Monday, November 5, 2007

Roasted chestnuts

Proust's madeleine has nothing on this one.

I found myself on the Left Bank after a Right Bank sort of day because we drove the Adorable Goddaughter over to The Boyfriend's parents' place to meet up with him and two other vet students so they could drive back to Belgium last night, and my friend had to go to a Theosophy lecture in another neighborhood after that, so she dropped me off on the way so I could take the subway home. Before taking the Métro I walked for a while, running into the new city bikes, and then, right near the church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, on this cool November evening, happened upon a chestnut-roasting stand. You get roast chestnuts on the street, straight from the grill (there are several kinds, but it's generally some sort of metal plate over a wood fire) into a paper cone which you then carry around, peeling and eating and warming your hands.

Chestnuts used to be the staple carbohydrate of peasants in the low mountains of central France. In other words, a food of the poor. They were among the most inexpensive street snack when I was growing up. Now a small paper cone of them costs three Euros a pop. I bought one anyway, of course, for nostalgia's sake but also because I really love chestnuts.


They also smell wonderful, and as a bite to eat on a chilly late afternoon, equally far from supper and lunch, they were deeply satisfying.

Chestnuts are, of course, still an ingredient in many dishes, from chestnut stuffing for fowl to the expensive and delicious candied chestnuts of the Christmas season.

The man selling them appeared to be an immigrant from South Asia. Sign of the times.

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