I love the fresh produce markets we’ve encountered on our travels to Europe.
One of my favourites is the Marché Bastille in Paris. From the Place de la Bastille (where the Colonne de Juillet stands in the center) long lines of stalls with colourful canopies stretch out on to the Boulevard Richard Lenoir. (Caution – crossing the road at the traffic circle can be quite the adrenalin rush!)
Hubby and I went fairly early on a Tuesday morning and not knowing exactly where it was, we spotted two elderly ladies with their shopping trolleys heading down the road, looking as if they had things to do and places to get to. We had hunch that they had to be heading where we wanted to go so we followed them – and we were not wrong! We were greeted by a food lover’s paradise.
Walking along the merchants stalls you are tempted with all kinds of delights. There are delectable cheeses (some of the really mature ones not looking safe for human consumption!), a wide selection of fresh meat, from chicken and rabbit to beef and sausages. And the seafood! There is such a vast variety. And it is impossible to ignore the gorgeous piles of fruit and veg (and not looking as if it was just dumped there, but like it was polished and arranged carefully to create beautiful works of art.) And breads. Charcuterie. Olives. Magnifique!
What really enthrals me are the stall holders, and the pride they have in their goods. You can see it in the way they put it out on display, the way they call you over and confidently offer you a wedge of cheese or a sliver of ham. On the day we were there, the vendor at one particular fruit stall did not want me to pass by before I did not taste the delicious mangos on offer. I’m not sure if the mango was really that sweet or if it was his French accent! Either way, I still remember it – just over a year on!
To top it off, alongside the amazing produce, you will find stands selling all kinds of knickknacks, secondhand clothes, leather bags, shoes and even jewelry. It’s the mixture of all these things that come together to create the magic of this market. There is truly something for everyone’s taste (and wallet)!
But it is not only what I see and taste when I visit these places, it is the emotion it evokes. While browsing the stalls I change from a faltering novice in the kitchen to believing I could be some sassy cook that would even put a Michelin starred chef to shame with what can be produced with the abundance at hand. Inspired by the fresh produce and the beauty, passion and flair with which it is exhibited makes me believe that cooking should not be difficult – and how could it be with all this inspiration.
The Marché Bastille operates on Thursday, 7am-2.30pm and Sunday, 7am-3pm.