Thursday, 26 July 2007

Market Day

Today is market day in our village, as it has been every Thursday since 1256. It starts gently, early in the morning and soon about 30 stalls, with pretty coloured awnings, are set up around the square.

People mill slowly about, wicker baskets over one arm, no supermarket dash here. No loud music, no raised voices, just the steady hum of commerce, merchant and customer, producer and consumer, as it's always been.The pace is sedate, time is needed to consider the price of tomatoes, select the best of this season's peaches, examine the lettuces.

So many of the same goods will have been sold here every week for centuries; local fruit, vegetables, cheese, eggs, flowers, and bread from the local mill. Duras and Bergerac wines are there to be sampled, direct from the men who tend the vines, a missionary gleam in their eyes as they explain the complexity of their product. Above the meat counter hang huge dried hams, while on the counter, beef from the local huge Blonde d'Aquitaine cattle and then rather too many bits of the animal kingdom I haven't seen since an anatomy class at vet school.

The stall with huge steaming pans of paella, full of fruit de mer and saffron rice, is doing a roaring trade. My children are fascinated and horrified in equal measure by the glass-sided apiary brought by the lady who sells honey in 10 different flavours. She remembers us from last year and bids the boys to help themselves from her sweetie jar, honey-flavoured of course. The man with the twinkly eyes is still selling his vast range of cheeses at a stall in the shady side of the square; his broken English encourages my fractured French and we cobble a conversation together. First Husband chooses the smelliest, bluest, runniest cheese on offer; I stick to the nutty, smooth Cantal.

Neat rows of small sacks line up on the next stall, each heaped full of dry goods. Colourful piles of peppercorns red, black, green and pink. Tumeric,dried chillis, cinnamon sticks, herbes de Provence, cardamom pods, camomile flowers, pot pourri...sweet, aromatic, pungent.

But for the locals it's as much an opportunity to catch up on conversations started last week as it is a chance to shop. The same discussion that's gone on between neighbours for centuries...of travails endured and triumphs celebrated.

Finally I have learnt to shop like a Frenchwoman. I used to stock up for a week, like you do at home from the supermarket, thrilled by the variety, scents and sounds of the market. Accustomed to fruit hard as bullets,to ripen at home, I didn't forsee that fruit and vegetables from the village market would go off so quickly, as it's sold, tooth-soft and yielding, ready to eat. Now I buy just enough for a day or two. There's always another market in the next village in a few days time.


And so in my basket goes a warm spit-roasted chicken, basted in fierce quantities of garlic, from Monsieur Le Moustache in the corner arcade, a bottle or two of the Duras, a delicious tarte aux pruneaux in filo pastry from the patissier, the cheese and a few peaches. The evening meal is sorted.

15 comments:

Faith said...

Oh can i come to supper - tarte aux pruneaux sounds delicious.

patsy said...

You're most welcome!There's plenty for everyone!

Elizabethd said...

Oh how lovely. It reminds me of the years we spent living not far from Duras. Markets in Brittany are different, lots of sensible vegetables like potatoes and artichokes!

annakarenin said...

mmmm delicious.

Rainbow said...

Oh you're making me so hungry! Reminds me of when we were in Tuscany, we'd be choosing a melon and the woman at the stall would ask when we wanted to eat it - and the one she chose would always be perfect. Or the huge, weird-shaped beef tomatoes that tasted divine - in England they wouldn't be sold because they're not perfectly round and that probably breaks some weird EU regulation. Why oh why can't we get decent food over here?

Blossomcottage said...

Oh how lovely you are making my mouth water as I type. I love markets, I could spend hours and hours in a really good one.
blossom

bradan said...

Mouthwatering Patsy! What a lovely way to buy your supper. Bon appetit!

@themill said...

I can smell it from here.
Have nominated you for a RGB award.

UN PEU LOUFOQUE said...

Ah yes markets are certianly one of the joys of living here in France, we are great roast chicken fans, and always get the potatoes too cooked in the fat underneath mmm tasty treats for market day!!

lampworkbeader said...

What a wonderful picture you paint, no it's better than a picture. I can smell that lovely food.

Milkmaid said...

Feeling very sad we are not in France this year, your blog took me right there, you are so right about shopping like the French, food to eat today and tomorrow thats all, i always come home determined to use our local market more, but it's not the same

Cait O'Connor said...

French markets are just one of the reasons I love France. Your description is wonderful. I am very envious of you!

Posie Rosie said...

Sounds absolute heaven, paella steaming in a pot, yes please. Happy holidays, sounds like you are having a great time.

Grouse said...

I am so lucky to be part of the Farmers Market community, every market I do I am bestowed with such gifts of delicious food from my talented and diligent friends......meals at home so much more meaningful because the family will taste and say: 'Ah!..Jim's lamb/ Sally's sausage/ Sue's bread..they know just from the taste of it....and they know immediately if I've cheated and bought a supermarket caulli.......

Mopsa said...

Oooh, ooh, ooh. Tarte aux pruneaux has me adribble, Tarte aux myrtille sauvage would do the job too. Lucky you