Markets in the Perigord
Posted 07 October 2003 - 07:12 AM
I had the good fortune to spend a week in the Perigord this past May with my wife and child. We stayed in Domme, and got around to most of the obvious nearby towns, including Beynac, La Roque Gageac, Sarlat, Monpanzier, St. Cyprien, Limeuil, and others.
Apart from the incredible landscape and castles in the region, we looked forward to cooking from foods bought on the "market day" in each of the towns we visited. And these markets did provide amazing strawberries and white asparagus, among other tasty treats.
But we thought the markets were really very expensive-- more so than our local greenmarkets in New York City! And we also found there to be a certain quality of sameness to what was offered, and we wondered whether the stuff available was really any different from what we saw in the gourmet stores in Paris. Finally, we thought some items, especially the bread, were actually substandard. This shocked us.
I don't know when you were last in Southwest France, but I want to ask you, what is your experience with these markets? Are they "local," in any sense of the word, or are they really a sort of quaint shopping mall for the tourists? Where do the locals go to get their produce? It seemed to us that there were plenty of locals at the markets, but it also seemed to us that the people in the know had to have other options.
but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"
Posted 09 October 2003 - 01:45 PM
I was in SouthWest france last year. Did you notice the price of gasoline? yikes! These days most everything in Europe costs more than here. As for local markets, you were lucky to come across them, no matter how over-priced the products; the EU is having an awful effect on farmers right to grow their best vegetables and fruits. Thus the Slow Food Movement's reaction: its emphasis on the primacy of local produce. After all, in every region the soil is different, best for this vegetable, inferior for that , etc. But perversely, the EU is trying to force farmers to use hybrid seed varieties and chemicals, so the production for bio markets is far less than formerly. The farmers you meet at those markets are the ones who've stood up to the bureacrats. I believe that even if their prices are high and they are only growing what grows best in their soil, we should cheer them for that.
BTW, these days the farmer's market situation here in Northern California may be among the very best anywhere. Next time you come to San Francisco, go down to the Saturday market at the Ferry Terminal; I think you'll be very pleasantly amazed. Which brings us to French bread: the standards have defnitely fallen in France, though. of course, there are brilliant exceptions. By the same token, I have to say (chauvinistically) that the artisinal bread here in the Bay Area is fabulous. Actually, there is a huge movement in France to get their bread back on track. Did you know an American team won the coupe du monde a few years back for the best baguette?