A Lunch in the Life

Bulots

On a Saturday morning, you go to the pool for your weekly swim. As you come out, limbs pleasantly weary and hair still wet, you reflect that it would be nice to buy a baguette for lunch. So, instead of making a right and walking directly home — you are fortunate enough to live just a block from a clean and quiet swimming-pool — you go left and make a detour by the boulangerie to buy a warm and crusty Renaissance baguette (their signature traditional baguette).

As you walk back up the street, you pass the fish stall, and the thought pops: bulots! That will be great for lunch.

Bulots — also called buccin, ran, coucou or cuter still, calicoco — are whelks, those pretty snail-like shellfish that you eat cooked, after delicately removing the little opening cap and pulling the chewy body out, optionally using a special metal pick. In Paris they can be purchased, already cooked, from any poissonnerie — and each fish stall cooks them to its own recipe. Relatively cheap, super nutritious (they are full of vitamins and minerals) but more importantly, delightfully tasty and fun to eat.

You step in to enquire whether they have any, and the poissonnier says yes — in fact he has just finished cooking the daily batch and they are still warm. You buy a generous portion for two that he gets from the back.

You step out, and now your brain is in full menu-planning mode. You think: I need greens to go with that. Luckily there is a produce stall just a few steps further, where you get a few handfuls of wild roquette, sensing that the arugula’s peppery bite will work wonders with the plump whelks.

You get home, drop your purchases on the counter, and happily announce that lunch is taken care of, and bulots it will be! The news is met with enthusiasm — no surprise, whelks were a favorite of his long before you stopped being squeamish about seafood. The roquette you simply dress in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then top with fresh shavings of parmesan (a vegetable peeler works wonders) and a little piment d’Espelette (chili powder from the Pays Basque).

Just moments later, you sit down together to a simple, satisfying, colorful and healthy lunch of bulots, salad, fresh bread and salted butter — the one from Brittany that has salt flakes in it. And between two bites you stop to think: how lucky we are to be living in a place where food, good food, is so readily available and such a prominent aspect of life. And how lucky we are to realize it.

Arnaud Delmontel
39 rue des Martyrs
75009 PARIS
01 48 78 29 33

Chrono-Pêche
41 rue des Martyrs
75009 PARIS
01 48 78 06 64

Le Jardin des Martyrs

53 rue des Martyrs
75009 Paris
01 53 20 99 05

  • http://bluepoppy.omworks.com bluepoppy

    AMEN!!

  • Alisa

    Ditto! (on being grateful)
    Have I mentioned before how much I love the way you write? um…perhaps I have

  • http://www.randompensees.mu.nu RP

    That sounds perfectly lovely! What did you drink with it?

  • http://renaissance.blogsome.com Chloe

    How delightful! Though perhaps not nearly as delightful vicariously as in real life…

  • Patrick

    A simple Gros Plant, or a Muscadet sur lie if you really want to be more sophisticated, should be perfect to drink with that.

  • David

    Beutifully writtin Clothilde, I love the way you finished this piece in such a reflective mode.

  • fannie

    I prefer the bigorneaux–they are smaller sea snails and are less chewey than bulots. We go “fishing” for them several times a year on the Hoëdic island off the coast of Quiberon, boil them in some salty water, thyme and bay leaf and they make a great apéro with a nice, dry white wine.

    Bulots are also great with a garlicky aïoli although that kind of defeats the purpose of a “light” lunch.

    mmmmm….now I know what to look for at the market on sunday for brunch!!!

  • http://www.aussielass.com Katia

    I ADORE bulots. We prefer cooking them ourselves, as we can do add the right sorts herbs to the water to make it just to our taste. I also admit that, if I’m looking for something a little naughty to eat, it’s nice to whip up a little fresh mayonnaise to dip them into as well ;)

  • maryanne

    SIGH….SIGH AGAIN….BIG, BIG SIGH!

  • brian

    This is just the sort of pseudo-poetic reflections on the everyday that charms the middlemind and clogs the airwaves of National Public Radio. Long live the eternal myth of bourgeois reification! Nothing smacks of the recuperation of the status quo better than some temporally vague narrative of quotidian ritual. I especially find distasteful your use of the pronoun ‘you’ to indicate yourself. It thinly masks an aggression and hatred towards others to whom you obviously feel morally superior. This is also manifested in your shabby peppering of French phrases, which is little more than an outright act of classism. Shame on you, Clotilde, and your many minions.

  • Lauren

    Clotilde- Thank you for yet another informative entry on an unfamiliar food “subject.”

    It is, however, regretful that some choose to use this forum to communicate their own “aggression and hatred.” Constructive criticism is a gift; meanness of spirit is shameful.

  • sylvie

    Jeez !! whatever bee stung that guy surely had deeped its sting in vinegar ! I guess he can’t handle the fact that everyday is our common lot and that some of us can find beauty and pleasure in the simple things of life. If he wants lofty comments on the state of the world, let him go somewhere else.

    Don’t change a thing Clotilde, you are a real ray of sunlight, and this dark world needs a dose of lightness !

    Oh, and by the way, moron, it’s perfectly OK to use a few french phrases here and there if you are french !!! You probably can’t speak it and resent that, plus the fact that Clotilde’s english is so beautiful ! And I am french too and appreciate her writing !

  • http://blogblogbaby.blogspot.com deanna

    As a canadian living in uganda, i must admit that the presence of any sort of ‘food culture’ is one thing that i really miss. Ugandan ‘cuisine’ has a total of about 10 dishes, and most ugandans have never tasted anything outside these ten dishes. In fact, the idea of putting something new in their mouths actually seems to frighten some of them.

