bushel or merkin ?…

My feelings about markets and merkins are synonymous. Dazzled and aroused by the mouthwateringly  sensual display, there is still the nagging suspicion that all is not as it should be. I cannot help but question if it is going to be quite as good as it looks whilst wondering what light it is that they are they hiding beneath their bushel or merkin.Let us be clear,  I have high hopes of what may be concealed within the one and behind the other yet, as in all dissimulation, there is a high probability of disappointment or, as the French say, “deception”…which is probably the right word when used in its English form as deception is traditionally the market trader’s stock in trade. The market shows out and the merkin conceals yet a peach is a peach is a peach…or not, as only a bite of a truly good peach will tell you. Adam found this out the hard way and there was but one lone stall in the market at that time. A stallholder’s outstretched hand offering me a taste of her wares is clear evidence that Eve’s selling technique still holds sway and that the market is packed with Adams willing to sell their souls for a dozen oysters or a bag of cherries. It’s the simplicity of the exchange, the take it or leave it, the hustle and the bustle and the way that the eye denies good judgement that captivates me. This market thrives under the colours and flavours of every race and creed under the sun….well, mostly from under a French colonial sun which shone on many more places than I had previously imagined. A woman tending huge pans of eels in parsley and stuffed snails exchanges pleasanteries with her neighbour who is flipping chapatis to serve with freshly made korma. Garlands of Spanish chorizo and espelette peppers frame a view of Vietnamese and Senegalese stalls selling their traditional foods and all this is implanted into the framework of a traditional French market whose ingredients are known to us all. Even to penetrate the inner sanctum of food stalls entails struggling through a near impenetrable ring of traders selling baskets, cloth, jewellery, wine, clothes and kitchen utensils….I just can’t get enough of it and it only happens on a Sunday morning…no wonder the churchs are empty. I’m happy to worship here but…..

U boat pens seen from the bridge leading to La Pallice

U boat pens seen from the bridge leading to La Pallice

….the market of which I speak is on the wrong side of the tracks in La Rochelle. The tracks, the wrong side of which it finds itself, still lead to the undamaged U-Boat pens built by the slave labour of the Todt Organisation during WWII. Would it not be wonderful if Palmyra had proved as immune to high explosives as has this grim monument to a period when mankind surpassed its previous limits of beastliness and cruelty; however high the bar of horror was then set, there are those today who would surpass it…

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About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
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16 Responses to bushel or merkin ?…

  1. Mad Dog says:

    I’d never be able to resist the Sirens 🙂

  2. catterel says:

    Reminds me of a limerick by a friend of mine; A lady adorned with a merkin Missed her mouth while eating a gherkin. It fell in her lap And slipped into the gap – Now who knows where that gherkin is lurkin’? (Copyrighted!)

  3. You made me smile and feel sad today. Merkins and markets (smiling), Palmyra and U boats (sad). You are a genius Mr Stowell.

  4. Eha says:

    Would you believe had to ‘Google’ ‘merkins’ to be absolutely certain we were on the same page 🙂 ! Then just had to agree with Tanya all the way . . . even that last sentence Milord !!! And I am old enough [almost] to know about the U boat pens, but from ‘the other side’ as a tiny tot who just heard words and saw worried faces . . .

    • The whole Atlantic coast of France is a very clear reminder of those days…and apparently there to stay. In the forest, right by our house, is a memorial to a group of teenage resistants who were murdered there by the Nazis in August 1944….

  5. Ugly tracks and nefarious markets aside – I love how you love peaches.. when I think of you I think of little round firm peach bottoms (God help us all!) c

  6. ardysez says:

    I had to read this a couple of times to fully appreciate the masterful way you have intertwined seemingly disparate thoughts. It has made me so sad to see what has happened to Palmyra, and yes, the ways humans can conceive to punish each other, which of course only punishes all of us. Talk of peaches and markets somewhat balances the other grim thoughts. Thank you.

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