Berry au Bac to Pont a Bar on the canal des Ardennes 2

3 May 2011

We will see more garden produce for sale along the way in other smaller and quieter canals, as a lot of lock-keepers sell surplus, and the harvest is ripening. We look forward to that, particularly as the small supermarkets we come across don’t always have wonderfully fresh fruit and veg. The large ‘grandes surfaces’ are all built way outside the towns, sometimes 2, 3 or 4 km away, and the town shops themselves have little, or of poor quality and choice on offer. The chief loss is that of a butcher, and we have quite often found it difficult enough to find good meat for dinner, other than some sausages, usually good, and rather dried up looking and fatty pork chops with lots of bone, which weighs expensively. In Rethel, home of the ‘boudin blanc’ (white pudding) with big advance signs proclaiming it’s unique flavour, all excited, we went to one of the specialist producers, whose ancestor had ‘invented’ it, and purchased some. Clonakilty white puddens leave them in the shade! Our French friends have, over the years, always extolled the quality and appearance of Irish meat, and indeed now that we are shopping here we see why. It is amazing that in a country where so much time and trouble is put into the appearance of food on the plate, or of cakes, sweets, parcels etc that the raw meat in a butcher’s shop, or section in a small supermarket, is so dreadfully badly presented, and so unappetising looking. That is not to say that the meat is not quite good at times, but they certainly do not market it well. Fergal Quinn could show them a thing or two! Though I must say that the said ‘grandes surfaces’ do have excellent presentation and hygiene, it appears that the traditional shops have not caught up – and many of them will serve cold cooked meats and raw meat without separating them. We realise how spoilt we have become on the Shannon & elsewhere in recent years, where even the smallest villages have good choice and hygiene. The markets are excellent for fruit and veg., though you need to watch that poor quality items are not popped in, and they can be pricier. It is fun, though, wandering through them and picking out goodies from the great variety on offer. Delicious apricots and melons have been in abundance, as well as peaches, but blackcurrants and raspberries are very expensive, and strawberries not as good as ours, but then, I am a Wexford woman born and bred!

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