Everyone complains about winter, particularly this year when leaden skies get lower each day. Rivers are flooding, fields look like swimming pools and soon, I fear, my beloved bike path along the Eure River will be a stream for canoes only.
Despite the lack of sunlight, though, this season is wonderful. Why? Because its cozy. And since everyone is aware that no light means no morale, everyone is creating morale-boosting occasions. I don’t think I’ve ever received so many invitations for walks, dinners, visits…nor proffered so many!
There are other advantages to a rainy winter. For instance on Saturday, our market day, the skies were so thick and threatening that no one was there early, which meant vendors had time to chat and have a cup of coffee.
After coffee I took my time choosing gorgeous soil-laden parsnips and cabbage, mâche, and leeks, all gifts of the rainy, cold season.
I then meandered to Vincent’s stand, because I wanted pears. He had one client in front of me and none after, so he took the time to explain to me why the conference pears I wanted looked like bananas. In fact, he called them conferences banane, explaining that this happens when the baby pears freeze then grow without seeds, which makes them long and thin. Who knew?
I went to Ingrid’s cheese stand (in background) to buy 40 month Comté and a pat of lightly salted butter, then stopped at this miraculous flower stand where Paulette somehow had these to sell.
My last stop was at our town treasure, the herboristerie, or herb store. It’s an old-fashioned spot where the herbalist, Julie, has a huge selection of organic, dried herbs in old-fashioned wooden drawers that cover an entire wall of her shop. She’s got essential oils and organic foods, too, and every crystal you can imagine. Julie practices herbal treatments as her mother did before her, but legally she probably shouldn’t. The profession of herbalist fell under the axe of the Vichy government which favored pharmacists, and it is the only law still on the French books from that sad time. Movements are afoot to change that and for now Julie practices with impunity, because her client base is huge, drawing from the entire region.
On my way to l’herboristerie the sun came out with unexpected splendor, and careened off the Gothic facade of Nôtre Dame de Louviers, and ricocheted around the corner to shine through a duo of pine trees right onto the ancient cloisters, the only one in France built over a stream. It is now the town’s music school.
All in all, it was a day where Louviers showed her winter best. And the days are getting a little bit longer, a little bit drier, and a little bit warmer. So come join me here for a multi-day cooking class. When we’re not cooking up delights in the kitchen, I’ll be happy to show you around!