Food, Part II of III: Le marché plein-air, c’est le bonheur!

The Saturday farmer’s market a few blocks from my apartment has become one of the great joys of my life here. Among stiff competition, it’s currently in the lead for the title of My Favorite Thing About France.

As a card-carrying member of the American Upper-Middle-Class but Politically Correct White Liberal demographic*, of course I try to patronize farmer’s markets at home in the U.S., but there, I always have to go out of my way to spend lots of money on things I don’t finish before they go bad. It’s a matter of habit, though, and after a year here, I’ll be the best little farmer’s market shopper America ever saw.  Because in France, the farmer’s market is perfect.

First of all, it’s in French.

These shoppers unwittingly modeled my point. I meant to get a picture of the flower stalls behind them, but accidentally snapped it before they moved. Don't they look so completely French?

The farmers are French**. They sell French cheeses and French-grown fruits and vegetables and eggs from French chickens, which are male***. The labels are written in French, in the weirdly-standardized French cursive I love to read, using, of course, the metric system!

A typical produce stall.

I hope it's not unusual for people to stop, close their eyes, lean over the table, and inhale deeply, as I always do when I pass by the spice lady's stall.

And they’re not even doing it just to suit my francophilia! It’s just how they are—French!

I walk around in a delighted daze, loving the unfamiliarity—and, simultaneously, the fact that it’s increasingly familiar to me.

A butcher's truck, complete with at least a dozen varieties of dried sausage.

Not only are they French, they’re cheap. This week I bought at least five kilos of fresh, delicious locally-grown (except for the bananas) fruits & vegetables, bread, cheese, eggs, and a dozen irresistible chocolate-dipped spice cookies, all for around 20 E.

Pinhole picture of pomengranates that were at least as big as softballs.

So I stroll around, being a page from a French I book—”cent grammes de” this, “une demie kilo de” that—and fill up my big market bag, which nearly pulls off my arm as I walk home.

(Most of) yesterday's haul.

At home, I revel in arranging all my purchases on the kitchen table, just like I always did with my Halloween candy. Then I revel in deciding what to do with all that food. And finally, I revel in eating it.

What I did with it for lunch yesterday: mashed potatoes topped with some bacon, garlic green beans, and a clementine.

Next time on EJ in Angers: more on eating.

* Yes, card-carrying. I have a Macalester College Alumni ID in my wallet, right between my public radio membership card and a list of Top Ten Things to Buy Organic.
** Except for the Arab vendors, whom I also adore because the way they shout out the prices of bananes makes me nostalgic for markets in Cameroon.
*** “Of all the stumbling blocks inherent in learning [French], the greatest for me is the principle that each noun has a corresponding sex that affects both its articles and its adjectives. Because it is female and lays eggs, a chicken is masculine.” –David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day

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