Food is always a topic of conversation, especially in a country that is world famous for its cuisine. We can walk to the open air market on the main square in town 3 days a week and have our pick from fruits and vegetables grown locally or from Spain only 2 hours south. If we need something from further afield or perhaps an item that isn’t in season in this hemisphere, there are plenty of supermarkets that we can easily get to on foot or by a short bus ride that offer products from around the world. We get their weekly advertisements either through the mailbox or online so that we can see at a glance what’s being featured. It was one of those ads that caught my eye when I saw a word that I recognized “moche” but never expected to see mentioned along with food: ugly.
Even if we didn’t look at the calendar it would be possible to make a good guess as to the time of year here based on what is abundantly available in the market. Since some of the vendors are farmers from right around Carcassonne, if there’s a bounty of melons, for example, you know it has to be the end of the summer. Strawberries and cherries piled high signal another season as do giant bright white heads of cauliflower too big to fit in a (reusable) plastic bag. Unable to resist a bargain, we’ve brought home 5 kilogram (11 lb.) bags of onions and 10 kilogram sacks of potatoes that didn’t cost much more than a glass of wine, and in this part of France, that’s not very much!
In the summer especially, sellers are often faced with an oversupply of a few types of fruit that they must sell right away or transport back to their farms for the compost pile. Clever marketing includes lowering the price to that “glass of wine” level but also suggesting to the customer what to do with 2 dozen zucchini, a giant bag of bright red peppers each bigger than your hand, or a flat of 50 apricots that bring the scent of the orchard with them. For the fruit we’ve often seen the handwritten sign “Ready for Jam” meaning that they need to be cooked NOW and enjoyed over the winter spread on your croissants and baguettes.
We’ve even seen that jam sign in the supermarket when they too had more apricots in stock than demand required. What I’d never seen before receiving this advertisement, though, was a word not typically associated with something good. Despite conventional wisdom, therefore, it would seem that “ugly sells”. To go along with those potatoes and apples, this same catalog featured wine from our region for 1€72 a bottle and a Bordeaux for less than a euro more. Looks like dinner is going to be an apple, potato, and onion gratin with a bottle of wine, all with change back from a 5 euro bill. That’s definitely not ugly.