My market is my church! It’s where I go every Sunday and where I feel welcomed, safe, uplifted and inspired.
I always thought that traditional Farmers’ markets represented the heart and the soul of any community. Whether you are in France, in India, Italy or Vietnam, you’ll find that:
- The market is at the center of the village or town. It is at the heart of the community.
- The market is often held on Saturday or Sunday (in France at least). You can take your time and feel like you are part of a special tradition.
- This is a place where people of all walks of life meet, talk, joke, share… It is upbeat and convivial!
- “Authentic” vendors, the ones who actually have a farm and/or actually produce, raise or catch what they sell, are really passionate about their products and are always very eager and excited to talk about them. Passion, advice and service that can never be found under the neon lights of a supermarket.
- The people who go to the market are mostly knowledgeable and passionate about food and are happy to share recipes. All you have to do is dare to ask! Some will also give you advice on which vendors you should (or shouldn’t) go to. Don’t be afraid to ask the older folks. They always know who has the best of anything.
- The products are grown/produced/raised/caught locally (I am still referring to the “authentic crowd”). They are also in season, fresh and mostly organic.
- A real Farmers’ Market is timeless. What I mean in that if you are in France or Italy, it makes you feel like you could very well be back in 1955. Like Brigitte Bardot or Claudia Cardinale could pass you by on a Vespa and you wouldn’t be surprised. It’s good to be in a place were you can forget about your Iphone for a second or two…
NOW PLEASE BEWARE:
Most markets (even in France or in Italy), are now the target of con artists. These are people who just buy their products in bulk at the supermarket or in large food factories etc. and try to sell them back to you for two, three or even four times the price. The worst ones in France are those who sell olives, “Herbes de Provence” which actually come from Bulgaria, and cheese. To avoid being taken advantage of, my advice is this:
- Try to buy from older people and avoid the person who looks, feels and sounds like a car salesman (or woman)
- Look at the vendor’s hands and skin in general. People who work hard on a farm or on a fishing boat have callous hands! OK, the cheesemonger may be an exception…
- Don’t buy from a person who is clearly not a local (I would avoid a French guy selling dim sum at a market in China myself).
- Buy from the smaller stalls.
- Buy from people who have a limited variety of products. I buy my poultry from a lady who has maybe 5 chickens and a few eggs for sale at any given time.
- Eggs, by the way, should not all be spotlessly clean. They shouldn’t have any writings on them either!!!
- When it comes to fruits and vegetables, they should not all be the same size (calibrated). A real farmer or producer should have fruits and vegetables of all sizes. Also, they should be ripe but not all of them should be the exact same color (tomatoes especially)
- The crates vegetables are in, should be plain with no logo or brand name on them (see picture above)
- “Dirty” vegetables are ALWAYS a good sign!
- In France at least (different countries obviously have different customs), do not trust a vendor who openly promotes the quality of their product or yells (like “buy my tomatoes! They are beautiful, they are delicious, they are cheap”). Great vendors are never desperate to sell their stuff. This rule may not always apply in Provence where people tend to be more outspoken…
- Never trust someone who is trying to convince you to buy their stuff in general!
- Buy from places where you see locals waiting in line. Especially older folks. Once again, they know best!
Please do visit and promote your local Farmers’ market! Support your farmers, fishermen, cheesemongers… They work quite hard and often make a pittance!