For the French, going to the fresh market on a Sunday morning is almost a ritual as your breakfast tea or coffee. And for my friends and family who know how much of a morning(le matin) person I am will automatically understand what a delightful duo that is for me--breakfast time + outdoor food stalls! It wasn't in Paris where I first fell in love with the fresh food vendor experience but in a farmer's market in L.A. where my sister took me to hunt for elephant ears as yummy as the ones we had first tried in Portland.
But here I am now living 5 steps away from an avenue hosting weekly markets of fresh produce from bio(local term referring to a product as organic) fish from Brittany to Provencal olives including oriental ready-to-eat dishes and products! C'est formidable, how great!
a biologique (bio) stall, more expensive of course
artichokes, green olives in different marinades, tapenade
apero delight: calamares, tarama, sun-dried tomatoes
The first time the hubby took me to a market was at Place de la Nation, a district famous for 2 things in history books: city walls(Wall of the General Farmers) now destroyed but were used in the 18th century for the control/taxation of goods entering Paris and second, a guillotine area during the french revolution--yikes! To revert to happier things, the market was fabulous and I was stopping at almost every booth asking for translation and demanding my husband to explain how the ingredient is locally cooked. (*Flashback: Now that explains why my husband was horrified in my country to not find 'veal' at our local
grocery or market. Frankly, when he first asked me to help him look for it, I had to ask a second time,"uh, you mean beef as in cow right?" He quickly clarifed, "a calf!". ) Well, zorry monsieur! But I don't blame him considering the crazy, quality choices of meat, poultry and fresh produce over here! And believe me, it's easy to get led into a gourmet trance thinking you can cook up a banquet and voila!
All was dandy until I pointed out a beef-looking red meat for my husband to name. I asked, "What is Chevaline?", and he nonchalantly responded, "Oh, that's horse". What tha? Oh-kay. Not all that's French is lovable; that's for certain.
Another shocker was seeing a furry rabbit carcass hung in the middle of a poultry (volaille) booth. Nope, I never really planned on eating lapin until my mother-in-law cooked it months after at their home in the south of France and you know how that story ends especially when the dish was introduced as a 'specialty'. For those interested, it tastes like tough chicken.
So we ended the tour of stalls with some tapenades (a spread of olives) and a baguette which we couldn't resist feasting on at a brasserie(a typical cafe with a terrace) we stopped by to order a glass of wine (un verre de vin).
I may not entirely enjoy the taste of the French like charcuterie (cold cuts: precooked & cured meat) and frogs(les grenouilles) but seeing couples, parents, kids or the aged regularly walk through the market stalls whether it be during ice-cold winters or sweaty summer days makes me believe that fresh ingredients sold to you by trusted, friendly faces will probably in the end, make a more scrumptious, soulful Sunday meal! Bon appetit!
a Sunday meal, Lamb Tagine from Mom-in-law's kitchen
- Bring change when you go to the market and do not expect the vendors to accept a big bank note like a 50 or a 100 not unless you plan to shop for the same amount. Oh, some stalls accept credits cards (carte blue) so try to inquire in advance.
- Vegetables and fruits tend to be a lot cheaper in the fresh market as compared to the hypermarche like Monoprix or Franprix.
- Sometimes, to get good deals, my husband and I arrive at the market 30 minutes before it shuts so we can avail of their last minute promos. They close shop and dismantle their stalls at 1:00pm.
- Don't forget to greet the vendors with a "Bonjour!". The French pay attention to that quite well.
- The Parisians are trying to go GREEN nowadays so avoid using plastics sacs by switching to a rolley-cart (pousette) or a recyclable bag.
- Here is a list of all the fresh markets in each arrondissement ( district) of Paris.