I have never paid as much attention to flowers as I have to food. After all, with a few exceptions, you can't eat them. In my more domestic days - when I lived in a house with a garden - I grew nasturtiums and marigolds to toss into salads and keep away pests, but that was about the extent of my skills as a non-vegetable gardener.
Over the last year or so I've paid too little attention to the flower market that takes place on the Cours Saleya every day next to the food market. I went through a brief period of buying bouquets from the flower market's most popular vendor, whose stall is the first on the right after the food market's central aisle, but by the time I had chosen my vegetables the line-ups were often long and the selection limited.
Then, yesterday, I decided that I wanted a bouquet of roses for my table. Now, roses might seem a little old-fashioned, not the most adventurous flower, but as someone who is named after this flower and likes to wear pink, I think I can justify liking them. I bought them from one of a handful of flower stands in the small producers' area of the market. The seller, who I would guess is over 75 if not 80, told me in his strong Italian accent that he liked my pink T-shirt and had a similar one at home. Sure enough, today he was wearing his pink shirt.
Since I brought these flowers home I have rediscovered the smell of roses. Who even remembers that roses have the sweet, romantic scent of an English country garden, which can't fail to lift my spirits as I sit at the kitchen table typing on my shiny new Mac laptop (which is insured up to its eyeballs, given the fate of the last two)? These days most flowers are bred not to smell like anything, perhaps for the same reasons that Dutch tomatoes are cultivated not to taste like anything.
The other wonderful thing about roses is that you can eat them. I like the soothing taste of Chinese tea mixed with rosebuds, still remember their mysterious flavour in a chicken, tomato, honey and rose tagine which I tasted years ago at the Paris restaurant Le Mansouria, and have often been tempted by the rose-scented salt at the market, which is recommended for use with carpaccio or foie gras. I've also used them to decorate a wedding cake (if you use fresh roses to decorate a cake, be sure they have not been sprayed with an noxious chemicals).
From now on I'll be buying roses a lot more often, and I don't care if some of their petals look a little wilted around the edges. To me, this rustic bouquet looks a lot prettier than one so perfect and symmetrical that it might easily be made of plastic.