Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Last Bitter Greens

At first glance the neighborhood where I work seems like a wasteland in terms of architecture, but as time goes on and I ride the same route again and again, my eyes explore all of the the nooks and crannies. Careful observation over the same route for months now has unearthed remarkable remnants of something mysterious and grand that existed there before these complexes were built. I touch on the clues like milestones as the bus passes through.

Sometimes I think about the history of it. Something happened before they managed to raze the quartier completely, and for reason unknown to me, there are just a few gorgeous houses set back from the road behind tall metal gates, set inexplicably among cheap sandy looking unpainted cast concrete housing complexes. I wonder what this neighborhood might have been like if they'd managed to hold out. What made the community leave? Sometimes I wonder if this part of town was destroyed by bombs or fire during WWII and this is the rebuild. I suppose I could find out.

One of these days I'll pick up my camera on the way out the door in the morning and take it out on the bus and take some photos of what lingers in the nooks and shadows. I love to explore the neighborhood, even if it looks from the outset like there's nothing there. There is a whisper of deep beauty lurking in the shadows, on the edge of it, predominantly Art Nouveau, cool and mysterious, a built-in window box, a gate, a cast iron worked gate of inexplicabe beauty standing out from the nothingness, something in the ruins and miraculously, in the morning, passing by on the bus, I notice the nuances, they tell me that many of these seemingly vacant houses are indeed occupied.

Unfortunately the neighborhoods there aren't equipped anymore for any kind of local commerce. It still exists like limpets on sea rock clinging to some of the main thoroughfares, but not much. I still get out and walk through the neighborhood where I work every day. Walking during my lunch break today, I was at a crosswalk and because I was impatient and didn't want to stop, I turned the corner towards what I thought was just a vacant lot instead of waiting for the light to change. I passed by a building really empty, I could tell, because all of the windows were broken out.

That's when I saw, recessed from the street, a little place that sold vegetables and some well chosen regional products, a really nicely chosen selection of products, I coudn't help but notice. Veggies, cheeses mostly from the Alps, some jams, cakes, fruits and fresh herbs. I picked up some winter greens and parsley to make a salad tonight. A wedge of cheese and some spice bread. I will go back there again. Things were fresh.

Tonights salad was a mix of the chicory above, carrots, shallots, some greener lettuce, feta to counter the bitterness of the winter greens, sliced mushrooms, and a simple vinaigrette made with cider vinegar, lots of black pepper. It hit the spot.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love bitter greens/weeds. Cooked or young in salads. I've got wild rocket, chicories, herbs, endives, all self seeding in the strangest places on my land. Plus a crunchy, cool assortment of lettuces.
Lucy your page is an "artichoke heart in it's thistled castle".
Wonderful and thankyou.

4:04 AM, March 30, 2007  
Blogger franchini said...

I haven't ever seen such beautiful 'eating' leaves as those. The salad sounds perfect. What made you choose cider vinegar? Was it a case of using what you had in the kitchen or did you pick out the cider vinegar for a reason?

12:29 AM, April 01, 2007  
Blogger Mimi said...

Lucy, that sounds lovely, a perfecrt supper.

What observations on that neighborhood! The stages of a neighborhood's life are so intriguing. I want to know more!

4:18 AM, April 02, 2007  
Blogger misschrisc said...

You are so right Lucy. The suburbs of Lyon are at first glance stark and then intriguing as you start searching more. The little store you uncovered sounds like a treasure.

8:24 PM, April 03, 2007  
Blogger Katie said...

What beautiful greens! I've not seen any like that in our area. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places.
Our nearest city,(small) was purpose-built by Napolean to house the Prefecture. It has to be one of the more boring cities in France. A perfect square in the center and all of the streets perfectly laid out going off from it. And lots and lots of concrete! Maybe I'm not looking in the right places there, either...
Lovely post.

9:56 PM, April 03, 2007  
Blogger Christine said...

Fantastic photo, Lucy. What a wonderful find to discover such a shop.
I look forward to the photos of your neighborhood.

4:02 AM, April 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

happy easter Lucy et al. Totally unrelated, but just reading Richard Olney's, "Simple French Food" , he mentions a bistro in Lyon called La Queue de Cochon.
Does it still exist or, do you know where it used to be. I'll be in Lyon in August and would love to make a pilgramage.

1:38 AM, April 08, 2007  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Thanks for the comments!

Franchini, I think that simple apple cider vinegar makes a great vinaigrette. I keep cider, sherry, and red wine vinegar around for making daily salads.

To the person who wants to go to La Queue de Cochon... I haven't been to a restaurant with that name, and a search in the yellow pages turns up nothing. Hmmm. I wonder if he got the name right on the resto? Looking for my copy...

11:06 AM, April 08, 2007  
Blogger Deborah Dowd said...

Stumbled on your blog via Fanny and am so glad I did. Besides delicious food and pictures, reading your blog transports me to the streets of your town, to your markets, it is really wonderful. I will be back!

3:33 PM, April 08, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Queue de Cochon" is mentioned under "Ears Rinds and Tails" Page 277.


12:55 AM, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Katie said...

I don't know if you do 'memes' but I have awarded/tagged you with 'Thinking Blogger'.
I always enjoy your posts: they bring back memories, make me homesick, farsick, thoughtful.
Not to mention useful: how to get ground coffee....

10:59 AM, April 09, 2007  

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