Tuesday, July 21, 2009

to market

The mistral has gone, good news for the wedding on Saturday. Apparently last year, when Myriam was getting married here, the mistral started just before dinner and everyone froze; then it stopped by dessert and all was well. So there's no way of knowing whether one hundred people will be comfortable or bitterly cold. But today - hot hot hot.

I'm getting used to this - shopping for a hoard, cooking for 20. I have gently suggested to Lynn that in Canada, when one is feeding vast crowds, at least one meal a day can be do-it-yourself - put some good bread, meats, salads and cheeses on the table and let people help themselves. But this is France; both lunch and dinner have to be 3 course hot meals. Which means at least two hours hard labour before each one. While we do all that, a large party of the Australian friends of the groom, who have arrived for the wedding and are staying at a campground nearby, are having a picnic in the garden, swimming in the pool and playing boules. The babies are wreaking havoc, as babies do, one of them teething and howling. Just keeping up with the daily need for vegetables, bread, cheese, olive oil and rosé is a mind-boggling task. We just had a simple little lunch for 14.

At the same time, I am envious of this extended family scene, everyone around pitching in to help with the meal, the cleaning up or the childcare, everyone part of the general conversation. It's so valuable for children, and I see them sopping it up.

Luckily for me, however, I can now temporarily decamp. Yesterday I moved to my own place five minutes down the road, so I can retreat in the afternoon and at night. It's peaceful, I know where everything is, I can sit in silence and then make my way to the crowded house. A great blessing, for which I am grateful. I spent two hours today helping with lunch; it has just ended, and the women are in the kitchen now, at 2.30, planning supper. It's endless.

We went to the Gordes market this morning, but the rule is: never go to a Provencal market after 10 a.m. It was unbearably hot and so very crowded. I think the merchants have had it with tourists. Lynn's sister Karen stopped at a stall selling lovely replica bedspreads for about 60 or 70 euros. "Are these made by hand?" she asked, in French, which admittedly was a silly question given the price. "No, madame," said the merchant. "By foot. Exclusively by foot."

I left the packed marketplace and went back to the house for a swim, watching people battling for parking space along the way. Yesterday was different, though - we went to the market in Cavaillon, which is a real market, not very touristic, huge and wonderful. Hard not to drool, clothing, tablecloths, spices, all manner of goods at very reasonable prices. Be still, my beating heart. I still have to get the @#$%^& suitcase home.

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