le 2 février 2002
Black diamonds for the
...and special "truffled"
Le bonhomme at the caisse
well-deserved truffle omelette break!
truffle market comes to town
Journée de la Truffe
A bright, sunny Sunday in late January and the Place aux Herbes in Uzès was
filled with the unmistakable funky scent of truffles. Once again under the arches and
all around the square, several dozen stands were selling wine, regional
delicacies, books, mushrooms, “truffle-friendly” trees, and, of
course, les diamants noirs (black diamonds – truffles). This
year’s prices were up…way up, nearly 30% from last year, at 700-900
euros per kilo. That's nearly US$25 per ounce, which
would put a ping-pong-ball-sized truffle at about $18. Why so high? Fewer truffles were harvested this
year, primarily because of very dry weather.
the scene with eyes, ears and noses alert, we strolled around
and decided that our truffle experience this year would be “on the
spot.” A family of four had set up a stand selling truffle omelettes,
with the daughter putting together the egg mixture, maman cooking
the omelettes to order, the 5-year-old son working the cash register, and papa
(bon père de famille) overseeing everything and chatting up the
customers. Délicieux et bon marché – for 8 euros we each had a
3-egg omelette sprinkled with black truffles. We also found a “torte
au ch” a goat-cheese-and- black-truffle filled pastry
which we brought home for our dinner ...superbe!
and attendance was once again high this year, with many sniffings going
on. We were thrilled to watch the unfolding drama:
looks of ecstasy at the scent, consternation at the price, frowns
in negotiating, and smiles of satisfaction at concluding a purchase.
mysterious and elusive truffle, hunted in carefully guarded locations by
men and women with pigs and dogs, has seen a tremendous decline in harvest
over the past 100 years. At the beginning of the 20th century,
more than 1000 tons were gathered annually in France. The mid-1990s saw an
average annual 50-ton harvest. Today that volume is down to 25-30 tons per
addition to the black truffle of Languedoc and Provence, there are highly
prized black truffles from the Perigord, Quercy, and Burgundy. And the
white truffle from the Piemont region of northwest Italy, worshipped for
its perfume and taste, commands more than 2000 euros per kilo. The world
of truffles and trufficulture is unique…but we still wonder who thought
about and then had the nerve to taste the first one and proclaim it a
delicacy. Whoever it was, he or she created a craze that’s been going on
for thousands of years. Vive la truffe! For
more truffle market photos...
A hearty group of sports fans of all ages got together in Uzès
for a Saturday afternoon of rugby watching…and what rugby, the Tournament of Six
Nations. On the program: France
vs. Italy, beer, popcorn, and whiskey. Jeremie, Rafaël, Gwen, Gaël,
Robinson, and Joe cheered the French XV to victory, a resounding 35-12 in
spite of a slow start by the French.
But this is
just the first step for France. They’ll play Wales in two weeks
to move ahead in the tournament. Allez bleu…
Les mecs de rugby...
Le rugby à la française
Sept mecs (six jeunes invités et
Joseph, assez jeune) arrivent pour regarder le match de rugby France/Italie
à la télé…quelle opportunité pour Joseph d’apprendre les règles
et aussi de bavarder en français. Au programme:
bière, popcorn, et whiskey à go go. Après quelques actions de jeu, l’ambience est au rendez-vous.
La France commence difficilement mais finit par l’emporter, 35-12! Pour
fêter la victoire, Joseph ouvre une deuxième bouteille de Johnny Walker
(la première étant finie).
France doit jouer contre le Pays de Galles (Wales) dans deux semaines…à
(contribué par Jeremie et Gwen)
Euro – you’re
Ça va avec l'euro...
How goes the euro? First month’s experience in France (and a dozen other
European countries) has been interesting. A variety of pièces
(1, 2, 5, 10,
20 and 50 centime pieces and 1 and 2 euro coins) makes for lots of
frowning at, picking through, and finally passing over a handful of coins to
various proprietors to let them sort out the proper amount. Adding to the
coin confusion is the fact that the majority of price conversions during
these early months have been made on an exact basis. Example: a baguette,
formerly 4F20 is now 67 centimes; the former 100F menu at a restaurant is
15,06 euros. Rather than rounding up or down, proprietors are choosing to
go with the precise conversion. You're holding lots of small change
that seems impossible to count in the midst of a transaction, so you end
up just giving over a euro bill or coin and getting back even more of the
endless change…sorcerer’s apprentice!
So many coins...
...so little time to figure out which is which!
all this will sort itself out, and in fact the vast majority of French
(and Europeans) have made the transition quite well with only a minimum of
grumbling. What they are grumbling about is looming price inflation.
Many believe that in converting to the euro, prices are being rounded
up…or will be once this several-month transition period is over. A
special French Consumer Protection Council is keeping watch on prices
across the country to keep the public informed.
issue raising eyebrows and hackles is price comparisons among
participating countries. Previously a cup of coffee in Germany, France,
Italy or such, had a particular price in that country’s currency…now
that prices are all in euros, the price variations among countries on
basic goods and services is becoming more apparent…and making for heated
But the euro is here to stay (the UK's choice not to follow suit
notwithstanding), and is being felt across borders. With each participating country
creating a distinctive
face on one side of its coins (a bit like the state quarters introduced in the US over the past
few years), we’re starting to see euro coins from other countries dribbling into the
money supply. In sum, minimal problems but much discussion. The European
Union's first major consumer move appears to have a few bumps, but in
general the average Eurocitizen is doing quite well in negotiating the new
Much more to come, so stay tuned!