If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.Doug Larson
One of the advantages of living in a Provençal town a few dusty turns from the sea – our own personal fishmonger. A neighbor just down the block who has a fishing boat in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer sends several times a week texts with ‘la pêche du jour’, the latest as follows:
Muges de mer 8€€/kg
1 poulpe 12€/kg
1 seiche 15€/kg
1 liche 20€/kg
Reste à démailler tout ça
(Basically, “everything must go”)
We availed ourselves of the ‘loups de mer’ (wolves of the sea) or sea bass, though I was tempted by the poulpe (octopus) and curious about the ‘grondins’. I have no idea what to do with a ‘squille’. This is one of the (many) enjoyable aspects of living here – the sheer variety of food available, fresh, local, and seasonally varied. Before the pandemic, he would bring his catch to a small Place in the quartier, where some enterprising souls had established a pop-up café on Thursday evenings, which in turn had spawned a mini-marché with produce and sundry, small plates and libations. Very convivial, shopping and chatting, glass of wine in hand, children running on the cobblestones.
We would grill them whole, stuffed with lemon and rosemary. The fish, not the children.
These days, it’s a bit different. Technically in France, there’s a lockdown, and a lot of businesses are closed – cafés, restaurants…not sure how the order applies to fishermen. I’m not allowed farther than a kilometer from my house, for no longer than an hour, with an attestation stating what I’m up to. Mackeral (Maquereaux) prices are a bit up, the catch a bit smaller. There is no marché in the Place. He offers pick-up at his door, or delivery in ‘la Roquette’, our immediate neighborhood. But I am inordinately pleased that someone is still pushing a boat into the Mediterranean, casting a net, trailing a line, gutting fish in the afternoon, wrapping it in newsprint for me in the evening. These are strange, difficult times, and everyone gets by as best they can.
We buy fish from our neighbor when possible. It’s comforting in this whirlwind world to trade with the calloused hands down the street. Today there was a text with the following:
1 magnifique Turbot de 1.815 kg – 30€/kg
1 Barbue 950g – 25€/kg
Des belles Mostelles – 12€/kg
9 beaux Muges (entiers ou en filets) – 8€/kg
4 Ailes de Raie – 20€/kg/
1 lot de 2 petites Aloses (280g) – 2€ le lot
Perhaps the magnificent turbot? Or the beautiful mostelles (burbots)? I am tempted to sear with brown butter and sage and capers the wings of the skate.
We’re all getting by the best we can.