Sunday 8 May 2011

Asparagus and culture

We buy most of our 'standard' food from supermarkets. We are about equidistant to the Leclerc and SuperU Hypermarchés in Loches to the north and the smaller SuperU in La Roche Posay or Intermarché in Yzeures sur Creuse to the south. 

asparagus from Loches market
However, for 'proper' seasonal produce we like to shop at markets when we can.Yesterday we went up to Loches to do a bit of shopping at the market, it has a great market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Right now we are in the strawberry and aparagus season--which are gown in the area and both of which we bought. Around Chatillion sur Indre we've seen lots of little handmade signs advertising asparagus for sale. With the warm weather we're having the asparagus will probably be over soon. 

We like the white variety, but given the choice, prefer the green and buying them in season direct from local growers when we lived in Suffolk was a real treat. 

Here they mainly sell white aspragus. This brings back memories for us of the time we lived Wassenaar and worked at the International School of The Hague.  When we lived in The Netherlands it was always a major event when asparagus from Limburg in the south of the Netherlands became available. 

Niall inspecting exhibits
A colleague at the school in The Hague originally came from the Limburg region and every year round about the end of May/early June she used to do 2 Asparagus 'runs'. She would take orders from colleagues and then drive down to Limburg and buy at small producers she'd known for years. The result was she'd always be able to bring back a good supply even when a season had been poor. Everyone would drop by her house to pick up their goodies--all kept damp and fresh in wet tea towels in her bath--having first been treated to a good strong cup of Dutch coffee and a slice of 'Limburgse Vlaai' a local delicacy [type of large fruit flan].

14th/15th cent 'Virgin of the Butchers'
So clutching our purchases of white asparagus and scented Gariguette strawberries--grown in the next department--41; we went and had some lunch on the terrrace of one of Loches' pizzerias and watched the market wind down.

Ambling back to the car we decided to pop in and see the Caravaggios. Niall had been in before but I hadn't. Neither of us are huge fans but it seemed totally silly not to pop in when the little museum-- a gallery built onto the side of Loches' church of St Antoine --is open all day and we had parked the car almost next door. You enter [it's free] the gallery through an automatic turnstile. There's a series of informative panels explaining the discovery of the two works and although they take pride of place, there are some other lovely items which caught our interest more, if we're honest, than the two Caravaggio canvases.
Virgin holding her heart
There was a lovely wooden staute of the Virgin--still with remnants of original polycrome painting donated by the Butcher's Guild. A second, later, wooden statue showed the Virgin holding her heart--quite a rare representation. There was also a wonderful naive 17th century  brotherhood baton of the guild of winegrowers portraying St Vincent, their patron saint--complete with billhook and holding a bunch of grapes.

St Vincent

After having had a good look we drove home picking up a few other bits of shopping on the way. All in all a lovely Saturday.

Tonight the asparagus will be wrapped in ham, covered in a light cheese sauce and baked in the oven.


GaynorB said...

Sounds delicious!

Jean said...

We have been meaning to visit the museum for ages but so far have usually been waylaid by a good lunch then have to get back to walk and feed Lulu - a lame excuse for avoiding culture, I know !!

Your supper sounds lovely. We did exactly the same with some asparagus which we bought from the market in LGP one time - must do it again.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Gaynor--it was :-)

@Jean--we nearly didn't go in for a similar reason. We were full of food and still needed to buy some other bits. Thankfully cats feed & walk themselves. Although our 2 do come on walkies with us of an evening just like dogs! :-)

Craig said...

That does sound lovely. And the museum looks like an excellent visit.

Pollygarter said...

The couple who do strawberries and asparagus at Le Grand Pressigny market had green asparagus last week - my preference as well! Possibly the large expat community has something to do with it. Our little containers of Mara des Bois strawberries are producing steadily - enough for a strawberry garnish on crushed meringue (from the bakery) and creme fraiche anyway.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Pauline-- must make an effort to see if they are this week; I'd love some fresh green ones. The Le GP market is on Saturday right?

Jean said...

Antoinette - the Le GP market is on Thursdays until midday only - sorry I didn't spot this before - you've missed it for this week !!!