A Year in Brocante 7: My Kitchen Garden


Yesterday morning at nine o’clock I met Himself in the hall, somnambulant to breakfast in white piqué honeycomb cotton.  “You’ve heard of golf widows….well, I’m a brocante widower” he grumbled. “Bye” ses I, and I out the door to Duingt, the next village down the road along the lake.


With the 36km cycle path and the mountains behind it, Duingt has a chateau, a beach and the Stand Up Paddle Board centre – where last year I bought my board – in front, and along the street, a great bakery where you can even get croissants on Christmas Day, and as the hamlet’s centerpiece, a church.  At one side of the church is the Mayor’s bureau and the post office, at the other side a big car park where every June is held one of our best local Vide Greniers, the French equivalent to Yard Sales.


Yesterday morning, even at nine o’clock, the place was – as we say in Cork – ‘jointed.’  There was coffee and local bread and cakes to start the day and “Savoie Libre” t-shirts, later – say elevenish – there would be sausages, rolls and frites. Children were already playing with new-found toys on the ground beside the stalls, the Muslim women were out in force buying babies’ clothing, summer tourists were buying light-house be-decked “Souvenir of St Malo” plaques and pictures and everyone was in powerful good humour.


I bought a wooden tongs for my friend Pam who last week, coveting mine, expressed an interest in acquiring one to do something disgusting which I can’t remember, and a gold rimmed porcelain platter featuring Napoleon and Josephine, as company for my gold rimmed plate featuring Prince Ranier and Princess Grace.


A man selling assorted treasures – well, maybe junk – paid me the best compliment I’ve ever had at a Brocante (and flirting plays a huge role in this occupation.) “Vous etes une artiste?” he asked, noting my excitement at his collection of aluminium beaters from huge industrial cake mixers after I had assured him I liked cake, but not that much.   This exchange was made just before the bells of the church began to peal out an anthem, with such a peremptory, ceremonial note of praise that it silenced the haggling and the banter for a good three minutes.


Yesterday, of course, was the feast of Corpus Christi, celebrating, in the Catholic tradition, the Real Presence in the Eucharist. As I left the sale, weighted down with dough mixers, a procession, with the gold monstrance carrying the Blessed Sacrament held aloft under an embroidered canopy, proceeded by little girls scattering rose petals from baskets, was crossing the road from a temporary altar where Mass had been celebrated at the lake side, to Benediction in the church.


It was a small procession. In France, division of church and state is enshrined in law; the Vide Grenier carried on without interruption, the SUP boarders continued paddling on the lake, the three small boys sitting on a bench in front of the church continued playing their board game.


When I got home, I planted the beaters  in a plot in my potager, or vegetable garden.   The potager this year, what with all our travelling, late cold snaps, generally wet weather and slugs as big as the Ritz, is a sad little plot.  I called the tableau “My Kitchen Garden” (kitchen garden…dough and batter mixers, get it?) and posted it on Facebook.  I put up 5 ‘photos to be sure to be sure….for last week, after Venus transited the sun unseen behind a low grey sky, when I posted the lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s song “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now” the allusion (to the illusion) went mainly overlooked.













After 24 hours, none of my oh-so tuned-in family or so-called friends appear to be artamused…..not even my cousin-in-law Eamon who is a confectioner or my friend Martin, a chef with whom I am cerebrally joined at the hip.  Maybe ambition mocks my useful toil and my aluminium plants were born to blush unseen, merely wasting their sweetness on the Alpine air.


Isabel Healy

Isabel Healy

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    This “cerebrally joined at the hip” is an interesting concept. Is it my brain which is latched on to your ass or your brain attached to mine ?

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