Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The punch line that reads like a punch line to a whole different story

When we were in France last month, we made a visit to the local farmers' market. Rather than a quaint, outdoors version of Waitrose for the Guardian-reading liberals to saunter through in their MBTs hunting for their organic, hand-rolled muesli, this was a proper market for farmers. From the kids' point of view, this was bliss. In the place of Fair Trade t-shirts with ironic slogans and "arty" photos of the view down the road, there were animals, noise, and chaos.

Everything needed to be admired. Chickens piled cereal-box high in their tiny crates, in as many varieties as a Kelloggs multipack. Tiny, weeny, terrified-looking chicks.

"Pretty bunnies" as Jonah called them; lank, sweaty, cloud-eyed lapins plumped up for the pot but, juiciness aside, looking like they'd come straight from auditions for the evil rabbits in Watership Down. Jonah stopped to stroke them all, the toothless farmer opening the cage for him with a crooked grin. Somehow the French term, "caresse", seemed deeply inappropriate for these field-pests destined for the cleaver, but a market is a market and a rabbit, it seemed, is a rabbit, when you're three years old.

We moved on. We sampled goats cheeses. Lucas, versed neither in French nor much English, let's face it, signalled his preferences by spitting out his un-favoured flavours into the face of the cheese-maker. Apparently "pah pah pah" is Toddler for "what are you trying to *do*; poison me??" .

Finally, we came to the salami stall. This was a holiday, after all, and the urge to live mostly on pork products, chocolate, and wine was not to be ignored.

Jonah decidee he'll help me to select, so we moved down the stall with the salami maker, me translating, because obviously a degree in French equipped me for salami identification (yeah, yeah, I see that gag. And that one).

"Blue cheese salami?"

"Yuck" said my resident gourmand, and I was inclined to agree - sounds a bit like an entire meal in one truncheon-sized piece of meet.

"Cepes salami? it's a kind of mushroom"

"We don't eat mushrooms, Mummy" Well, fair do's. One of us doesn't, it's true, and apparently that was enough.

There is a jolt, a stutter in our proceedings.

"Encore une fois?" I asked the stall owner. Bollocks - I'd heard right the first time. Reluctantly, I told Jonah the name of the next salami. As I'd feared, his eyes lit up.

"That one!"

"No, really - let's hear what the next one is"

"No, Mummy, I want that one"

I tried again, just in case Jonah changed his mind. Yeah, right.

"Which one, poppet?"

"That one, Mummy. I want donkey salami"

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