Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Markets: the soul of Provence

I have always been convinced that, in order to truly understand a foreign culture, you have to speak its language and appreciate its food. But tasting local specialties is certainly only a first step. Enjoying the sight of the best (almost) untouched regional ingredients is a must. And the place where you can fairly easily do that for a wide range of produce, meat, fish or cheese, depending on where your interest lies, is a street market.

In France, not unlike Italy or Spain among many other countries, markets have been at the heart of our culinary tradition for quite a long time (if such an expression can apply to at least 10 centuries). The reason may be that they offer a unique forum where the home-cook, the farmer, the professional chef and of course the produce all interact (a cultural thing all in all). Not so shocking in a country where food (and talking about it) is supposed to occupy so much room.

And unlike many other things French, our markets have been fairly resilient to the rise of the supermarket or globalization. The organic wave may even have strengthened them. I am almost sure they have also been a great source of inspiration for the creation of farmers' markets in places such as New York at Union Square or San Francisco at the Ferry Building. And I must say that I feel quite at home in both these places.

It is not to say that all French markets were made equal and offer the cream of the crop. However, those I visited (or revisited rather after so many years) in Nice, on the Cours Saleya, and Antibes presented wonderful seasonal and locally-grown fruits (amazing organic Menton lemons and sublime wild strawberries among other things) and vegetables (zucchini-flowers, tomatoes, ...) as well as fragrant herbs and appetizing preserved regional products (honey, nicoise and picholine olives, ...). And I could obviously not resist to show them on that blog. The only thing I regret is not being able to convey the smells, sounds and atmosphere typical of Provencal markets. To get a taste of that, you will have to pay them a visit.

PS: I'm obviously not the first blogger to post pictures of Mediterranean markets. I wish mine could be as gorgeous as those taken by Pim in Ventimiglia and San Remo that you can catch a glimpse of here and here.


Michael said...

Loved your photos, particularly the sausages in Antibes. And Pim really is fantastic. To see my market photos try:


Laurent said...


Thanks for your comment. Those two markets certainly offer enjoyable sights ;-)

As you had guessed, I'm also a big fan of Pim's blog and the pictures she takes.

By the way, I already had caught a glimpse of some of your market pictures but I will certainly hop onto your site to look at them again.

Hope everything is going well for you on our beloved French Riviera.


JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

This is a great little post! I feel like I could have written that first paragraph! Sadly, I live in a part of the world where markets like this just don't exist. My fiancee and I were in Boston last weekend and they have a great market there and we felt like we wnated to move there just so we could shop at the market!

Welcome to The Foodie Blogroll Laurent!

Laurent said...

Hi Jenn,

Thanks for stopping by and adding this blog to your Foodie Blogroll. Sorry to hear that you don't have a Farmers' Market where you live. Hopefully, they are going to spread all across the US.