Teasing aside if you ask their neighbors, the French are the most difficult to understand. Don’t get me wrong, the Spanish and Italians love the French. But it is a guarded love. It is as if their Latin neighbors might have already lost the upper hand in a negotiation they didn’t even know was happening. (I am typing this in a Hoboken Starbuck’s while listening to Santa Esmeralda’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”.)
Les Français in contrast are not at all guarded in this love. They freely speak French to the Spanish and Italians whenever they visit. These francophone explorers are, with a petite pause, beloved. Excellent bilateral relations should continue as long as France sends their young, females abroad to be hit on (who say no, return home, and complain to their men “why aren’t you more like the Spanish or Italians?”)
Walking through Hall 2, I stop at a Provence booth and try their Picholine extra virgin olive oil. This southern mono-varietal is fresh from the harvest. The olive oil is filtered, so it has a clear yellowish hue (the olives weren’t green when pressed) in a dark glass bottle. An Asian Frenchman walks by me, sporting a gray ponytail, Scottish Highlander kilt and bright white socks pulled way up over his calves. I feel like a bystander at a cultural crime scene and move on.
A pale blond girl walks before me leading a giant brown cow on a corded rope. It looks like the hawser for mooring a ship. Based on the size of the cow, though, she might need a bigger rope. But her vache is like a friendly Jaws, easily gliding through the crowds in complete comfort. The brown cow just plows ahead. Booths of people on either side hawk their goods, less interesting than random bits of hay.
The cow, girl and I need to weave around a thin, well-dressed gentleman standing in the middle of the aisle. He is a bit older with grey hair and a large, tech-looking backpack. The man stands in front of the booth, holding a giant blue foam microphone in front of his face. His speech and gestures are aggressive but his audience invisible; an unemployed boxing promoter desperately searching for a new main event?
We walk through the Basque region by a large “Porc Noir de l’Ouest – une race rustique” sign. Young men in maroon berets, white shirts and black vests are proudly singing in Basque. It sounds like a beautiful rugby song. I lived in this mountainous region for a while. The Basques are the white Native American Indians of France (but with less bows and arrows, and more bell peppers and sheep).
As Matt and I exit the show, we pass a huge green banner that proclaims “McDonalds” in white with big yellow arches. This is the only part of the Salon not packed with people. The livestock seem fearless around this Scottish eatery. Escaping from it is an aroma seemingly unrelated to food. But like the start of a horror movie, nearby boucheries sear slabs of raw flesh as their four-legged neighbors innocently look on.