Wednesday, June 30, 2010

la versaillaise

la Versaillaise
Today was the fin des fraises, si triste. Most of them had stopped producing, so we ripped them out to make way for leeks. I felt as though I should say a few words in homage. I arrived here at the height of the strawberry season, which was sadly diminished by a cold and rainy spell. We saw them at their peak, we cleaned up the rotten berries with chagrin. They were tasty while they lasted! The only strawberries left are the rare, the incomparable, the Versaillaises. This variety is so delicate we cannot pick it to sell in la boutique here at the Potager du Roi, because it would no longer be good eating an hour after picking. The Versaillaise strawberry is small, half red or pink and half white. It is often slightly deformed. It is not a pretty strawberry. It doesn't have to be, its flavor is incredible--as if someone had taken a whole kilo of strawberries and crammed them into one tiny strawberry, with an added flavor that is almost alcoholic, like a sweet liquor. They are more sucrée, too, than other strawberries. Amazing.

I think the intense heat we've had for the last week has further concentrated the sweetness of the Versaillaises. Other fruits, like peaches, currants, and raspberries, are quickly ripening. Yesterday, having received at last official permission to harvest from the garden whatever I would like for my meals, I went grocery shopping. Evening songbirds were singing from the tops of espalier, swallows were tittering and swooping everywhere, and the sun was setting over the Pièce d'Eau Suisses as I walked through the Grand Carré of the Potager. I felt deliciously overwhelmed. Eventually I took a few early turnips, courgette, spinach, parsley, and white peaches. Oh! picking peaches off the tree! They are so fuzzy and tender... Mmmmm. I was tempted by the artichokes but would like them to be a little bigger. I am spoiled by garden riches! Not to mention the French supermarkets in general... even the little 8 à huit convenience store around the corner has treasures of cheese, sorbet, and jams. They have a Poilâine bread stand in the 8 à huit, for goodness sake! I found shrimp--big, juicy whole cooked shrimp--at Monoprix today, 10 for about $3! I only needed 5 of them to make a meal. I ate them with fresh potatoes that I dug up myself, with a sauce of fromage blanc and shallots.
Did I mention the incredible $4 bottles of wine?
To paraphrase Nathan Detroit: "So hate me, hate me, go ahead hate me, I love you." Wish you all could come visit!
post edited by Liz on 11/14/2010