The clouds are moving fast these days. To be honest and non hyperbolic, I think the weather in Champagne lately is a bit schizophrenic. Sometimes it goes from clear and sunny to thunder and darkness in merely half an hour. Often you don’t have time to realize you forgot your umbrella. On the other hand, yesterday I saw my first rainbow in I don’t know how long. They tell me this sort of weather is typical for the region in the fall – it’s good for the grapes.
In fact it’s not just the clouds moving fast in Champagne that signal the seasons, it’s the markets. And among the numerous insights that I have had with regards to my new country, I have become more aware of the gradual seasonal effect that I was never privy to in the land of extreme cold and harsh winters.
My description of the weather in Montreal was always eight months of bitter cold, two months of sweltering humidity (to much surprise), and two months of anything in between that was rarely consistent or predictable. There wasn’t a gradual sensation of seasons or time to enjoy them much – they just happened and we managed. The key indicators were the first 30 centimetre dump of snow or the first day at 25 degrees celcius with a humidex of 39.
In consequence to these weather conditions, in the summer at the Jean-Talon market, Mr. Birri would explain how the weather wasn’t quite hot enough one week, and then it seemed like every one of his shelves was overflowing the next week and for about 3 weeks, and then it was over. So bland exported produce there often was in my kitchen during the year… unwillingly so…
When I arrived in France in mid-April, the weather was sunny, a bit brisk, and the markets were just starting to show off their products. White asparagus was around for a couple of weeks, then as the weather got warmer, they got a bit greener, and by the time the end of May came around, I was just about saturated with asparagus, white, green and wild, and happy to move on to radishes, lettuce, and white cabbage.
As spring lead into summer, I barely realized that jeans turned into skirts, long-sleeved shirts into tank tops, and walking shoes into flip flops. Simultaneously new potatoes became shallots which became baby beets, fennel, carrots, zucchini, and then cucumbers. We will avoid discussing lobster season which came after the start of the Buchot mussels because a trip to Brittany in August made me seriously overdose. I am now officially ready for wild game and willing to be more carnivorous in September.
This morning the windows of our home had dew on them and I was cold even with my first sweater of the season. I can’t wait to wear scarves and jackets, but I also won’t feel like I didn’t get the most out of my summer clothes because I wore almost everything in that season’s wardrobe in multiple permutations.
And while waiting in line at the market for bell peppers, baby eggplants, ripe quetsches and the first pears of the season, it was then that thought about asparagus and realized that I would have to wait another eight months before seeing them at the market. Ironically, just like my spring jacket and my summer skirts, I don’t miss asparagus. How can I when I have so many recipes I need to try with Mirabelle plums from Lorraine or green zebra tomatoes from M. Philippot?
At the market in Reims, it’s not about a rush for time and maximizing what’s available by canning and preserving, it’s about savouring many times over but only once a year the gifts from the garden. It’s just like that blouse I like to wear, except here I have time to wear it with jeans and with khakis before it gets too cold. And it is in moments like this morning when I realize that my new market is rather tailored to my needs.