Friday, August 26, 2011
Halt! Harvest Time. The next edition may or may not go out on Monday... depends on the state of the grapes!
une impatience grandissante
: a growing anticipation
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Comment décrire les sentiments d'un vigneron la veille des vendanges? C'est une impatience grandissante! How to describe a winemaker's feelings prior to the harvest? Anticipation!
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
Une Impatience Grandissante
I'm up early, looking for a word to describe the general atmosphère around here--at an 18 acre Vauclusian vineyard... 24 hours prior to harvest time! This side of the open window, where a minty morning breeze reaches me, I hear a rooster crowing in a far off basse-cour and the rumble of a tractor in the leafy field to the west, opposite which the sun has yet to rise from behind Mont Ventoux; given the headlights which brighten the vine rows, my guess is that the farmer harvested le grenache or le cinsault throughout the cool night. Not a bad idea considering the week's sweltering temperatures. Though it feels like la canicule, a true heatwave happens when stifling temperatures continue into la nuit, without relief.
Jean-Marc tells me that it will be a little cooler this weekend, that there may even be un peu de pluie followed by a light Mistral. I keep my fingers crossed for our own vendange, which leads me to settle, finally, on today's word (also the title of today's missive): "A Growing Impatience", or, in less poetic prose: anticipation. Only, every time I think of the word "anticipation", it throws me back to high school, when my friend Holly, learning of my prom date and bent on seeing my face flush red, sang the tune by Carly Simon: "Anticipation" (...an-ti-ci-pa-ay-tion is making me wait!...). Holly sang the Heinz ketchup version and not the Carly Simon original, which we were unaware of, it being a little before our time). As Holly sang, I prepared to go to the dance with a junior on whom I had a short-term crush. And now, three decades later, I've another crush coming on.... A Grape Crush!
To be honest, my husband (no connection to the aforementioned prom date) is the one in love with grapes--and the crushing of them--and, because I vowed to follow him anywhere, I have ended up here, in the Rhône Valley, anticipating the arrival of so many harvesters who will soon sit down to the table and wonder "Qu'est-ce qu'on mange?"
What's for lunch, indeed!!! Never mind that our frigo is bursting and our garde-manger now groans beneath the weight of its bounty; the question now is how to get all those ingredients to add up to a satisfying meal? It seems we're in for a humble beginning (my brother-in-law has voted for les sandwiches. He is only being practical, trying to inspire my inner American cook; now to dig in deep, past le ketchup and le peanut butter.... and find her --'else perpetuate a certain gastronomic myth which has the French assuming that hamburgers and Coke are on every star-spangled menu!).
Meantime, my husband, Chief Grape, is busy with his own pre-harvest flurry. He is washing out buckets, or seaux, painting the old benne, which will receive all those ripe raisins, and scouring his cement tanks. I am relieved to hear him whistling and joking and stopping to eat his lunch -- what a different picture this is from four years ago, when I witnessed a gaunt figure racing back and forth, from the cellar to the field, fueled by his own sweating flesh. He never took the time to eat, and stayed up late into the night trying to keep one step ahead of the voracious vendange. I feared the harvest would consume him completely. In the end I understood that he had put himself, sweat and tears, into the wines that he made.
These days my husband pushes away a part of his lunch... and I wrap up les restes to snack on later. He is no longer a skinny first-year vigneron, he is a grape chief, which, come to think of it, makes me Mrs Chief ! I think it may be time, now, to do away with so much self-doubt, and begin to live up to my new name, Mrs Chief, by getting into some of the former, beginning with the harvest menu....
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box
Please have a look at how last year's harvest jitters were handled, here, in the story "Affolement" or "Panic" - you'll also see Smokey's Elizabethan headgear....
See a picture (from the story reference, above) of what Jean-Marc looked like after the first "voracious" vendange. He has since gained back all the lost weight.
l'atmosphère (f) = atmosphere
la basse-cour = farmyard
le grenache = a grape variety
le cinsault = a big-sized grape used in rosé wine
la canicule = heatwave
la nuit = night
un peu de pluie = a little rain
le mistral = a kind of northern wind
la vendange = wine, or grape, harvest
qu'est-ce qu'on mange? = what's for lunch?
le frigo = fridge
le garde-manger = pantry
le seau = bucket
la benne = the moveable bin at the back of a truck
le raisin = grape
les restes (nmpl) = left-overs
For those of you who asked for some Smokey and Braise photos... Here's Smokey, ogling the carrot salad (I like to mix pureed avocado, olive oil, lemon, and roasted (sometimes burnt!) pine nuts inside.
Here's another harvest lunch possibility... now if only tomatoes will stay in season for another month... Click here for the Tomato Tart recipe.
Braise (Smokey's mom) says: "I'll eat anything!"
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety