A Dearth of Mustard

Monday is market day in Mirepoix 20kms away. It’s one of the more comprehensive markets around as well as being one of the more attractive towns. We popped off to look for a parking spot and found one, which looked a bit like the last one.

MirepoixThe market was heaving. Since the isolations of Covid-19, “heaving” comes somewhat further down the crowd scale but it was certainly crowded. Our market visits are usually more out of interest and entertainment than shopping for large amounts of supplies. Today was no exception and we picked up a couple of courgettes and a splendid large red pepper (from Spain; Spanish red peppers are SO much better than our more uniform Dutch ones) to complete our veggie collection for a ratatouille. From a lady who appeared to have had smile bypass surgery, we also picked up lunch in the form of two stuffed peppers; Dutch red peppers this time.  The smile-free stuffed peppers were vegetarian, I hasten to add. I can only hope that this vegetarian nonsense doesn’t become a habit.

Oddly, what I didn’t spot on the market was a fish stall but there surely must’ve been one. Be that as it may, we moved the short distance to the nearby Super U where fuel was more expensive than the autoroute Total offering. It does have a decent fish counter, though, which had an irresistible looking tranche of white tuna. White tuna is not something we see much in the UK, if at all, but the large slices they cut in France are good eating and generally enough for two. I bought it. Many years ago a fish vendor in France had suggested that we slather the tuna in mustard before slapping it on a BBQ. This mustard coating helps prevent the fish from drying out.

Polish mustardProblem: France is out of mustard. What!? It seems that all those wonderful varieties of Maille mustard are no longer made in France but in Canada where there has been a catastrophic mustard harvest failure. Mon Dieu !  The mustard shelves in France are bare. Well, here they were all but bare. We did find a mustard, supposedly forte, originating in Poland. Where is Poland getting its mustard seeds from, I wonder? Regardless, a pot of Polish mustard jumped into our basket along with the tuna it was to cover.

Most people, I suspect, have heard of the Mistral, a wind that blows down the Rhone valley in Provence, can do so for days and can reputedly drive people insane. Languedoc also comes with named winds; the names don’t make them any more pleasant but they do make them recognizable to those who know the names. Today Fanjeaux seemed to be in the grip of the Autan, a wind blowing more or less from the Mediterranean in the east. To be more accurate it was in the grip of one of the Autans. L’Autan is really two winds since it comes in two flavours, L’Autan Blanc and L’Autan Noir. What we had was L’Autan Blanc, a wind of good weather with clear skies and temperatures up in the high 20sC. The weather was great for a barbecue but the wind was potentially awkward; I didn’t want a spark setting fire to Luc’s tinder-dry farm so I stood by with watering can just in case. The weather was less than ideal for standing inside making a ratatouille but I persevered.

The Polish mustard worked well enough and we enjoyed our tranche of thon blanc accompanied by L’Autan Blanc and ratatouille.

Posted in 2022-09 France

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