Overfunctional

1st strawberriesWhat do the French do on a long weekend? They go to the countryside! Easter Monday is a national holiday, because although the Revolution established France as a diligently secular country, folks weren’t so foolish as to relinquish days off.

bunnies
Easter bunnies? On sale at the market.
P1090834
Not a bad view.

On a back road that rivaled any pot-holed, rutted safari track, cars with not-local plates passed nonstop under a brilliant spring sun. More cars were parked under trees, their passengers scattered in the brush–a taste of wilderness without having to walk too far.

asparagus far
It’s obvious, right?

They were after asparagus, mostly. The thing to eat on Easter Monday is an omelette, preferably with asparagus, preferably wild asparagus. You need better eyesight than mine to spot it–fine green stems against more green. “It’s not the same green!” my friends explain. But I have gone asparagus-ing and even when it was right in front of my face I didn’t see it. However, I got plenty scratched up. Now I get my wild asparagus at the market or from generous friends.

asparagus med
Look closer! That’s an asparagus plant. No delectables on this one…somebody had already passed.

People of all ages were tramping through the brush–the touffes, or tufts, are called la matte in local Occitan lexicon. Somehow, la matte sums up the state of the inpenetrable tangle. That didn’t stop people from trying. I saw a dad coaching a little girl, who was wiggling like a commando through a little opening to get to asparagus gold.

It takes a long time to get even a handful.

There are other wild things along the way, and I’m not talking about parents. The flowers! Wild orchids:

Wild irises:

A very decorative plant whose name I was told but forgot, and whose fruit grows not off the stem but off the leaf:

red berry
Can you see that the berry is attached to the leaf? The little star-shaped flower on the other leaf will turn into a berry.

This little flower is called un petit souci–a little worry. I wonder whether a bunch of petits soucis becomes a big worry.

People here say all the time, “Petit enfant, petits soucis. Grand enfant, grands soucis”–small children, small worries. Big children, big worries.

Sigh. Happily ours is sans souci at the moment. Knock on wood.

Speaking of big, the pinecone on the left was bigger than my fist. It also was very sticky with sap, so it didn’t come home with me.

While we swoon over the views again, let’s discuss the title of this post. It’s from a podcast by Esther Perel, who is a revelation. Her podcast records her therapy sessions with couples. Wow. Even if you aren’t dealing with the issues discussed, you can’t help but learn. Learn to listen. Learn to get past what people say and understand what they mean.P1090810P1090825In an episode titled “Leaving Shame Behind,” Perel counseled a couple dealing with the aftermath of crises–a brain tumor, a car crash and the husband having a near-fatal heart attack that left him mostly disabled for a long time. The wife had to do everything–what Perel called “overfunctioning.” Isn’t that just the perfect word? Are you overfunctioning?

P1090827P1090829She said many wise things, but one that really hit me was: “Apology is not weak. The one who apologizes first is the stronger one.”

 

Asperges sauvages

asparagus tips
Wild asparagus, thinner than a pencil

Here is a typical spring recipe using one of the greatest delights of spring: wild asparagus.

garrigue
The garrigue….habitat of the wild asparagus

Wild asparagus grows in the garrigue, an area that’s hard to describe. The closest is what in Africa would be called the bush. It isn’t really a forest, though there may be wooded parts, notably stands of pines that make the garrigue seem to sing as the wind whistles through their needles. There’s a lot of low brush, and amid it, the telltale feathery ferns of asparagus that indicate a succulent sprout will be weaving through the branches nearby. They are so fine, they are nearly impossible to see.

fern
See the spiky, fern-like stuff? This one was too close to the road, so the asparagus had been harvested.

A friend took me aparagus picking in the garrigue and I was completely nul. I couldn’t make out the ferns, let alone the sprouts. There would have been no asparagus omelette were it not for the generosity of my guide.

asparagus bouquets
Two bouquets for €5

If you can’t get to the garrigue, you can sometimes find wild asparagus at the market, at least in Carcassonne. Look for the small tables selling things like almonds, herbs and garlic.

asparagus snap
To avoid the tough parts of the stems, bend until they snap

The stems can be tougher than regular asparagus, so use the bend and snap method to get as much as possible of the tender stalk. Chop into half-inch lengths. It’s easier to cut raw than cooked. Plus, by cutting it up, you can layer the stems on the bottom of the steamer basket so they get cooked more than the tops.

asparagus steamerSteam a few minutes—just enough so the asparagus will melt in your mouth. Another alternative is microwaving. Arrange on a plate, lay a sprig or two of fresh rosemary on top, cover with microwavable film and cook on high for 2-3 minutes—less if you have a little asparagus; more if you have a lot.

egg mix
This is the little one….and today I used yogurt (zero percent….have to be yin and yang with the butter, you know)

The omelette is one of those fluid recipes where everything depends on what you want. Some in our household prefer three or four eggs, very runny inside. Some prefer two eggs, well-cooked. Everything is possible, because you make them one at a time.

Asparagus omelette

2-4 eggs

a swig (1/4 cup or less if 2 eggs; 1/3 cup if 4 eggs) of milk, cream or even yogurt (cream is best for fluffiness)

salt, pepper

1/4-1/2 cup grated cheese (I use the ubiquitous emmental, but go with what you like or have on hand)

steamed asparagus

butter

glass of wine (red or white, depending on your preference)

butter
Good cookin’ ahead

Beat the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a skillet with low sides (easier to get your spatula in for turning). When the butter has browned and the bottom of the pan is well-covered, pour in the eggs. Use a fork to work the runny top toward the bottom, but don’t do it too much or you’ll have scrambled eggs.

secret ingredient
Don’t forget the secret ingredient

If you don’t like runny eggs, make little vents in the omelette for the liquid to seep down to the pan. You also can lift the edges and tilt the pan so the uncooked egg slides over. But don’t overcook, because you still have to let the cheese melt.

cooking
See those bubbles? If you pop them, the uncooked egg will seep down and get cooked….unless you like runny eggs.

Have a sip of wine while you’re waiting….it’s time for aperitif!

garnishedSprinkle the cheese over half the omelette, then the asparagus.

Let the omelette cook for a minute. Do nothing to it! This makes the bottom cook enough to hold together so you can fold it. You can peek by lifting an edge, to make sure you aren’t overcooking, but don’t try to move the whole thing too soon.

Now get your spatula under the ungarnished half of the omelette and gently fold it over the garnished part. Let it cook another minute, so the cheese melts.

You should be able to just slide the omelette out onto a plate, no lifting necessary.

Ready to eat
This is obviously a runny one