Monday, April 21, 2008

Les asperges sauvages

We dropped the girls off at a slumber party the other evening, and when we came home we took the dogs for a walk. It was just before sunset--we are in that magical time of year when you can actually feel the days getting longer in your pores--and the light was pink. The sky was clear, and when we came out of the path at the top of the ridge, the village looked even more like a postcard than usual.

An older couple was walking towards us on the road. He was wearing a baseball cap, a giveaway from a bank, and carrying a long walking stick, something it looked like he had picked up on the walk. She was smaller than he, wearing gardening gloves, and beaming at us. My internal proselytizer alarm went off as she came closer and held up her hand towards me.

Proselytizers where I come from don't usually begin by showing me a handful of weeds, so I stopped and wished her a good evening. She continued to hold up her weeds, and I looked at them more closely.

It was a handful of wild asparagus. And a strand of blooming periwinkle for good measure.

Ah, madame, vous avez trouvé des asperges sauvages, you've found wild asparagus!

She beamed some more. On a fait la tour de la colline, we've walked around the hill, up from our house and along the crest, and we found all this. Now I don't know whether to make an omelette or some soup.

The asparagus was matchstick-thin and long, and a green that was both deep and bright. They are rare; I've only seen them for sale twice. I had bought some at the market the week before, from the man who sells mushrooms, and had made, or tried to make, an omelette. Sauté some shallots in a little butter. Cut off the ends of the asparagus, and cut the rest into bits an inch or two long. Cook them with the shallots for a minute or two, and then pour in some eggs that you have whisked up, and if you can't get the omelette turned (I'm not always able to yet), then you have some really good scrambled eggs. Good enough to proselytize about.

The last week or so I had driven by people walking slowly along road shoulders (such as they are), armed with a grocery bag and garden shears, and had wondered what they could be doing. Now I understood. A slow walk down the lane and you could bring home dinner.

We talked to the asparagus hunters for a few minutes. They had lived in their house on the other side of our hill for 40 years. He was a retired maître plombier; he looked up at the village and gestured with his stick toward it: he had worked on most of those houses. She told us where they lived, and we told her where we lived, and then, wishing them a bonne omelette, we parted ways.

C. and I spent the rest of the walk examining the roadside for delicacies. We didn't find any--our neighbors had passed before us, after all--but we were still filled with a sense of awe. What a world it is when wonders lurk in hedges, and an evening's amble can yield an omelette.

No comments:

Post a Comment