Olivia Dish

My So-Called Life in France

In Local Flavor, Markets, Paris on August 22, 2009 at 12:42 am
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Bastille Market

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Paris Market Vendor

Apparently every Julia, Kiki, and Carrie longs to live the French life, so many of us it’s getting kind of silly.  A few years ago, I became a cliche (in yet another way) and started renting an apartment in Paris for a couple of weeks at a time.  One of my favorite parts is that I can buy food, come home, and cook it.

It’s an education.  Where to shop.  When to shop.  The unwritten rules of shopping.  The option of buying a single egg.  The store that’s dedicated solely to frozen food.

I won’t attempt to cover it all here and now but will start out with two of my favorite markets, both Sunday markets.  They’re written up frequently, so maybe you’ve read about them or visited them too.

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Metro Stop at Organic Market in 6th

The organic market on Boulevard Raspail is on the Left Bank, not far from St. Sulpice and Le Bon Marche.  My apartment is in the Marais, so this is either a long walk for me (though one I enjoy) or a quick ride on the Metro.

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The amazing fried potato guys

The quality of the food is great and good luck resisting the guys who make the fried potato thingies.

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Seafood at Bastille Market

Poilane, the famed bakery, is nearby, so you can also stop in there for one of those flaky apple-filled pastries (I love them because they’re not sugary; they’re particularly good when just a little warm).

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Music at the Bastille Market

The other  market is much closer to home, the Bastille market.  Though I like to trek over to the organic market, the Bastille market is where I tend to go.   It’s bigger, with that flea market element going on, but it’s also fantastic….seafood, chickens gutted while you wait, scallops in shells, cheese, baked goods, prepared foods, sausages, sea salt–and I’m just getting started.

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Fellow American shopper

I regularly spy a couple of Americans I recognize who are also shopping there–pastry chef David Lebovitz for one, the charming tour guide Richard Nahem of Eye Prefer Paris another.

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The right change, but no too much

Once at the market in St. Remy, my friend Candida Nuff and I were shocked by the abuse we had to take from a vendor.  This small older woman yelled something at us in French, then threw our money at us.  Candida wanted to slink away, embarrassed.  But I crawled around to retrieve the coins.  No use compounding loss of dignity with loss of cash.

Now a veteran of the Bastille (market that is), I now am certain that we violated one of the unwritten rules of the French market.  Perhaps we touched something when we should have pointed.  Perhaps we did not have our money in quite the right denominations (because some of the French don’t want your money any old way they can get it and I’ve got to say I like that about them).

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Chickens disemboweled here while you wait

I’ve also learned that French shoppers do touch the produce; they’re just sneaky about it.

At the Bastille market, an elegant French woman caught my eye with hers.  She slipped her right hand out of its black leather glove.  Then, she slowly dropped her hand down by her side and gave a radish a pinch.  She frowned, winked at me, shook her head “no” slightly as she pulled the glove back on, and well, what else needed to be said or done.  We nodded to one another and moved on.

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