VIVE LE FRENCH VILLAGE MARKET
August 19, 2010 9 Comments
Around us are some of the best markets in the region.
Ste Foy La Grande on Saturday morning is considered one of the prettiest in France, and where in summer you hear more English spoken than French. Cadillac, an old walled city, also has a great market on Saturday mornings, and as it is only 10 minutes away from us is somewhere we can catch up with local friends and neighbours. Creon on Wednesdays, Castillon La Bataille (where the last battle of the 100 years war was fought) on Monday mornings, Latresne on Sundays … the list is endless.
It is where you go for the best meats, fish, cheeses, flowers and fresh produce, and where you can get a real feel for French life, and also how life in France is changing over time.
When we first started coming to France about 30 years ago, the stalls were mainly made up of small family farm holders taking their home-grown produce to market. It changed with the seasons, and mum and dad who sat there with their baskets of potatoes one week, would be there with asparagus or tomatoes or plums or honey or jam another.
Today, just like the supermarkets, the stall-holders are mainly retailers whose goods come from all over the world … avocados and oranges from Israel, kiwifruit from New Zealand, bananas from Ecuador and Ivory Coast, and like the rest of the world if it needs any manufacturing it will have come from China.
With the growth of the North African immigrants to France, there has also been a big move towards the availability of African food … kefftas, tajines and couscous stands, as well as the globally ubiquitous trivialities like cheap wooden carvings and leather belts and handbags. These latter can be the most interesting, as in the haste to go to market, many have not been properly tanned, so when you put them away at home it is equivalent to putting a piece of steak in your sock drawer. We know of a few instances where people believed that some mysterious rodent had crawled in and died somewhere in their bedroom, only to realize that their black Prada-look-alike bag had turned green and grown mould.
Despite this the markets are still a wonderful palette of colours and noise and smells and movement, and over the time of living here, we have pinpointed where and when to go for our particular needs. Over the years we had chatted to the stallholders that we regularly frequented, but had always felt that we know them better than they knew us. We were proven wrong when Les Bleus beat the All Blacks during the last rugby world cup. As we did our usual rounds, every single stall holder remembered that we were Kiwis, and went out of their way to good naturedly remind us of our heritage.
The mom and pop stands still exist, though you do have to look for them, and having to wait to be able to buy local food in season, rather than having it shipped in packed in refrigerated containers for all year availability, just gives them a taste intensified by the wait and the expectation. It is worth the wait for local specialities like cepes mushrooms, black Perigord truffles, Gariguette strawberries and asparagus, which all have short seasons, but are taste sensations.
We have our own large vegetable garden (potager) and grow most of our produce ourselves these days, but even if we don’t actually need to buy anything, we can always find an excuse for a market visit at least once a week.