    While there’s plenty of ‘western’ restaurants for us expats here in the capital, i can’t wait to be back somewhere where food is more than simply a way to fill up!

    PS: Brian, no one is forcing you to read this blog. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Whats wrong with your life that a piece of writing not to your taste works up so much vitriol? Or do you just like getting to show off the ‘critical skills’ you learned at university?

  • http://www.moviestvandme.new.fr sylvie

    oops, bad writing : everyone will have corrected me of course : I meant “dipped its sting” !!! my apologies to the english speaking, and again, Clotilde, wonderful blog, great writing, you inspired me to create my own blog (not on food !), and your chronicles are an everyday delight !

  • K. Kraus

    I admit it’s a breath of “fresh-aire” to read the words of even moderate dissension (see “Brian’s” entry) from the flabby atmosphere created by the Clotidian leisure class.

  • http://www.pipfugl.dk Anja

    What a lovely entry Clotilde. Sometimes the stories behind the meal are a lot more interesting than the recipes – but then again, I love stories. You are lucky to have both a swimming pool and a food market nearby!

  • swan

    Speaking of Rue des Martyrs…armed with many recommendations about ‘roses bakery ‘at # 46 we searched…and searched..and saw the entire rue, and # 46 …but no Roses Bakery! Clotilde, do you know what happened to her (it? )?

    oh and…pfew, some people need to get a life. We shouldn’t pay attention to guys like that.
    Big kiss for Clotilde from Holland!

  • http://www.thehungryblogger.blogspot.com Isabella di Pesto

    Clotilde,

    What an absolute joy to discover you and your fabulous blog.

    As one who shares your passion for cooking, I am happy to find a blog so full of creative, original recipes and excellent writing.

    Congratulations to you. I shall read you as faithfully as I read, well, actually, I don’t read the NYTimes as faithfully as I used to. I shall replace that ritual with reading “Chocolate & Zucchini.”

    And if you have a chance, come visit my food blog, too.

    Best wishes to you. You have a wonderful career ahead of you.

    Isabella di Pesto

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Swan – Coincidentally, I had lunch at Rose Bakery today, so I can attest to its continued existence! I am sorry you missed it. I have just posted a few pics on the moblog, so you can see what it looks like for next time!

  • http://www.toomanychefs.com Meg

    Clotilde, thanks for solving a minor mystery for me – I always wondered what welks were and never got round to looking it up. And I’ll stop telling visitors that bulots are “sea-snails” because obviously whelks sound a lot more appetizing!

    Swan, we nearly missed Rose’s too the first time we went. They need to get a bigger sign and/or a bigger storefront!

  • Seine

    Clotilde,
    I want to live in Paris, and eat bulots too!:)
    I adore your blog! You are a wonderful food writer!!!!
    aloha,
    Seine

  • http://www.livejournal.com/~shaunama shauna

    i’ve been reading chocolate and zuchinni for quite a while. i wanted to comment on this post before, but now even moreso!

    i am very glad to be a part of the middle mind charmed by your blog. (and by NPR, might i add.) i do not find your writing to be condescending in any way, though if it comes off that way to americans it is probably out of jealousy that you lead such a pure, healthy, and wholesome lifestyle.

    changing up a narrative style makes the post interesting (much like this “brian” fellow speaks in the 3rd person on his website) and i’ll be damned if you don’t throw in those french phrase because, well, you’re french. and many of us are not.

    your blog is fun to read, and full of interesting little tidbits (of info and of food). i hope to someday be a chef like yourself, and perhaps live in europe sometime (barring my terrible language skills preventing it). i very much look forward to a time where i can go for a swim, stop off for some fresh ingredients, and share lunch with my “beau.”

  • spot

    Wow! Brian must have gone to graduate school for a long time to learn how to write like that.
    Hey, Brian: Did it occur to you that she uses French phrases because she’s writing about French food in France? And as for aggression, hatred and feelings of moral superiority, is it working for you?

  • Penny

    Butter with salt flakes in it … ahhhhh… a lovely dream for me, because I am a butter connoisseur and a salt fiend. That made the meal for me!

  • http://allanthinks.typepad.com/allanthinks Allan

    Yes. I just returned from a 16 day trip to France, and I learned this little lesson quite well.

    I’ll never take a good meal for granted again.

  • http://rundrejse.blogspot.com/ Endrup

    It might not be polite to drool in other peoples blogs, but it’s hard not to.

    A minion ;)

  • Kibbutzer

    One might be interested in noting that Mr. “bourgeois reification” who rails against “your shabby peppering of French phrases” is proud to tout on his website (which I will not link to), the publication of his recent essay “That Elusive ‘Elementary Atom of Music’” in “Qui Parle”. Hmm.

    You’re a self parody, Mr. Brian Kane.

  • Helen

    I love your website! I so enjoy reading your blog. Please keep up the good work!

  • Sifi

    I suppose that last line is what got Mr Brian’s knickers all twisted, the one about being lucky to realize it. But it was really a lovely bit of self-disclosure, worthy of MFK Fisher herself, and succeeds on a couple of levels.
    It is wonderful to read writers who do it just for love, as here on C&Z. And the recipes and tips are always exemplary. Thanks again…

  • R. J. Montgomery

    I have been trying to find out the meaning of the word “clotidian” for several days. I can’t find it in any English dictionary. It was used in a posting at this web site, as is the “clotidian leisure class”. Can anyone help/

  • SeauxGood

    Clotidian can mean “everyday” as in something that happens everyday, or “everyday” as in ordinary or average.

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