One of my favourite things about France are its markets. No matter what town you visit they always have at least a Saturday or Sunday large market with different kinds of vendors, including ones selling vegetables, fresh fish, cheese, meats, baked goods and even clothing and other nick nacks. Without fail, the markets are crowded with people buying their weekly produce, usually carrying it in large wicker baskets (I really want one).
It’s become a ritual to visit one of Saint-Nazaire’s main weekly markets. I love that despite all the “Hypermarchés” that are now becoming the norm around France, the more traditional farmer’s markets are still in business. It also amazes me how in general even in grocery stores, you don’t really buy anything out of season. I try to eat more or less “in season” anyway, but even something like berries, which you can usually see in Canadian grocery stores even in the frigid depths of winter, are scarce here off season.
At the market, you can ask the vendors for tips on how to cook your purchases, and they will knowledgeably reply. One vegetable that I discovered at the market is Chou frisé. It turns out it’s very similar to kale (one of my favourites), but consumed in the round more cabbage-esque form. According to the vendor, it should be cooked simply in salted boiling water and tossed with lemon juice. Delicious!
There are all sorts of vegetables that I’ve come across that I couldn’t identify, and I’d like to think of my self as pretty vegetable progressive. Chou frisé is one example, but I’ve also tried some new and very fungus-y looking mushrooms, seen more kinds of root vegetables than I ever new existed, and other un-idenitfiable things that I have yet to try.
As much as I love trying new foods, one of my french market favourites is a classic: lettuce. French lettuce is always so fresh, crisp and vibrant looking. There are several kinds and it’s fun picking out whatever looks good. It’s always nice and easy to throw together a salad with you market finds, too.