Last Saturday at the Avenue Wilson market I was very happy to see that the bread stall was once again in business. The breads are laid out on a long trestle table- pain au levain, pain de campagne, 3-4 types of fruity/ cheesy/lardon breads, brioche and fouasse(a type of brioche doused with orange flower water)- that's all for choices, and every piece of bread sold by weight, more expensive than usual but justified by its quality. The friendly lady explained to all her regular customers that no, she hadn't been on a long vacation, in fact she had 'un peu de souci avec le mairie' i.e. a bit of problem with the town council, over a typo error in her application form which resulted in another (actually a non-existent vendor) being allocated her usual post for four long months! Nevermind, we were relieved that finally we can get some decent bread in the neighbourhood, the past few months had us going without or going across the river to Rue St Dominique- there are at least 5 excellent bakers huddled close together, life is certainly not fair- for our supplies.
Initially I bought a small loaf of dark cherry and nut bread to go with the cheeses at home. At the other end of the market I came across a sign saying 5 euros for halves of cooked torteaux which is a kind of crab. I am not sure what is the difference between tourteau and crab, some French people I asked even shrug and say they are the same. Thing is, I have been eyeing these crabs for some time, the fishmongers always display their cross-sections so one is drawn in helplessly by the traffic-cone coloured roe. At 10 euros for two big halves it actually works out cheaper than eating a Sri Lankan crab in Singapore. Cold crab, bread with butter, some wine, let's see, these ingredients would make for a nice dinner at home. But we have no white bread. Hesitating, I asked the fishmonger to look after my caddy, he kindly obliged, and I turned around to fight through the crowds to go back to the bread lady for a quarter hunk of their pain de campagne.
Husband opened his last bottle of no-name Jurançon, deliciously cold, sweet and beautifully perfumed. The crab, we tore into it. The roe was golden rich and gratifying but the creamy milt (or whatever the paté-like matter surrounding the roe is called) was the unexpected surprise, all velvety volutptuousness and deep sea yumminess. After scraping the last bit of milt, I started on the flesh. Ahh, here lies the sad truth, the flesh is hard and stringy, sweet but not terribly plentiful either. Next time I might ditch the white wine and pair it with some black vinegar dip instead. On the other hand, now that the spell is broken, I will also try other cooked seafoods that is sold in the market; husband will just have to buy another case of Jurançon.