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Orchid

Orchid

The weather is truly warm here now, meals are taken outside and the more exotic flowers are beginning to make their appearance. The oleanders are full of bud, numerous tamarisk trees drip with dusky pink blossom and on a recent five kilometre ramble I spotted seven different varieties of wild orchid – the Quercy is justly famed for it’s orchids – and after a copious amount of huffing and puffing and thumbing through dusty tomes I eventually managed to identify my prizes. In all the years that I tramped the woods and fields the length and breadth of Sussex, I never found more than two at one time, thrilling.

Aillet

Aillet

In the markets the summer vegetables have finally arrived in all their tempting glory. Bunches of purple-pink aillet deceive you into thinking you’re buying a bunch of red spring onions, but as the name proclaims it’s actually young spring garlic, exquisite in a tomato salad and equally wonderful in a warm new potato salad, try it with olive oil and chopped black olives.
Tiny new courgettes are appearing alongside vast pyramids of damp lettuces, freshly pulled that morning. Pots of basil jostle for position beside the new spring onions, the afore-mentioned aillet and huge armfuls of multi-coloured lilacs. On the other side of the market the Rocamadour cheese stall was doing unusually brisk business, there’s nothing like some fresh goats cheese to accompany these delicious new salads.
A couple of baguettes and a bottle of Coteaux de Quercy from the stall next door and lunch can be served.

Leon Gambetta

Leon Gambetta

I removed myself from the scene before I got too carried away and went to seek refreshment at my favourite little café before they began to serve lunch. I took a chair facing the place in order to soak up the atmosphere and watch the world sail past the huge fountains in front of Gambetta’s statue.
The restaurants and cafes are in full summer-mode now, tables laid for lunch outside on terraces, pavements and village squares, with menus that reflect the temperatures. The Toulouse sausage and lentil dishes, cassoulets and confits have gone and salads are back. Fish is the other summer favourite, fresh from the Atlantic ports and bought in the markets that morning, whatever happens to be abundant and reasonable. As I’d just come from the market I could have predicted the poisson de jour without giving the menu a passing glance. Meanwhile the aromas issuing from the café kitchens were becoming a bit of a distraction, even more enticing than the market produce and as I watched one of the waiters chalking up the plat du jour I wondered whether I could possibly justify staying for lunch.

Sitting outside a café in the sun must surely be one of the greatest pleasures of life in France.

© Amanda Lawrence 2006

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French Life in the Quercy from French Vie

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