The Markets of France
There is nothing that I love more than going to the market in France. Frankly I adore a farmer’s market anywhere in the US, a farm store in the UK – I guess I’m just a country girl at heart.
We’ve written extensively about the incredible markets of Paris, which are a sight to behold. Today I want to talk about my local market in the Bordeaux region where we own a little house. As exciting as Paris is, one needs a little down time, every city girl knows that so off we went to the enjoy the simple pleasures shopping at the markets of France.
This week hubby and I are enjoying the fruits of fall, the colors, the potirons (pumpkins), dark green cabbages and dark brown chestnuts at the markets. Mondays are the big market day in Castillon-la-Bataille, the town where the 100 years war (the final battle) was won and France emerged victorious over the English, it also happens to be the closest market to our small village on the Dordogne river.
I appreciate the fresh vegetables and the food displays which are often quite artistic, but I think what I love most is the unusual things you can find at the market in the French countryside. Fair warning to vegans: some of these photos may alarm you!
In our area, which is about 1 hour from the sea, year round you’ll find an oysterman or two at the market. They also come to every town on Sundays to sell their shells. We also normally find a lady from the basque region selling her pork items and sausages made with the espelette pepper.
There’s the chicken man, which is my husband’s favorite, there is nothing that warms his heart more than chicken hot off the spit, with potatoes roasted in the jus of the bird. Then there is the chicken producer who shows you how fresh his product is by displaying the heads of the chickens.
There is a farmer who sells his nuts, this time of year after the walnut and chestnut harvests is a great time to buy.
There are now two different stands that sell ready to eat Asian food, mostly of the Vietnamese variety, and its actually really good, which continues to amaze me.
There are the fish mongers and the primo butcher that people wait in line for. There is the spice man, the boulanger (baker) and then there are the discount clothes and 1 euro items which I steadily avoid.
And yes there’s the truck who sells Chevaline (that’s horse). Made popular during WWII when there was nothing much to eat, you’ll find these everywhere including in Paris but primarily the old folks are the only ones who buy still. I’ve yet to have the nerve or the stomach to try it.
There’s an Italian guy who sells his homemade pasta, which I bought this past Monday. Gnocchi made with potatoes and basil, which I served with the veal from the butcher at dinner that night.
Its most fun when I try something I’ve never bought before or I learn something new. This time after making a middle schooler’s mistake of asking the lady slicing the salami to slice it petite (small), she corrected me and explained I should say fine from now on. Then like the other locals I sit down either by myself or whomever I’ve gone to the market with to have the obligatory coffee at one of two places in town.
Marketing is a beautiful habit that’s been carrying on strong for hundreds of years in France. We as Americans romanticize it but it is real tradition. I only hope that one day I’ll have lived here long enough to say hello to the vendors and they’ll return my greeting knowing my name. Buying food for your supper in such a personal way from the producers and growers is a simple and profound pleasure.