Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Gift for the Green Walnut Lady

Before we went to the market this morning

Every weekend for months now I have been meaning to drop off a bottle of vin de noix with the lady who supplied me with the nuts last year. Throughout the year she sells a variety of things from her farm in Grenoble, but her principle specialty is walnuts, they must have a large orchard of walnut trees. Mushrooms in the fall, dried nuts offered throughout the winter, various veggies coming from her garden, always asparagus in the spring.

I inquired once in the past with a man who sometimes used to work her stand about getting some green ones, and he gruffly turned me away, but it was because he didn't get it. Last year in passing I noticed that this woman had a bunch of green walnuts back behind the table in a bucket, and she was a bit taken aback when I asked oh please could I buy some. She was a bit surprised that I make vin de noix, maybe because of my accent.

I was very glad to have found them without any effort whatsoever. In years past I have gone to great effort to get the green nuts and people always made a big deal about making me meet them at some particular place or come and pick up the order under constraining circumstances. Last year's vin de noix was made with this lady's walnuts, the ones that serendipitously fell into my lap.

Next Sunday is the festival of St. Jean, which is also the day that traditionally people pick the green walnuts in Grenoble. I have been told this by several producers over the years, and I am not exactly sure why they always choose this particular weekend, except that it's always around the beginning of summer. The Festival of St. Jean always falls on the third Sunday of June. The vin de noix is an extra that comes from these green nuts.

The festival itself has its roots in the pagan celebrations surrounding the summer solstice, but in the time of Clovis, our dear Burgundian newly converted king, the pagan festivals became the festival of St. Jean the Baptist. Many a festivity takes place on this day, especially in this region, where Clovis followed his bride the Burgundian princess Clothilde into Roman Catholicism. From a more local perspective, there is also the neighborhood in the 5th arrondissement of Lyon called St. Jean, named after the cathedral there, and they always have big parties involving lots of merrymaking the third weekend of June.

This morning I put my name, address and phone number on a card and tied it to the bottle with some red string that Callan gave me before she moved to New York. I thought it would be better than just giving the lady the unmarked bottle. That's fine for friends and family, but since I am merely a a familiar face to her, I thought it might be better to idenitfy myself with the gift and let her rest assured I wasn't some kind of crazy. Loic of course thought I was being silly even for giving her a bottle to begin with, since she is not someone we socialize with. But I had been meaning to do this since winter and every time I always forgot to take a bottle with me on the way out the door to market.

Today at the market, we went to her stand where she had some cherries out, and I presented her with the wine. I told her that last year the batch had turned out particularly well, and I wanted her to have a taste of the product of her own nuts. It was such a nice moment between us, and she promised to bring me more nuts next Sunday. Loic was amazed and mused aloud on our way home, wondering why she seemed so incredibly happy to have received the bottle of vin de noix from me, in fact more incredibly happy than anyone he had ever seen at receiving a bottle of one of our home made fortified wines, ever.

I explained to him that when you show to a producer that they mean something in your life, that their product is a part of your family tradition, and show to them that you appreciate their product and come to know them through connections like this, it warms their heart. A lot.

So you know what we'll be doing next Sunday. If you want to make Vin de Noix this year, here are two recipes from my kitchen notebook, one for a liqueur, and one for a lighter aperitif drink.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The vin de noix looks wonderfully dark and rich. I haven't come across it before and will look out for it when I'm in France next. What a lovely treat for your supplier. I can imagine her delight at such a thoughtful gesture.

11:06 PM, June 17, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Main certainment! Producers are always thrilled to see what you've made from their products. It's one of the best relationships there is, the direct relationship between grower and consumer. They spend so much time growing and fretting over each bite we take, it's wonderful to let them know what's become of their wares.

2:17 AM, June 20, 2007  
Blogger Mahek said...

I read your blog regularly...
i like what you have said about the feelings of the producer and about letting them know
thanks for such a insight...

11:59 AM, June 20, 2007  
Blogger Jann said...

What a wonderful gift to give to this woman~I am certain she was touched by your thoughtfulness.

2:16 PM, June 21, 2007  
Blogger Robbie O said...

I read your post on the vin de noix last winter and decided to make some myself. I have found several walnut trees in my neighborhood (near Zurich, CH) and am really axcited to give this a try. Thanks for the inspiration.

11:58 PM, June 21, 2007  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Thanks for your comments, guys. Rob, I hope your wine turns out well.

11:26 PM, July 02, 2007  

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