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Asperge

Asperagus-on-the-wagon

Have you ever picked wild asparagus? Some call these thin green (and purple!) shoots "The harbingers of springtime." Pictured: les aspèrges sauvages picked around our house, and lined up in the back of an old remorque, or wagon.

une asperge

    : asparagus

asperger = to spray or to splash
une (grande) asperge = a beanpole (person)
une pointe d'asperge = asparagus tip
une botte d'asperges = a bunch of asparagus

Note: The term "syndrome d'asperger" (Asperger syndrome) is found on the same definitions page for "asperge" in some online dictionaries. Aparently the words are not related. Asperger syndrome is named after  Hans Asperger, 1906-80, Austrian pediatrician, who described it in 1944 (Dictionary.com)

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AUDIO FILE:  LISTEN HERE to Jean-Marc's  French pronuciation of today's French word: Download MP3 or Wav file

C'est la saison des asperges sauvages - on les trouve dans la garrigue Provençal et on les mange avec de la vinaigrette.

It's wild asperagus season - we find them in the wild scrubland of Provence and we eat them with with a vinaigrette.

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Mas la Monaque - Rent this beautifully restored 17-century farmhouse. Click here for more pictures.



A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

When Jean-Marc mentioned he had two strong helpers for the day, and that we would be providing lunch for everyone--but not to worry he, Jean-Marc, would take care of it--I knew where this was going.... all the way to Guiltville! 

There was no way I was going let my husband work in the yard all morning and then run out to buy sandwiches from the boulangerie (his offer). I could do it. I would just have to set aside my own projects in time to organize a hearty meal.

The timing was bad as I have been counting on a free morning to finish two writing projects. A looming deadline feels like a noose around the neck and as the publishing date approaches, the rope tightens.

Chopping onions at the kitchen counter, a strange thing happened. My mind chatter was not in cadence with my body's vibe. The one was grumbling or fearful while the other was growing more and more relaxed and even a little giddy! And then a thought popped out:

I am so happy to not be alone today!

I realized, then and there, that I am no longer the person I used to be. I am more flexible, more experienced (just look at this mountain of efficiently chopped onions!), and more trusting.  I know deep down things will all work out. Just stay in the moment!

My negative mindchatter may have not caught up with the times (the person I am becoming), but even this is no longer something I have to try to figure out! Looking out the window, I saw my husband, my son, and our two helpers (Roland used to be a delivery driver until he and his friend, Gilbert, lost their jobs last week. Now, instead of delivering packages to our home as strangers, they are helping with our vineyard as friends).

The men formed a line and were passing wood from the truck to the garage when I spotted a fifth helper. Inès, a purse-sized yorkshire terrier belonging to Gilbert, was perched in the driver's seat, at the open window. There she quietly overlooked the human work chain.

 I felt like whistling a tune as I opened kitchen cabinets and drawers while putting together the day's au pif lunch, enjoying the very guesswork I once feared. 

Determined to avoid a trip to the store, I spotted a package of spaghetti... and soon saw we had a can of tomatoes, garlic, cream... and a jar of dried morel mushrooms which I grabbed and plunged into a bowl of water. A sprint to the garden and back... and now I had onions to begin making the pasta sauce!

And when Jean-Marc popped his head in the kitchen, asking for an apéro (the Frenchmens' code for "munchies to go with the wine"), a can of sardines appeared out of thin air! Whipping it open I poured olive oil over the little silver-skinned fish and cut up a dry baguette (no need even to toast the slices!). "Just crush the sardines over the bread," I hinted, delivering the snack tray to the picnic table on the front porch. "The olive oil is from a friend's grove!" (I learned this last astuce from the French. To make anything sound fancier, give it an origin!)

"And the morel mushrooms are from the Ardèche..." I announced, as we ate our presto spaghetti. 

When Roland and Gilbert raved about les champignons, I used another French trick. Le flirt. "Je commence à vous connaître," I'm starting to know your likes. I see you appreciate les produits du terroir... 

"Au fait," Gilbert said. Did you know you have a lot of wild asparagus growing on your land? 

Pushing our empty plates aside, I followed Gilbert down the gravel driveway, Inès de la Frange (Inès "with the bangs", for she is the first uncoiffed Yorkshire terrier I have seen) leading the way.

As we circled an old olive tree, Gilbert shared a few tips. "Il faut avoir l'oeil," he began. You've got to know how to spot the asparagus. Reaching out, he plucked a two-foot high pousse--one I'd walked right past.

"Regardez," he motionned. "If it has these little branches up running up the sides it's too late." He tossed the example. "Best to pull these out, as they'll only crowd your land with prickly bushes!"

Snapping up another aspèrge sauvage, Gilbert said it could be eaten cru, or raw. "Or you can blanche them.... then make a vinaigrette!"

Handing me an asparagus, Gilbert showed how to pinch it at the right spot. "Pinch it until you find the soft part, then break off the rest."

"Here, " I said, walking back to the house. "Take some home with you." But there was no giving back the treasure I'd received.

At the table the rush of emotion felt something between endorphins or joie de vivre. I was so happy I could pop. The enriching and down-to-earth experience was just the Rx needed to loosen that noose around my neck.

But there was one more nervous inkling that wouldn't go away: I wanted so much to take a photo... one to represent the moment. I knew exactly what it needed to be, but did not have the courage to ask for it.

Once again, my body was ahead of my mind and I felt myself reaching for my camera. "Est-ce que je peux prendre votre photo?"

I leave you, dear reader, with the outcome. Enjoy. It is one of my favorite photos and a precious souvenir of yesterday.  

Amicalement,
Kristi
P.S. Now if I'd only gotten a picture of Inès de la Frange!

Gilbert-and-the-wild-asperagus

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I would love to read your asparagus stories. Please share memories and recipes. Or talk about stepping out of your comfort zone, and what the outcome was. Click here to comment.

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