“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day Four: How Sunday Became my Favorite Day of the Week

When Kerry and Zoe and I spent seven months in France, we fell in love with Sundays.  That was the biggest market day in Rouen, where I was teaching, and we would wake up, have a stovetop café latté and pain au chocolat from the nearby bakery, and then take off.  Armed with several shopping bags, we’d walk over to Place San Marc to stock up on regional vegetables and fruit, cheeses, meats, and whole fish.  Normandy is dairy paradise and all the oozing, stinky cheeses we’d bought that day—Neufchatel, Camembert, Livarot, Pont l’Evêque—would disappear before the end of the week.

Zoe, a small town pup, was sometimes overwhelmed with the crowds, but the savory smells made up for the hassle and the noise.  I let her lead me by her nose to the salamis and pâtés she knew we had to try.

At the apartment, we’d open a bottle of wine, sauté the rabbit or duck (we gravitated towards food we couldn’t get at home), put the flowers I’d just bought in a vase, and relax.  We would feast for hours, making sure to save room for both the cheese course and dessert: usually a fruit tart we’d seen in the window of a patisserie on our way home.

When we recovered from the food coma, we’d walk Zoe for hours.  Along the Seine, where other families would be enjoying their Sundays with their dogs and strollers, or off to La Forêt Verte, a green haven near the university where we'd see other couples and families and dogs, all of us unified in our purpose: walking off Sunday lunch.

I wondered if I’d keep up the Sunday lunch tradition last winter, when my teaching life sent me back to Rouen, only this time alone, without my husband, who was usually the main chef in our kitchen, and without Zoe to lead me to fragrant meat stalls with her snout.

I’m happy to report that I did.  Okay, I didn’t actually cook Sunday lunch.  I’d get in line for a succulent, free-range chicken roasted on the spit with potatoes, and then I’d buy salad fixings, cheese, fruit, and baguette.  I saved dessert for after the long walk, usually with my French friend Servanne and her two-year-old daughter.  My policy for life in France this time was No Dessert Left Behind so I branched out, moving beyond apricot or raspberry tarts to new-to-me treats, things with buttercream and chocolate, like Operas.

The coolest thing of all: I never gained an ounce.  The first time in France I came home 15 pounds lighter; the second time it was 10.  I joined a gym both times, but I probably work out harder at home, so my only explanation is all the walking we did.  And the fact that what we ate was fresh and delicious, without nasty additives and corn syrup and the other snarky things that sneak into American food.

So when I came home, the big question was this: How can we keep up our Sunday lunch tradition in Canton, New York?  Population: 6,000 (ish). 

The answer, our local farms.  Canton, New York doesn’t have French bakeries, but what it lacks in cosmopolitan splendors it makes up for in small-scale organic farms.

While I wrote this blog, my husband cut up some cabbage, carrot, mushroom, cilantro, and fennel—the last of which is the only thing we had to buy at the Price Chopper—and sautéed it with garlic to stuff a pork tenderloin we bought from the farmer who lives twelve miles from us on the old Dekalb Road.  I’m doing something with cannellini beans and shallots and chicken broth I made this week from last Sunday’s roast chicken.  The white wine is chilling.

Sunday for us is a great day to be home.  The laundry’s going, things are simmering on the stove, Zoe and I have a walk planned with Cathy and Tupper for just-before-dusk, and before that, Zoe will not have far to go as she leads us to the best table around, with her nose.

Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing—church, sports, chores, homework—I hope you eat something really tasty today.  Bon appetit, gentle readers.  Bon appetit!
We were dining in Collioure, on the Mediterranean Sea, and she was very quiet under the table like a perfectly behaved French dog.  And then the fish came out, and she emerged from the tablecloth eager to see and be seen


  1. a perfect evocation of Sundays in Rouen! The visit to the Marché Place Saint Marc, the glory of wandering through the stalls of fresh produce, and olives, nuts and herbs! But the pleasure of doing so with your family! I cannot wait to share this with Larry and Rose! and to introduce him at least to an opèra! and her to the delights of those long walks. Thanks for your gorgeous writing that inspires healthy living in a succulent fashion!

  2. Oh good heavens. Now I am jealous of another dog. At first I thought Zoe had scored big in the "people lottery." Now I have second thoughts...she has special powers over humans. Consider the evidence:

    Convinced the 2-legged folks to:
    bring her home,
    take her to France for a few months,
    let her pick out salami and pate at the market,
    take a few hour walk after lunch,
    and transition the entire Sunday routine stateside...

    I rest my case.