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by Sarah Heath | Two veggie's at a butcher's

Having never been to the Provence Cote d’Azur area of France, we were very excited when my sister-in-law and her family invited us to stay with them in a beautiful villa they had rented for their holidays. The villa was just outside a little village called La Garde Freinet, about half an hour inland from St Tropez.

Our adventures began just as we were winding up the meandering roads up to the lovely medieval village which is situated in the Massif des Maures in the Var. Slowly approaching the next corner, we spotted a wild boar! He didn’t flinch – or move an inch – as we passed him by. He was obviously used to British tourists!

The following day, my sister-in-law and I offered to walk into the village to buy the ingredients for supper that evening. We strolled through the daily market and picked up the supplies we needed until all that was left to buy were a couple of whole chickens. Jut off the main square, we found the butcher’s shop, Chez Jean-Jacques which was run by the butcher, who had one of those strangely corned beef-type complexions, and his smiley wife who was there working alongside him.

“Qu’est-ce-qu’il vous faut, Madame?” (“What would you like, Madame?”) I asked for the two chickens whereupon he pulled open the door of a walk-in fridge and reappeared promptly with the chickens. As he was in the process of weighing and wrapping them, the butcher’s wife suddenly looked at her watch and declared, “C’est midi alors – l’heure d’apéro!” (“It’s midday – time for an aperitif!”)

“Would you like one?” she asked. “Yes please!”, the two of us replied, a bit confused at this slightly out-of-the-norm suggestion. We were noticeably apprehensive as to what she might produce when she then entered the walk-in fridge, pushing past various hanging carcasses with her blood-stained apron. But she reappeared…..with a bottle of nicely chilled rosé! After pouring us each a plastic cupful, she offered us a little cocktail sausage to go with our drink.

Confession time! “Actually, we’re both vegetarians”, I explained feeling slightly embarrassed at my lack of carnivore status. Without missing a beat, she picked up a little leek tart from the fridge display and split it four ways for us.  “Santé!” The wine and the tart were delicious despite the bloody surroundings.

To make up for the slightly embarrassing fact that we were two vegetarians in a butcher’s shop in Provence, we bought some delicious courgette gratin. This was for us to take back for the two of us to have for supper instead of the chicken. (Who am I kidding – the courgettes were probably cooked in duck fat!) I was waiting for the usual teasing I get in France for being a veggie – but not a dicky bird! The butcher and his missus were obviously used to British tourists too!

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