Way back when, after I arrived in France, I wanted to be all Provençal like we thought we were in Berkeley (except you’d need to force me into a beret only at gunpoint)…but I did go off on the lookout in Paris for a large, sturdy mortar and pestle. I didn’t know what they were called in French at the time, so I went into cookware shops, made a fist around some imaginary cylindrical object in front of me, and shook it up and down maniacally and with great vigor to get across the idea of what I was looking for.
Suffice it to say, I got plenty of odd looks—I’m still not exactly sure why, but no one was able to figure out exactly what it was that I was after.
Eventually I got with the program and did find a few pretty little numbers, mortars and pestles usually made of glass or something equally fragile. But for all the pounding in Paris that I planned to do, I needed something that’s going to take it like a man time-after-time and needed to be a bit more rough-and-tumble.
Acting on a tip, finally I arrived home one day with a manly-sized, rock-hard specimen from Chinatown (made of granite) and afterward, I sought a hand from my olive guy who was glad to help out a friend in need and wrapped me up more olives de Nyons than you can shake a stick (or whatever) at, each week at the market.