Saturday, July 11, 2009

Market Report, Early July

I didn't really realize how accustomed I'd become to hiking over to the Arceaux Market every Tuesday and Saturday morning until I fought my way through the crowded streets this Tuesday and discovered that the entire area had been sealed off for the Tour de France.

Now, I pay as much attention to the Tour de France as I do to every other sports event, which is to say none whatever. I trace this back to my childhood, when I was becoming a baseball fanatic and doing pretty well at it -- well enough that I was really enthralled by the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. when my parents took me there -- until my chosen favorite team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, announced they were moving to Los Angeles. At about that same moment, I met a new kid in my class whose brother had become obsessed with rock and roll. When I discovered that there was this statistical side to that, too -- chart positions! -- I figured it was a lot more fun. Well, that and the fact that I was a totally miserable athlete. I wish I could remember who it was that said that the only thing their friends had in common was being picked last for teams in gym, but boy, did I relate: "Coach, do we gotta have him? We had him last week..."

Anyway, this means that I'm as far outside the sports mainstream as it gets. Sports plays as large a part in my life as the bond market. I vaguely knew the Tour would be in town, and that it would be in the Comédie, but that was all I knew. So while the rest of the world watched guys on bicycles zooming around, either live or on television (hence the noisy helicopters all day long) I stayed home and wondered how I was going to get fruit and vegetables. I got them at the supermarket and, while they didn't suck, they weren't very good, either.

But today we were back on schedule, and once again I was amazed at how little it costs to stock up. Here's today's haul:

That basket of what looks like plums is actually tomatoes. I have no idea what the yellow ones, let alone the purple ones, taste like, but at 2.30 for the basket, I couldn't resist. The melons are the type called Charentais, and are very close to American canteloupes. I bought them from a mute farmer who works at the very back of the market. He had tons of tiny yellow plums and a couple of other things, and weighed his produce on an ancient balance. He really can't talk, and when I payed him 1.50 for the big melon, which came out of a box offering two for €3, he made all kinds of signs that I should take one from the 3/3 box, too. They're both quite ripe, so he was probably trying to get rid of them since it was late.

There are a few of the fine green beans -- the French seem to esteem beans by diameter, which is unsurprising because most of the green beans I've bought here have had strings -- that I've been getting from a young guy who's in constant motion at the market, processing people's orders, but looks like he probably kicks back with a fattie when he gets back to the farm. I've been making salade niçoise a lot recently, because it's a great hot-weather meal. I cut a small, peeled potato in to coins and steam it until it's soft, then a handful of these green beans. Then I let them cool off. Put down a bed of lettuce, drain the oil out of a can of tuna, plop that into the center, ring it with beans and potato coins, and toss a bunch of the teeny tiny Niçois olives over the whole thing. I then take a shot of vinegar I bought at the market from a winemaker (€3 per liter), add a bit of Dijon mustard to it, whisk it like a madman, and drizzle in some olive oil and dump that over the finished salad. Serve it with a nice baguette de tradition from Ortholan, the bakery on my corner (half of one is in the shot), and pour one of the many cheap-but-amazing rosés in the shops.

Finally, some more of the fantastic organic eggs -- €2 for six -- and €1.30 worth of the cherries from the family whose stand I always hit. They have tons of peaches now, and I'm going to pick some up on Tuesday, along with the wild strawberries everyone's suddenly got here, which they have in quantity. They're just a bit larger than a pencil eraser, and I'm really looking forward to them.

Adding this all up, I spent €8.80 on all of this, and have breakfast, lunch and dinner -- once I score some lettuce and tuna, another maybe two euros -- for much of the week.

Just more proof that I'm broke, not poor. Mind you, I wouldn't at all mind not being broke, either.


  1. I went to the market today but as I was riding my bike, I didn't buy much. Have you seen that there is a winemaker who makes his wine without using sulfites??? I bought a bottle. I also bought some shampoo from the excellent "herboriste." Have you tried his teas?

  2. I love all you do with what you have.

  3. The non-sulfite winemaker is the guy I bought the vinegar from. The wine has a *lot* of sediment; I hope it's not too late for me to tell you that!

    I don't even know where the herboriste is; I never drink tea. Well, in Chinese restaurants, I do.

  4. I don't go to Chinese restaurants in Montpellier. The few times I went I got sick :-))

    Ed, I don't mind the "sediment." I think you mean "la lie".... It's very important to support people who make good wine without sulfites. French wines have had (so far) a reputation for being among the best ones but also for being among the most polluted wines in the world.

    By the way, there is no sediment at all in the bottle I bought :-))

    The herboriste also sells soap, shampoos, etc.... I like buying all natural products, without GMOs, etc... On Friday, in Lattes, I fell upon a place where producers sell their very good organic produce the same price as the produce you buy in supermarkets (I mean they are "cheap").

  5. Everybody in the Montpellier markets suddenly has wild strwaberries? Oh man, you are so evil and heartless to have mentioned this... Now it will be several days before I can get those fraises des bois out of my head.

  6. I don't go to Chinese restaurants here, either, Marie, because they don't serve Chinese food! I have to cook it myself.

    And Olivier, just for you, I'm gonna take a picture of these things when I get 'em home.


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