Sadly, it has been a very long time since I visited the local open air market. When I lived in the Auteuil neighborhood of Paris, I went to the market nearly every week: it was near the supermarket, it was small and easy to master and after four years I knew all the stands very well. The new one here in the 17th is in many ways much more exciting, with more exotic produce and spices, but it's also a lot more work. The narrow passage between the stalls means that an old lady with a trolley and a young one with a stroller can effectively block all traffic in either direction for what seems like hours. The market is larger, which means I have a tendency to do what I always do when faced with too many choices: panic and purchase indiscriminately. And then for the last four months I have been in need of a three hour nap every Saturday, which means choosing between the market and the supermarket. The one that has dishwasher detergent and delivers wins every time.
But now that I am in the so-called "honeymoon trimester" of pregnancy (more like an uneasy truce really) I decided yesterday to skip the supermarket in favour of the real market. And it really made me realize what I've been missing all these months!
July falls between my two favourite periods for going to the open air market: end of spring and mid-fall. The down side is that a lot of the stall-holders have gone on holiday and it all seems a little empty and sad. The up side however more than compensates: fewer people means it is a joy to wander through the market and the stall holders who are left are much more relaxed and easy-going. They want to chat, they laugh more. And the produce is very, very good in July. So this was a very good time to finally get to know my market. I found quite a few interesting things that I hadn't noticed in the few visits I've made before:
- A stall that sells old, unusual varieties of tomatoes
- The Chinese stall that has the best produce
- A very good fishmonger (yay!)
- That you can smell some of the really good stalls about 10 yards before you get to them: the one with wonderful olives and spices that smells of North Africa, the one with the rotisserie chickens slowly rotating as they turn a beautiful brown, the peaches being cut open for tasting by one of the fruit sellers (good advertising, that)
I also discovered that this market, like the ones you find in provincial towns, does not limit itself to food. You can buy generic type hair products, big underpants, cheap cotton dresses, kitchen gadgets, and all kinds of junk when you come to the end of the produce. Auteuil was much too upscale to deal in such silly, fun stuff.
So I will be going back to my market a lot more frequently now. I was glad to have the chance to get to know it a little better with half of Paris on holiday - it seems less imposing somehow now. On the other hand, come September you will not see me there on a Saturday. I will take advantage of the fact that my workday begins at eleven in the morning and go on Wednesdays, when hopefully there will be fewer people!