Thursday, January 3, 2013

how to visit a french market

Oooh, baby it's cold outside! I'm already looking forward to warming up with friends, wine, and comfort food at another potluck in Brooklyn tomorrow night. Speaking of, after this morning's power yoga class, I ran to the grocery store to buy the seasonal ingredients for this dish that is now baking in the oven. It made me miss my market. Food shopping at outdoor stalls is such a rewarding experience, and a great opportunity to practice my French :). In honor of the habit I'm looking forward to revitalizing in a little more than one week (!) I thought I'd re-post my "how to." It was written immediately following my mom and sister's visit.
Crowds were bustling, vendors were shouting (occasionally), and English was nowhere to be heard on that Sunday morning. As it would be most others, I assume. In these way, markets are very much unlike museums. Very few of the products are preserved (e.g. fresh fruits and vegetables), there are no suggestions as to which route to take, and interaction with others is necessary. It occured to me then that "the market" I've come to appreciate might be an intimidating environment for my mom and sister, and any newcomer for that matter. I tried to guide them through with the best of my non-expert tips I've developed in the past few months...
1. Bring more than one reusable tote, preferably a strong one. I've tried markets with "a list" and still got more than I bargained for (no pun intended). There's always a more diverse selection than expected.
2. Have cash! (Perhaps this should've been my first tip.) Very few merchants accept credit cards. Thankfully, I've found most markets close to at least one bank. Fontainebleau's, for instance, is in the center square.
3. Arriving early provides the best selection. Arriving late provides the best prices. In other words, there's no wrong time to go to the market :).
4. Ask questions. Market-vendors and -goers are probably part of the same community and I've found them to be both friendly and helpful when I thoughtfully practice my French. I doubt I'd be able to navigate my way through a cheese selection without, "Excusez-moi, comment est-ce le goût?"
5. Do a lap before making any purchases. There is undoubtedly going to be more than one flower stand as well as one for every other kind of product so its nice to scope out quality and selection first. Lines are indicative of both.
6. Enjoy samples if you can. Although pain d'épices is not my favorite, I was thrilled that myself, my mom, and my sister were able to try it the weekend before last. How festive.
7. Observe the transactions. I've found that handling items before purchase, including produce, isn't often done in France... even when baskets are within reach. Follow the example of the customers in front of you.
8. Expect seasonal. Freshly picked fruits and vegetables are the most readily available (and cheapest) so it'll be obvious what is in season in that sense. You may be surprised to find, however, that particular game, foul, fish, breads, pastries, and wine are only available at specific times of the year. The same goes for holiday treats; of course! Make sure to enjoy them while you can.
More Parisian things I'm looking forward to: frequenting my favorite wine bar I discovered while doing research, partaking in a few more croque madames, seeing the latest exhibits at a growing list of must-see museums,  and of course, spending time with new friends. Here's to enjoying lots of New York until then!


  1. Oooooh!! I loved this post! I am a big fan of French markets and yes, there is indeed a good and a bad way of visiting them. Great tips! I'm looking forward to my next Sunday market in Paris.



  2. I love French markets they are the best!

    1. I totally agree. Glad you've had a chance to enjoy 'em, too!


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