I love market day. Even if you don’t live in France, the combination of a straw basket, a striped blue and white t-shirt and a baguette poking out of a seasonal basket of fresh produce is essential kit if you want to escape into a daydream about the good life in France. But it was a little too chilly for t-shirts this week.
It’s that cusp between the seasons, and although artichokes and Spring bulbs are beginning to appear, temperatures are remaining firmly in the single figures.
Annabelle and I went to the biggest of our local markets this week, the lovely riverside village of Peyrehorade in the Landes. Although there are lots of reasons to love this market, there’s one in particular; a man who sells roast chickens from the Landes. Chickens raised in the Landes are known to be the best in France, and his are rotisserie roasted over a bed of crisp potatoes, which are constantly basted by the juices of the roast chicken. To add to the flavour, each chicken is stuffed with a generous piece of garlicy buttered baguette that further flavours those crispy spuds beneath. If I haven’t already convinced you, these chickens are honestly worth getting on a plane and flying to France for. They’re truly the best I’ve had, and on a cold February day, they make the perfect lunch.
Here are my tips for shopping at a French produce market:
- You need a bag. If you’re travelling and don’t have the obligatory basket, buy a reusable canvas bag before you leave home. Trust me, picnics are the best way to eat your way around regional France, particularly if you’re on a budget.
- Always catch the eye of the stall owner and greet them before you handle the produce. A simple “Bonjour Madame” or “Bonjour Monsieur” plus an “Au revoir Madame/Monsieur” when you leave makes all the difference.Don’t forget this. Bonjour on its own is considered quite rude.
- If a stall has paper bags laid out, serve yourself. If there are baskets, take what you want and hand each one back to the seller to weigh. If there are no bags or baskets, don’t touch the produce. Wait for the vendor to ask what you want. When in doubt, take a cue from local shoppers.
- Arrive early, but linger till lunch time (12;30). Markets stalls open between eight and nine in the morning, so if you get there early, you can grab a coffee at a local bar and eat a croissant while the market comes to life.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a taste. French vendors are more than happy to give you a sample of cheese or a piece of clementine to demonstrate how delicious their produce is.
- Prices are usually fixed and reasonable. French markets are not like a Moroccan bazaar, so bartering is not required…or appreciated.
- Bring small notes and change, rather than 50 Euro bills and get cash out the day before. Local ATM machines tend to have a huge cue by 10am, so plan ahead.
- Don’t speak loudly. Be respectful of the people that shop there daily and if in doubt, watch the way the locals interact with one another. French shoppers are very respectful of one another’s space.