I’m as forgiving a man as the next guy. In fact, as I look at him from here, I suspect that I am even more inclined to let bygones be bygones. Still, there are some things that we really can’t put to one side. When any Irishman thinks of our relations with our Gallic cousins, thoughts go to the Theirry Henry incident in the ill-fated World Cup qualifier played in 2009. Many Irishmen of a certain age still go red in the neck and pontificate about this outrage. I don’t. The past is a different country and I don’t live there. What really brings me out in spots is their pretending to join the European Union. Yes, they gave the appearance of joining and all of a sudden, we had Petit Filous to feed our kids and Bon Maman jam appeared on the supermarket shelves. However, they really have kept back on the union thing. We willingly gave away most of our fish to our partners while they supposedly gave us agricultural equality. But, they haven’t. They are keeping all the good stuff for themselves.
“Ou est l’evidence?” I hear you say. “Sur le marché.” is my reply. Yes, they hold back all the good, French, food produce and sell it to themselves in local markets. They start these early and end them early so tourists will not get to enjoy the fruits of their deception. While the average tourist is struggling out of bed in France, the wily French will be closing up shop and going on a three-hour lunch break. Yet, today, I bring you photographic evidence. Having risen before I went to bed, and wearing a beret, a stripy jumper and pushing a bicycle festooned with onions, I moved freely amongst them, taking clandestine photographs for this exposé (yes, a French word). My investigation focussed on local markets in St. Foy La Grande, Bergerac and Libourne. All substantial towns in the agricultural South West of France.
The soft fruits are amazingly fresh and tasty. The one big problem with transporting them is they are so very delicate. Or so they say…
As I arrived at the market in Bergerac, I thought that dark forces were conspiring against me.
Had I looked like a tourist, they would have moved the entire affair inside and pretended it was not happening.
I found damming evidence of their lack of commitment to EU standards. Despite forcing the straight cucumber on the rest of us, they keep all the nice bendy ones for themselves.
Chanterelles were a high point of the Bergerac market, available on many stalls.
The range and quality of produce was staggering.
They changed my understanding of vegetable colours.
Perhaps a little honey to sweeten any market deal?
All this food photography got me hungry. We repaired to our gite and organised an early (very early as I had to get up in the middle of the night) lunch of Chanterelles and Goat’s Cheese on Toast using only local French ingredients.
The mushrooms were the real deal. I had to dust brush them to remove the bits of the forrest floor still remaining after picking.
Despite the bread being still warm from the boulanger, we decided to toast it.
We fried the mushrooms in some French olive oil.
We added some very fresh goat’s cheese to the proceedings.
‘L’ensemble’ was pretty straightforward (unlike their naturally curled cucumbers).
This was the best lunch of the holiday. Simple, natural ingredients, slyly wrestled from the grasp of the selfish French. “Mon Dieu!” I hear you exclaim. But, what can we do? They are up too early for us and have gone home for a long tasty lunch before we can say “Ce n’est pas juste.”