Earlier this week, when we were recovering from a brief rainstorm, I got a hankering for a pot of Grandma Joan’s beans. So I emailed her and got the recipe. All the ingredients were fairly straightforward. Onion, garlic, salt, pepper, beans, etc…and a ham hock. Seriously. A ham hock. I should have realized this. It adds serious flavor.
Mental headslap. Where was I going to get one of those? And more importantly, how was I going to know what the heck it was called in French? Do they even have such a thing here? I mean, we’re talking about a place that doesn’t have brown sugar, people. (Apparently, I should be making my own from granulated sugar and molasses. Of course. I’ll just get right on that after I’m done churning my own butter.)
I figured I would make sure I could get the rest of the ingredients before I tackled my ‘hock issue’ head on. Worst case, I could throw in chunks of ham, right? I went to the store, pulled up the email and grabbed the ingredients I knew I would find. Then came the beans. The real way to make Grandma Joan’s beans is to soak dry beans overnight. All I saw at the grocery store was canned beans. Ugh. I thought this craving was going to be easy to fix! I bought the rest of the stuff anyway, sans beans, and went on my way.
Yesterday at the grocery store, Dave and I went in for two items (and not-so-promptly came out with 15) and I was feeling the rush of victory when he came across dry beans in a bin underneath a produce display. Red, white, split pea…I could almost taste it. We bought a bag and the only thing left was the ham hock. Or, jarret de porc.
I google translated it, came up with picture in case the butcher needed a visual, and I was ready. I figured I would preface my request with, mon Français n’est pas trés bon which means “my French isn’t very good” and hope the butcher would have mercy on me.
I walked up to the butcher counter (conveniently located four doors down from my favorite ice cream place) and began, “pardon, mon Français n’est pas trés bon” and the butcher laughed and I think he said his wasn’t either, and I continued while I still had my confidence… “Je voudrais un jarret de porc.” (‘I would like…’)
He shook his head and very kindly informed me that he didn’t have that. He tried to tell me something he did have but he talked too fast for me to know what it was. Fail.
So, I walked up the street and headed to the Castellane Market, which was close to where we used to live. It reminds me of a much smaller, older Oxbow Market from home. I wandered up to a counter where I saw meats and sausages and the like, but didn’t see anything that looked to be pork/ham. I was starting to feel a bit defeated, thinking it wasn’t a possibility here. I continued on until I saw another boucherie. I greeted the man, and started with my preface about my poor language skills. Then, sitting behind the glass, underneath the counter, I saw it: not one, not two, but trois jarret de porc!
“Je voudrais un jarret de porc,” I asked confidently.
He wrapped one up and it is sitting in my fridge.
Ah yes, sweet victory. Victory that’s going to taste a lot like a pot of Grandma Joan’s beans.