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Welcome to early spring in the Quercy!

Cahors Market

Cahors Market

It’s still a tad chilly here, cold nights and warm afternoons. There are few short-sleeved-shirts, with the strange exception of café waiters who seem to have an internal central heating system! There are fewer still bared shoulders, but there is an almost tangible air of expectancy, because when the warm weather comes to this land, it comes in a rush. Suddenly you’re wondering where you put the brolly because the terrace isn’t yet shaded by the old vine and whether or not to risk sitting outside for lunch if you can’t find it. Meanwhile the lemon trees that have spent the winter languishing in various cellars are cautiously re-appearing on terraces and balconies.

The vignerons are doing the very last of their pruning, a hard days work in backbreaking posture over endless rows of tangled rusty wire, stretching over silent vineyards.

Cahors Market

Cahors Market


Markets are quiet places too. Cahors is greatly enlivened by the presence of the sax player, but it’s not busy. It’s too early for the new crop of luscious spring vegetables, so stalls are piled high with vast green and white stacks of the French winter favourite, leeks, supplemented by the last of the winter cabbages. Much heart squeezing goes on with these late season specimens and I had my first lesson in how-to-select–the-firmest-cabbage the other day. My brassica professor, swathed in characteristic navy print and obviously well qualified for the job, was giving an impromptu demonstration for the benefit of her younger pupils when I arrived on the scene.
“If the heart is squidgy there will be less leaves” she was explaining to a tot at her elbow. “Non, non, non, Madame!” She admonished me, as I prepared to take my chance. Then pushed up her sleeves and demonstrated, once more, the approved Quercy method for determining value. A fine game of hunt-the-hardest-cabbage ensued, the professor throwing them around with gusto and the stallholder entering into the spirit of things and tossing them back. I emerged triumphant with a fine specimen, paid my euro and turned to the leeks, more than happy with my specially selected greenstuff. Several minutes later as I weaved my way back through the stalls, my basket full of market produce, I noticed my preceptor still hard at it. In the early spring, with vegetables so thin on the ground, choosing a cabbage is a serious business, a very serious business indeed!
© Amanda Lawrence 2006

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Early Spring in the Quercy from French Vie

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