It appears that spring and I have chosen the same time to arrive in Paris. In the three weeks I have been living on rue St Bernard, not a drop of rain has fallen. The mornings have almost invariably been chilly and bright, the afternoons warm enough to make a sweater superfluous, with the daylight lingering far longer that I could have imagined possible. The park across from my office is a riot of green, splattered liberally with white and pink blossoms.
While the market still has some hoary old cabbage, the signs of printemps are undeniable here as well. Year-round crops have shed the heavy layers of winter: the leeks, newly-dug, are barely wider than my finger, the carrots not yet stubby, the garlic moister, milder, its cloves not yet fully separated.
New season salt-marsh lamb appeared just in time for Easter, painfully expensive and stupendously good, the texture melting, the flavour delicate and haunting. I’ve not yet tackled the artichokes, but one gentleman I saw was not even waiting for home and a pan of boiling water, content to tear off the still-supple leaves and eat them for a mid-morning snack.
And then there are the gariguettes. Slender and slightly elongated, these celebrated early-season strawberries lure the passer-by with an elegant fragrance reminiscent of fraise du bois (wild strawberries). Another factor in their status is the fact that they are non-remontante, each bush yielding only one batch of berries. And the taste? Slightly soft and yielding, sweet yet complex, perfectly accented with a dollop or two of crème fraiche but in no way lacking without.
I’m thrilled to be in London for a few days, but I’m really hoping that this blink-and-you-miss-it berry will still be there when I get back.