My mother is a trouper. Over the years, I have dragged her to dinners that consisted of raw tuna, when she had never had anything but canned before, and spicy curries from countries she had never heard of. She would smile and eat what was in front of her, when I knew she would feel more at ease with a chicken breast or a plate of spaghetti. And although, it all seemed normal to me, the meals tested her comfort level. Now, she was in France for ten days and we were stretching all of her boundaries. I had signed us up for a day of cooking lessons in a French home. We had started early that morning at the market in Nantes, Brittany. Lars wound us through stalls pointing out baskets of mushrooms cultivated in the surrounding caves and misshapen pumpkins with popcorn bumps blistering their skin. The cheese stalls held enticing, yet unknown varieties for mom.
“These are the last of the summer peaches,” Lars told us. They were smushed as flat as a skipping stone; a different variety than mom bought at home, but not so foreign that she couldn’t recognize it. So far, it had all seemed familiar and mom was enjoying herself, that is, until we got to the corner stall.
I could see the masts of the sailboats in Old Port Cannes sticking out of the Mediterranean like pegs in a cribbage board. It had been an overnight voyage from Spain to France. The new crew, who had not been there before, were excited to explore a new town. I was excited too, not for something new, but for something that had been simmering in my mind for months; the market.
A feast of summer colors assaulted me as I entered the Forville Marche in Cannes, France. Market tables sagged with tomatoes, the color of fast cars. The shine of the eggplants deep purple, almost black skin sat as backdrop to the emerald green slender zucchini. I immediately decided on ratatouille for lunch.