EU rules saying she didn't have the right fridge) selling squishy white cheese rounds like fresh patties from his herd, and to his left is the fish stall where I always think twice about buying fish on a Monday.
"What is your best apple?" I ask, and the organic veg man points at a box of small pink blushing apples labeled, in a rough slanted green hand, 'PIK KISS'
"They are expensive"
I'll say, I think
"....but they are good"
"Do you know that you have spelled your label wrong? It should be 'pink kiss' and it means 'bisou rose'.
I had never seen the organic veg man smile until then but, underneath his unruly beard, he blushed as pink as his fruit. The next week his sign, in a more upright hand, read
'PINK KISS' and underneath, the proud translation 'BISOU ROSE'
It is hard to find a good apple in France. Mostly, when I try to explain to a French person the joys of old variety English apples picked in scented orchards - Cox's Orange Pippins, Golden Russets,and Worcester Pearmains - subtle and perfumed like the moist English air, I get some variation on the following:
'Oh I went to England. My parents took me when I was a child. The food is terrible. The English don't know anything about food so how could they grow a good apple?'
I counteract this ludicrous statement when I can be bothered with something about London now being one of the culinary centres of the world and about looking forward to going to England because the food is so good now and there's nothing like a good gastro pub lunch and how wonderful it is that we have, in our food, absorbed all the cultures that reside in our country and maybe initially it was because we were insecure about our own cuisine because it was, particularly just after the war, pretty crap, but that now we are proud of it....
Then I wonder if I am more homesick that I know.
In the Marché de Provence the other day, the lady actually listened to my rant. then she said, pointing to a box of clumsy yellowish members of the rosaceae family:
"Try the chantecler variety. I think you will like them."
I looked again, pressed slightly on the flesh and imagined the fruit to be mealy.
"No thanks. Perhaps next time" I said.
"No, I will give you one for free. Just try it." she replied, placing one in our basket.
Once safely in the car I took a bite. Magic. It was crisp. It tasted as sweet as an orchard smells. It tasted of innocence, tree-houses in flowery bowers and fresh linen. It tasted like...well it tasted like an apple!
If 'cler' is, as I fantasize that it might be, an old spelling of 'clair', then it sung out its apple song clearly in my mouth and lived up to its name.