Sunday, January 08, 2012

Mairzy doats, dozy doats and kitty d’oats

Munson with Peter and a single-maltPeter was back in the area for a short time between spells in London and invited us for lunch in Condom. “Fragrant chicken” – a delicately spiced casserole was on the menu, which we warmed up to with a glass of very well aged Oban whiskey.

His lounge is turning into a small orchard as his three potted citrus plants are all bearing fruit. The warm middays in the Gers are driving my outdoor plants to bud as well. Friends’ descriptions of Sydney’s cold wet summer ( some are using electric blankets!) probably put us slightly ahead in enjoyable outdoor weather at this time.
Lining up
At home, Munson’s bromance with Griff continues with Griff somehow managing to take the upper paw in the relationship. Griff is a bolder Goldilocks, taking food and bedding right from under the nose of the bears. 

I’ve discovered that he’s been hiding out on top of the clothes-dryer in my kitchen. It’s a bit like the last bit of the movie Alien where Ripley and Jones the cat are safely in their escape pod, only to find that the malevolent black creature has sequestered itself on the top of the pod console and slowly unfurls itself when all is quiet.

This evening I peered out the kitchen door to see the two queued up outside the door, Munson deferring to Griff who was standing on his rear paws and tapping on the glass!
While I was in Condom looking for some unshelled pistachios to make biscotti, I managed to discover where the supermarket had been hiding its breakfast oats: in the “Bio” section. Bio is a kind of catch-all for organic/health – branded items, plus stuff that’s a bit too outré for conventional rural French tastes.

The regular cereal aisle has the same scary chocolate-and-sugar infested boxes that you see around the world, and not so much of your mueslis and oats. It should have occurred to me to look in one of the “Bio” aisles – there’s often one for fresher items and another for packaged in different parts of the supermarket.

For some items I’ve gotten used to looking in one of the four food “quarters” of the supermarket: regular, bio, Anglais, artisan. Something that’s neither regular nor biologique may be shelved with the peculiar foods that the English eat ( including pickles, Cadbury chocolate, various Indian condiments, …) or artisan, which is something that comes from regional boutique suppliers. In the English-speaking world, if something from a factory that is supposed to suggest home made qualities will often have a red-gingham pattern printed on the lid, or something quaint like that. In France, it’s faux handwritten labels and/or brown-paper wrapped cans which make one think of austerity rations. Each supermarket Sam Gross - I'm a hunter I'm a gathererhas an idiosyncratic way of populating each quarter according to local needs. Over the last year I’ve noticed more items migrating off the shelves d’Angleterre into regular usage so it’s an ongoing quest for hunter-gatherers stalking the aisles to locate alien delicacies from month to month. It goes without saying that there is a price premium for buying from the bio or English shelves.

[cartoon by Sam Gross from The Rejection Collection]

Sometimes I turn to the internet to locate foodstuffs. If I order through Amazon France a 25€ order gets me a free delivery, so it can be worthwhile to pad out a book order with some coffee beans or something similar. I thought I’d see if porridge oats were available thus, but wasn’t prepared for what a search on “oats” threw up*. They’re prettier than baby peas and carrots don’t you think?

Baby Oats (2)

That’s why Munson likes Griff. He thinks he’s a walking bowl of porridge.

* Amazon have since “corrected” this by taking down the image and leaving the product description as is. I can’t wait to see what baby oats really look like. [Update: there’s another one!]

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