Cahors Market

Cahors Market

Whilst England shivered under a blanket of snow, all last week the Quercy languished under sparkling blue skies. They lured me out for the day on Wednesday. It was market day in Cahors and by the time I rounded the chilly corner of the Rue Marechal Foch into the blazing sunshine opposite the cathedral the morning was well advanced. I exchanged some halting badinage with one of my favourite stall holders about the state of the English weather, bought an armful of magnificent leeks, admired the truffle he had unexpectedly unearthed that morning and moved on to the man with the birds.
‘Madame Lawrence!’ That worthy bellowed, in a smoke infused guttural croak, bent to scrape my ears with his stubble and offered me two splendid, plump pigeons for dinner. I eyed them a little nervously as he flailed his arms about, one in each hand, and their heads swung around helplessly.
‘Sans tetes’, I told him firmly. He chuckled; he thinks I’m far too squeamish. In fact I’m not. When it has to be done I do it without a murmur, but I’d rather he did it. He whipped his knives around like D’Artagnan himself, sorted out a dozen large eggs and tried to sell me a duck the size of an Airbus.
At the end of the aisle I stopped for a couple of kilos of good yellow apples to make the ubiquitous tartes that grace the tables of France all winter long, and finally staggered out of the market square in the direction of lunch. The sun was warm on my back, and outside the cafes, tables were beginning to fill. You needed a jumper, but outdoor dining was definitely on the cards. Normally at this point in my marketing expeditions I make my way to one of my two favourite restaurants, one a bistro right on the central place, the other a restaurant opposite the market. Today, I chose another little place, halfway up the Boulevard de Gambetta. It’s a tiny salon de thé that has expanded its repertoire to include the most sumptuous tartes and gâteaux – and macaroons to die for. It also does light lunches – although if you follow a lunch dish with a slice of Madame’s delectable tarte aux chocolat there’s nothing light about it at all!
The tables outside were almost full, so I opted for a little table in the window. Not a sensible choice really, since the afore-mentioned delicacies are also displayed in the window. I dumped my basket gratefully, divested myself of my coat and exchanged cheek rubbings with Madame. I chose a warm salad of the crispest leaves – fresh from the market – poached egg, saute potatoes and gesiers, then pulled in my chair and prepared to enjoy myself. The sun streamed through the window, and the two almond-eyed students at the table next to me pooled their money in a successful attempt to purchase one slice of gateau. I sat back and drank it all in.
Madame bustled back as I finished my salad, and immediately put temptation in my path. I would like a slice of her tarte? It was chocolate and orange and fresh from the oven, or maybe the almond gateau? I shook my head firmly and ordered a coffee. She looked at me appraisingly. With a couple of little macaroons? I glanced at them. Two different flavours, she suggested, sensing weakness, chocolate maybe with perhaps pistachio? I hesitated a fraction too long. She took the jars, arranged the macaroons on a little plate and whisked away to fetch my espresso. They were very small after all. I took a sip of scalding coffee and a squidgy bite of chocolate macaroon. Utterly delicious.
I stepped back out into the sunshine with my two students in tow, giggling and readjusting their looped hair. Warm southerly breezes played around us, the multiple fountains across the boulevard were dancing and sparkling like diamonds, the sound of laughter drifted from the many café tables and the girls lingered, playing with their earrings and surreptitiously eyeing a very cool dude with a guitar case.
It was the very beginning of February but it seemed to me that, in more ways than one, spring was in the air.

© Amanda Lawrence 2009

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Lunch in Cahors from French Vie

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