Homesick for the Norwich Farmers Market
I am missing that first day of this season's Norwich Farmers Market. Consider this my postcard home about the one I went to for consolation here in Paris.
The Marché Raspail is one of many open air markets in the city. Three times a week, it squeezes itself into the median of a major artery of the Left Bank, the Boulevard Raspail, like a teenager into tight jeans, not a centimeter to spare. Sundays are special because the market is entirely "bio", or organic, and the purveyors are producers of their own wares. (In other markets, vendors may be selling produce that is purchased from larger food distribution centers.)
It's a shoestring-shaped version of the square-footprinted Norwich or Lebanon Farmers markets. It has its products of note: rotisserie chickens with potatoes roasting in the drippings, freshly made grated potato and onion pancakes, and seasonal breads, in addition to organic meats, eggs, fish, and large swaths of cheeses. Crafts--wooden ladles and soaps "fait a main," or homemade. Great vats of olives, fresh flowers. We bought a tablecloth from Tunisia. And of course, mounds of fruits and vegetables.
Local residents are shopping with purpose, beyond just browsing like we tourists, but relaxed, and chatting with the vendors. There are lines at the most popular stalls and everyone is always squeezing by everyone else and, occasionally, their dogs. You can point, and sometimes sample, but best not to touch. Speaking French helps but is not a prerequisite to joining in the shopping experience.
Rotisserie chickens and potatoes, sold by the pound
Supermarkets like the Monoprix, smaller neighborhood grocery stores, various take-out delicatessens (traiteurs) are among the mainstays of food distribution in the city. And sadly, part of the traditional indoor market at the nearby Marché Saint Germain has given way to a Marks and Spencer food emporium and an enormous and sterile Apple Store. However, the markets like the one on Boulevard Raspail continue, and with real energy. Fresh food and plenty of conversation.
It felt a lot like the Upper Valley.
Need I say? Cheeses, and more cheeses.
Susan B. Apel, writer, ArtfulEdge