I should have bought the salted caramels. Then I would have some to share because they would not have ended up in the trash can at Paris Charles DeGaulle airport security.
We were vacationing in Port en Bessin, Normandy. After enjoying coffee and pastries in the brisk morning sun at Café du Port, we explored the weekly open-air market.
Oh la la! Cute little quail eggs! And next to them, live quail in a cage.
“Do they have names?” we asked.
“We have 600 birds, madame. Non, we do not name them.”
Ok, moving on to the dairy vendor. French cheeses galore. And fresh yogurt. In cute little glass jars! We bought…as much for the jars as for the yogurt. (And oh, such yogurt!) On to tastings of charcuterie, where hubby John had to show the vendor photos of his charcuterie. We meandered past chickens roasting on spits and wide pans of simmering paella towards a tasting of Normandy’s famous distilled apple apératifs– calvados, pommeau and eau de vie.
Directly across from the calvados tasting was the nougat vendor. He, too, was giving samples– from wheels of nougat the diameter of car tires. It was impressive. It was really tasty. It paired surprisingly well with the calvados we had just been tasting at 10 a.m. Yeah, I’m thinking my reserves were down a wee bit.
I decided to buy some.
“How much do you want?” he asked.
I had no idea. He was selling in metric measurement. I’m American. I can handle the French language, but numbers are completely beyond me. I fumble through rough pathetic calculations. A kilo is 2.2 pounds. Une livre is half a kilo. How much nougat is in a kilo? Chocolate I can guestimate. Salt water taffy I have a handle on. But nougat?
I ask for une livre. He whacks off a big honkin’ piece. But I want it in two flavors. He whacks off another big honkin’ piece. He is only half listening because this whole time he is luring in customers with free samples. He wraps the two bricks of nougat (which now I really don’t want) but he’s busy and he’s wielding a huge knife with the skill of a guillotine.
“Ca fait 37 euros, madame.”
Thirty seven euros? For nougat?
He did say it keeps for a whole year in the pantry. “Not in the refrigerator, madame. That will ruin it.” Ok, ok, we will enjoy it this week and take the rest home to give to family.
The week goes by with barely a nibble of nougat. I keep forgetting it is there.
Fast forward to the airport and the now-expected body pat-down, this time by a woman who also has had both hips replaced. She knew exactly where my body was going to ding. We laugh. One can bond with people in the most unexpected circumstances.
My carry-on bag rolls through the scanner and the guard pulls it off.
He needs to check the bag. I can’t imagine what could be a problem in my carry-on bag. It’s not like that time I forgot I bought a letter opener in Florence for my son-in-law.
“Madame, will you please take the knife out of your bag?”
“Knife? What knife?”
Security guard turns the x-ray screen around to reveal the shadow of a very lethal looking Renaissance dagger.
“Oh, that knife!”
Yeah, that time all Mario got was a story. This time the guard pulls everything out of my bag…books and scarves, cahiers for my French 4 class, souvenir magnets for the fridge. Finally, at the bottom of the bag, he finds two bricks of nougat.
They look like a kilo of plastic explosives.
He unwraps the nougat. He sees that it is nougat, although an unusually large amount of nougat. He smiles at me and says, “Madame, you can bring hard nougat in your carry-on. But next time, pack the soft nougat in your checked luggage. I’ll ask if you can keep it.”
Off he goes to ask a higher authority. Back he comes, shaking his head.
“But you can stand here and eat it, if you want.”
So now I am tearing wads of nougat for our group of six. I am offering nougat to total strangers, who look at me like I am a crazy person.
The bulk of the nougat ends up in the trash. We continue toward our gate with nougat-sticky fingers.
We pass a kiosk for Ladurée, the famous Paris patisserie. As a consolation prize, I decide to buy a box of their renowned macarons. And there at the register, what do I see? A beautifully wrapped single serving bar of…nougat.
Yup. I bought it. But I am not sharing. It cost me dearly.