Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Magnificent tomatoes --- at a price!!

Take a gander at those tomatoes. The photograph doesn't even come close to doing them justice. They are, without a doubt, the most delicious tomatoes I have ever tasted in my 55 years on the planet. They quite simply eclipse all other tomatoes from my memory and set a new standard for how tomatoes should taste.

But such excellence in tomatoe-dom does not come without a price. For the specimens shown above, the price exacted was my abject humiliation at the hands of a couple of Parisiennes well-versed in putting mere foreigners in their place.

It all started innocently enough. I headed out in the late afternoon to the Marché des Enfants Rouges (I am still unclear as to exactly who these eponymous ruddy children may have been) to pick up some 30-month Comté (the black tar of Comtés) at the fromagerie, having previously established that the maximum age of Monoprix-stocked Comté is 24 months. Having secured my fix of Comté, I was ready to go home when I noticed this appealing maraîcher right next to the cheese shop. Hmmm, I thought, I need to get some tomatoes, and I sidled into the store, to get a closer look.

What I should have done: enter the store decisively, sing out "Bonjour", and wait for someone to come help me

What I did: wander into the store in a fugue state, forgetting to issue the obligatory greeting (this alone marked me as a barbarian, but it gets worse), sidle over toward the tomatoes, upon seeing these very attractive clusters of tomatoes on the vine, and (I shudder now at the atrocity of my own behavior) PICK THEM UP AND HOLD THEM IN MY HAND .....

Only then did I come to my senses, but of course by then it was too late. The vile deed was done. I looked around, as if in a fugue state, only to find myself being stared at ("stared" isn't really the right verb here, but "laser-crucified" isn't in the dictionary) in contempt and disbelief by at least half a dozen French people, each of whose mouths was frozen in a rictus of horror, reminiscent of Munch's "The Scream". The store-owner fixes me in her sights and bellows, in tones that still chill my spine, "Monsieur, J'arrive!"

So I stew in my guilty juices while she takes her sweet time in wrapping those radishes for the garrulous old lady who is staring at me as if I were a particularly loathsome toad (crapaud). The stress takes its toll, so that my palms start to sweat. This in turn starts to dislodge the tomatoes from the vine. So that, by the time the dragon lady comes to put me out of my misery why - wouldn't you know it - a couple of the little tomatoes come loose and go bouncing around on the floor, like so many little pellets of possessed vegetable matter.

I have blocked the following 90 seconds out of my head, apparently. Let's just say that it was bad; very, very bad. Of course, at no point did any French person behave in a way that was anything other than correct. But they have other ways of making you want to curl up and die.

In the night I had a dream. In the dream, I was stuck in an infinitely large fruit and vegetable store, unable to touch the produce, and nobody would come to help me because the way I had said "Bonjour" upon entering the store had marked me as a foreigner, and thus, in all probability, a barbarian.

But man, those tomatoes are simply extraordinary. So, despite the angoisse, I have to think it was worth it.

1 comment:

  1. I can feel your pain all the way here. But those do sound like nice tomatoes!