This is my second memoir piece from the year I spent as a child living self-sufficiently with my mother and another family in an abandoned village in the French Alps, with no electricity, or any modern conveniences. If you missed the first part, it’s here – Sardine Cans In the Dirt
In my memory it was once every three or four weeks, but it may have been more, or less, often. Probably not at all in the depths of winter. The men in our house, of which there were two, would make the long walk down our mountain to the nearest village at the bottom. They would go on market day. They had no money, but they would take things we had grown or produced on our mountain to trade for things that we couldn’t produce ourselves. They would leave very early in the morning and come back late in the evening. The main thing they would bring back was flour so that we could make bread. Enough flour to bake a fresh loaf of bread every day until their next trip. There was always a treat for the adults in their haul; coffee, and for the next few days after a market trip, the morning air would be filled with the scent of coffee to complement that of the freshly baked bread.
I don’t recall what other items were in their bags, because the only thing us children really cared about, the one thing we would be most anxiously waiting for when they returned, was butter. We made goat’s cheese on our mountain, but not butter. We knew that the morning after one of their trips, and only that one morning after, our freshly baked breakfast bread would be spread generously with the deliciously rich, sweet, golden butter. When your daily food is simple and basic, then butter becomes a luxurious treat.
I would sit with the other children around the huge solid wood slab table, bathing in the glow of the morning sun that crept in through the windows. We sported huge smiles, and our wide excited eyes would be drilling into my mother’s back, willing her to hurry up as she cut up the rustic loaf, then unwrapped the paper from around the heavenly gold bar, and slathered it over the slices. A plate piled high would be placed in the middle of the table; in my mind, it radiated light. Within minutes it was gone, and we would be on with our day.