Monday, March 05, 2007

apples

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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.

10 Comments:

Blogger The Late Bloomer said...

Yes, the Chanteclers are nice, aren't they? Of course, I'm far from an expert, and I don't know the best apples like you seem to! But they say that the Chanteclers are good for cooking too. I've used them in a recipe for pintade aux pommes. Une merveille !

I really love your description of the experience. Nice...

4:58 PM  
Blogger The Residents of Apartment 2b said...

i am a big fan of the mighty Braeburn, which, according to Wikipedia, was first grown by an Englishman. who knew?!

(side note...we recently purchased "Freud At Work" which pictorializes lucian freud's studio, it's an interesting glimpse into an otherwise closed world. with the inevitable forthcoming book, have you guys considered a behind the scenes photo montage?)

and again, thanks for posting such evocative writing.

~darci

10:23 PM  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

We planted three unusual varieties last year, including the Ashmead's Kernel, an old English variety that is rated by apple experts as the best flavoured apple in the world ever. It'll be three or four years before they start fruiting, though. The new link to your site works fine now BTW - don't know what was wrong last time.

7:22 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

darci,
lf is julian's total hero. there's a book in the offing which was a memoir and is now a novel and is being written inbetween orchestral gigs...

late bloomer, they made an excellent apple pie!

zinnia, i am SO sad i will miss you here so maybe we will end up sharing apples in london one day? i hope so.

7:25 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

oops that was supposed to read CRUMBLE.

7:28 PM  
Anonymous roger said...

Funny what you say about the apples - I even manage to find tasty pommes at my local Leclercs. The "organic" salesman at my market (Fayence) sells amazing cheeses; I get carried away & end spending 25 euros on a few slices of organic goat's reblochon (or something).

11:53 PM  
Blogger Lesley said...

We don't get Pink Kisses at our market, but we do get Pink Ladies

9:51 PM  
Blogger john said...

There are so many online data entry jobs in the internet but I would like to take a chance with any reliable company.

7:03 AM  
Blogger Pauline said...

Here in the Leicester market, the traders try to pass off 'Pink Kiss' apples as Pink Lady, but they are not the same are they?

Can somebody tell me the difference between Pink Lady and Pink Kiss apples?

3:57 PM  
Anonymous sybil said...

I just bought the last Chantecler from my epicure, these are perfect apples combining sweetness and acidity.
alas I expect it is the last of the season. good firm flesh too.
Sybil

9:30 AM  

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