Tuesday, February 20, 2007

From Oursins to Oursons

For weeks, nay months, I have boasted boastfully about my upcoming trip to the Sea Urchin Festival. Becoming much the envy of my food-loving friends and thinking that this would be a trip of a lifetime.
I had puffed out my chest and smiled pridefully. Emailing to share my excitement with those who share my waist expanding hobby of eating.

The boy, indulgent enough, had planned a trip down to see his wonderfully patient parents near Aix en Provence. They had been kind enough to not only take us to the market in Aix on Saturday, endure our wonderment and excitement for the HUGE Carrefour, eat the Chinese food we prepared for them on Lunar New Year's Eve but also drive us 40 minutes to Carry Le Rouet for the Oursinade.

Upon arrival, we immediately stumbled upon a stall selling plenty of the spiny needled creatures with their gold, creamy insides for the price of 9 euros a dozen! When I became overly excited, the boy's parents tried to calm me down and get me to move on by telling me of the dozens and dozens of stalls there would be by the waterfront, promising to buy me a huge platter, a couple of bottles of wine and hunker down to sea creature filled meal.

Upon hearing this, I hurriedly rushed to walk over to the seafront pausing only to check out the restaurants and admire the seafood platters they had on display.

When I got to the seafront I encountered only this. Beautiful to be sure, rolling clouds, crashing waves and behind me was a row of seaside restaurants. I turned around to face the boy's parents, to see them looking around them with a state of bewilderment. Onto the tourism office we marched, demanding to know where our expected stalls of sea food delights were. Meanwhile bus loads of tourists kept driving into the tiny village.

As it turns out, we had become victims of what is a very French turn of events. At 10am that very morning (we had arrived at 11am), the organizers had decided to cancel the Oursinade and perhaps, only perhaps, we were to note, that it *might* be on the following weekend but that it would not be decided until Thursday at the earliest. The reason given was bad weather. It was cold I grant you, with strong winds and intermittent rain but we were talking about sea urchins here! Surely people would be willing to put on another jacket or two?

Much dejected, we walked around to find one or two enterprising fellows with their buckets of sea urchins for sale before heading back to the original shop where I ordered a dozen of everything and a bottle of wine (I only ordered a dozen as the boy's parents did wish to partake in cold sea food that morning) before driving back another 40 minutes home where we had a huge feast o' seafood including these muddy shell like escargot creatures, fresh sweet mussels, tasty clams, briny oysters, sea urchin which were creamy with a shockingly sweet aftertaste, all washed down with a surprisingly good Oursinade wine.

So, as disappointed as I was, when we got home, with the fire roaring, platters of fresh, sweet seafood including the much beloved sea urchin, I felt not so much the absence of the L'Oursinade as I did like an ourson, all fuzzy and warm inside.

Of course this was much helped by the roasting of marshmallows we ate following our feast of the sea...


umami said...

Oh, wish I was there. The uni in the markets here are pathetic: skinny little blobs of metallic red and tasting metallic, nothing like the ones you enjoyed in Aix. Lucky you!

susan said...

Dear Jess,

Oh no!!! I'm so sorry to hear this - what a shame!! Are you going next week if it happens?
But only 9 euros a dozen - great price. So is a dozen enough, or could you have eaten more?? That's a dream of mine - to eat as much sea urchins as I want.
Oh, and Xin Nian Kaui Le! I hope the year of the pig brings you continued health and happiness - and lots of delicious things to eat.

Sui Mai said...

Unfortunately no. I am not able to go the following weekend. Le sigh...

Happy year of the Bacon to you both as well!

Josh said...

That's it? That IS it? They, French? The whole event cancelled because of bad weather?

Anyway, Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Sui Mai said...

Josh, I can see you feel my pain. I couldn't believe it either. I would have thrown an appropriate tantrum, crying and throwing fistfuls of sea urchin needles at the organizers faces but the latter were no where to be seen. Probably giggling manically somewhere, hording all the sea urchins to themselves. Bugger.