After young Ted’s shore foray we spent the rest of Easter in the port of St Vaast. If the weather had been more clement we might have gone back to the beach but at best we had overcast, slightly chilly weather to deal with. With typical cussedness the nicest day by far was Monday, when we were housebound, clearing up before departure.
On Saturday morning Charlotte and I took Ted in his buggy to the market where we bought two fine cauliflowers, wanting to believe they came from the same crop at Jonville which were being harvested as we drove to the beach the day before. We bought 4 cheeses (Fourme d’ Ambert, Camembert, Chèvre and Abondance Fermier), some Chipos to barbeque on Sunday (with lamb from the freezer). In the boulangerie we were taken with the Brioche Feuilletée which, unlike the everyday version, looks as if it is nothing more than a brioche made with croissant mixture.
But it is everything more; the taste and texture were divine – a ‘cabbage’ of delicious soft, slightly chewy, mildly sweet butteriness with a flaky crust. The shop was full of pastries, gateaux and hand-made chocolate eggs, rabbits, fish, starfish…. It would be open on Easter Sunday – all day.
In addition to the larger stalls there are the small space fillers selling bunches of flowers, eggs, oysters, shellfish. In late summer you can buy huge bunches of colourful annuals and hydrangea flower-heads in pinks, blues and greens to dry for the winter. You have to get the moment just right with the annuals, otherwise they form a seedhead. Dried flowers seem to have gone out of fashion in the UK which is a pity as I think them much preferable to silk flowers.
One woman had a large crate full of live Velvet Swimming Crabs. The French call them Etrilles. Nick learnt to cook and eat them chez Daniel, we had one batch from our lobster pot before we lifted it for the winter. It was strange and slightly sad to see so many of the little crabs for sale. I don’t know whether they had been collected on the shore (doubtful) or taken by pot or trawl (more likely), but they were fresh and active and destined for seafood platters. Six of them make a serving and you eat virtually all of them once they have been ‘decortiques’ – removed from their shell.
I am busy planting some young broad bean plants when I take a call from Nick who is in Sardinia with his friend Nigel. They have gone to fit out Nigel’s new boat, having driven down through France to pick up a ferry at Marseilles. One thing Nick had failed to anticipate is that Nigel would fail to remember that it was the Easter weekend and everywhere has closed down. Food is a bit difficult to come by. I am amused when Nick tells me it is doing wonders for his waistline. If there were a Lord, he would be moving in mysterious ways!
On Saturday night I successfully put Ted to bed as his parents have gone to Au Moyne de Saire for dinner. I clear up the house and create an atmosphere of tranquility with a Dire Straits album. Long time since I listened to Brothers in Arms and I still love that chill-out saxophone solo on Your Latest Trick.
Ted’s well-fed parents return to sleep off their repast but I have two sluggish appointments to keep before I can go to bed. With a large torch I venture to the bottom of the garden to check my broad beans. There are few snails and slugs patrolling their environs but they don’t seem to be targetting the young plants. I remove all molluscs in proximity just the same.
And then I retrieve the 2 sea slugs I found under a rock at Dranguet and which I brought back to identify. They have been chilling out themselves in a pot in the fridge. I already have a good idea what species they are and searching one or 2 sites on the internet confirms my view. They are ‘nudibranchs’ which feed on sea anemones, of which there were numerous examples in the sands at Dranguet. These little nudibranchs are called Aeolidiella alderi. Finding sea slugs always makes a field excursion to the shore that bit special.