Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Too short ... but really pleasant

My little vacation was relaxing, pleasant, not too expensive - because I mainly stayed at home and ... too short. It made a welcome change from my usual stressy life though. I went to the our weekly outdoor twice: the first time to buy mussels - the first real Dutch mussels of the season which are grown in the Waddenzee and the Easter Scheld. While the French 'bouchot' mussels are grown on stalks, the Dutch mussels are being grown in baskets that lie on the sea bed.

The Dutch mussel growers collect the 'mussel seed' (tiny colonies of mini-mussels) from the sea bed and take them to the Waddenzee and/or the Easter Scheldt (rich in plankton) where they are left to do their thing; i.e. growing into tasty and juicy mussels, with a nice black shell and plenty of cream-coloured 'flesh'. After two or three years they are ready for consumption. 

Although we can get bouchot mussels nearly all year round, to us Belgians mussel season normally starts around July 21st, the Belgian Fête Nationale, when the first Dutch mussels appear on the market stalls and on the menu cards of restaurants. Many restaurants serve these mussels from July till February. It was once believed that one should only eat them in months that have an 'R' in their name. So July or even August would be too early, but every self-respecting mussel fan won't wait till September and indulge in his favourite seafood as soon as it is available.

Because, although the mussels are a Dutch produce, we Belgians are the main mussel consumers/per head.

So we had mussels, on the first day of my short vacation ... they were utterly delicious. Sorry, no photos, too busy eating.

But I do have an 'enigma' photo for you. It's been a while since I invited you to a little quiz. So what do make of the above photo? Good luck!


Jean said...

We had them several times on our most recent stay in France. I often wondered about the "r in the month" business and how it came about. The ones we had in July were certainly delicious.
I think your picture is of a light fitting, or some kind of canopy, seen from below.
I'm glad you enjoyed your little holiday and hope you feel fully refreshed!

Susan said...

Jean: the r in the month thing comes about because they are the cooler months, so in the old days it was safer to eat mussels and oysters in the cooler months. I think it ties in with their breeding cycle too, so you are not eating them during the breeding season.

Martine: I think the mystery object is a lamp shade.

Niall & Antoinette said...

Yum mussels!

Perhaps the mystery object is some kind of lid--for a laundry basket perhaps? Though I think Susan has probably guessed correctly :-)

Caolyn said...

Yesterday we went to a Belgian-themed restaurant to celebrate my husband's birthday and he ordered...mussels.

Coincidence? Or great minds thinking alike?

Louise said...

I knew the 'r' rule with oysters but not in Australia we have mussels year round because of the varying water temperatures round the country/island...I cook them many ways, but always find the more simple...the better! I think your photo is of a basket weave of....?

ladybird said...

Jean, Congratulations! You guessed right. See today's post :)

Susan, I think you are right about the 'r' month story. We were told the same thing by a guy growing oysters in Brittany many decades ago.

N&A, Looking forward to another pot of mussels myself!

Carolyn, Happy belated birthday to E.! Hope he enjoyed the mussels. And as they say in French: Les grands esprits se rencontrent :)

Louise, We prefer 'moules marinières' - straightforward = a knob of salted butter, chopped celery, parsley and onion and plenty of pepper ... and the pure salty taste of the sea.