Sunday, March 22, 2009

Small tour of a French Market

On our first full day at the permaculture farm we had the privilege to accompany our host, Namua, to the market in Ceres, where she sells used English books. She doesn't have a surplus of vegetables, and even if she did it is apparently quite an ordeal to get a vegetable selling license, especially if you have a small volume. So she helps all of the British ex-pats (of which there are quite a few) enjoy their fill of crime, mystery, and the odd recognizably-decent tale.

CĂ©ret is a charming little town about twenty minutes' drive from where we are staying, in Laroque des Alberes. The market takes place along one or two quaint rues in the middle of town. The stalls and asphalt are lined by plane trees, which also border the highways and all of the other buildings and town squares that I've seen here. There's also a castle, just like in our village.
It is a very interesting market. I am used to markets being heavily discriminated by the goods sold. For instance, in Arlington, Virginia, we sold vegetables and eggs at a food-only market, with very strict rules as to what counted as legitimate market food. On a near sidestreet vendors had a flea market that came off as being a whole different story. The market in Ceres is interesting in that it is vegetable/meat/flea/prepared food/toy/crafts market. You can really go there and get just about anything you could (or couldn't possibly) need. Carvings of owls, magical boxes, massive leeks, whistles that sound like birds exactly, eau clairs, knives, pickled duck - you name it, you got it. Following is a handful of the sorts of foods and faces we encountered. I also took a tiny video while walking through the market, which is on youtube.

The jars stacked and casings laid in baskets contain some of the most perfectly preserved meats that I've ever tasted, and I got to taste them many times, as the vendor kept smiling and cutting perfect half-moon slices and quietly explaining to us how they were made as we contentedly ruminated. (Matt partly understood, and I grinned back and questioned Matt en Anglais.) In the end we got some wonderful, inexpensive sausages that are so incredibly cured that we're keeping them on a shelf in our room until resuming travel in twelve days. We found in Spain that sausages of this sort are a superb and worry-free source of protein and salt while scaling mountains.

At so many of the stands, folks were more than happy to cut off a piece of food, hand it to you and engage you in conversation. Many of them asked us where we are from (a byproduct of our attempted French accents), and upon learning that we were Americans often gave us encouraging smiles. (One woman was especially delighted, laughing and repeating "Americans! Ah ha ha!" and happily filling our paper bag with organic dates that were still on their branches)

More pork delicacies, as displayed at another stall...

This man sold us such a lovely little jar of honey. In American farmer's markets I've been hard pressed to find non-filtered honey, which is unfortunate as I long for chunks of wax and pollen and propylis. He gave us just what we wanted - gorgeous clouds of bee goods in a beautiful sunny nectar, as well as a cheery face.

I hope that you can properly see the old-fashioned scale used to measure spices at this quaint stand, where one can buy a wee little veil of saffron for 25 euros and most other cooking spices and minerals for a farm more manageable price. (Surprisingly they didn't have salt, but we did manage to buy an excessively large bag of black pepper, as it only came in two sizes, as well as some the verde - green tea.) They make soaps, too!

This woman provided us with our lunch - a big pan-sized bread inlaid with cheese and ham. For a good price, too, with service as pleasant the beeman's and sausage-maker's.

You should come here.


  1. Oh Jenny, your travels seem wonderful and your writing about it all is beautiful and insightful. Thank you for sharing your experiences in this way. I will stay tuned to learn about what great things will come your way...


  2. Jenny, How romantic and poetic! What a wonderful life! I Love your are such a gifted writer! Sending my LOVE to you and Matt