Sunday, February 7, 2010

"If there's anything more to life than this, I'd like to know what it is"

Oliver had just spoken this wonderful, memorable phrase when we took this picture. The boy loves mussels! Les moûles! He was excited about everything: buying them (the lovely man at the market gave me 3 kilos - an outrageous amount, but we did honor to the catch!), debearding them (everybody else got at least a little freaked out at some point, but not Oliver), and (oh yes) eating them. They were unlike any I'd ever had: so full of flavor, kind of briny, and every once in a while, it was like you were tasting the ocean. Mmmm. We feasted with dear Hallie and Matt (who, it's official, are up for anything).

Possibly the most interesting things about the mussels was the intensely different reactions it brought out in each kid (the most delicious thing about the mussels was that it really does just take half a bottle of white wine, onions, garlic, a few herbs and a few minutes covered in a pan to make them out of this world). Oliver just devoured them, one after another, talking the entire time, seeking the biggest, juiciest ones, in ecstacy (see quote above!). Iris worked very slowly - taking the first one completely apart ("It has a zipper" she said of the mussel itself!), and then devising a system of stacking the shells inside each other to create th fantastic formation you see here. By the time Oliver had eaten something like 30 mussels, Iris had eaten 7. But she knew each one intimately! Eleanor preferred to have me extract the mussel and then pop it back like a piece of ocean popcorn. It was a feast like no other - hoorah for the Breton mussel!

The afternoon had a moment of unexpected respite: Eleanor put herself down for a nap (!), and so, full from our feast, we all slowly settled into couches and chairs and were all reading (Oliver: Harry Potter (bien sûr); Matt: The Children of Hurin (edited by Tolkein's son); Mac: the local paper (in which thy discussed the storm that is walloping D.C. - we're thinking of you, Steve and Gina!!!); me, The Three Musketeers (bien sûr); and Hallie and Iris the library book Buzzy, about a plucky bee (thank you, Hallie!). It was my turn to think: "If there's anything more to life than this, I'd like to know what it is."

The children had big plans for the rest of the afternoon: we were going to ancient China via the bamboo grove in the Bois d'Amour. Oliver and Iris have developed something they call the "World Explorers' Club" and ancient China was our destination (tomorrow, it's "The Future" - wow!). The bamboo grove is actually behind me in this picture - but this location was important to their adventures (it's the water gathered in what was a laundresses' basin - I don't know what period, but there they used to work!).

Crêpes and cider for dinner, then The Princess Bride (one of Hallie's favorite movies, and what with all of that talk of adventure in the afternoon, it seemed like the right thing to do). Eleanor ended the day with this utterly fetching hair arrangement. Happy happy!

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