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jamiemaw

The Myth of the French 'Country' Market

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Yes, I think I'll read the book.

Not so much for the "information" presented but to simply feel whatever sense it is that the author does have (for me) - and to assess better how it is that humor perhaps intended can go off the radar.

Hey, this is supposed to be an anthropology book. Not a Peter Mayle book.

If humor is the main reason for purchasing an anthropology book, then there must be something wrong with the anthropology.

I'm not so sure about that, Ptipois. I had a right good giggle after I put The Origin of Species down.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Yes, I think I'll read the book.

Not so much for the "information" presented but to simply feel whatever sense it is that the author does have (for me) - and to assess better how it is that humor perhaps intended can go off the radar.

Hey, this is supposed to be an anthropology book. Not a Peter Mayle book.

If humor is the main reason for purchasing an anthropology book, then there must be something wrong with the anthropology.

But as I'm sure you'll agree, good writing is important, and that writing might include some humor. I hate deadly academic writing.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Just slid dpwn to the corner bookseller.  The book apparently won't be on U.S. shelves until next month.

I understand the nation's capital is unusually slippery right now. Even tires are spinning.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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As I have tried to suggest here (alas, not always successfully), the beauty of found humour and of our human condition is in the eye of the beholder. And in the case of turnips and boyfriends, as Ptipois amplifies, the eyes have it too.

Even here, as luck would have it: Nobody plays the Canadian card like the Canadians.  :smile:

That's because the only people who have been able to figure out exactly what is a Canadian are the Canadians, and if they know, they aren't telling.

We Americans vacillate between two oversimplifications, both of which conveniently leave out Québec: Canadians are Americans who spell words with too many vowels or vowels in the wrong places, have an unnatural fondness for donuts and end all their sentences with "eh?", or Canadians are weak-kneed peaceniks who want to turn North America into a clone of decadent Europe (I think that's the current line being pushed on Fox News Channel, but I can't swear by this).

The really funny part of this is that actual travel in Canada seems to do little to dispel Americans of these oversimplifications.

Moving on to Carrot Top's observation about reading: Postmodern literary theorists are fond of pointing out that every work of literature has two authors, the writer and the reader. This may be one of the few postmodernist lit-theory assertions that is undisputable.

Might we also say that every meal has two creators, the cook (chef) and the diner?


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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But as I'm sure you'll agree, good writing is important, and that writing might include some humor. I hate deadly academic writing.

Good writing is crucial anywhere.

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As I have tried to suggest here (alas, not always successfully), the beauty of found humour and of our human condition is in the eye of the beholder. And in the case of turnips and boyfriends, as Ptipois amplifies, the eyes have it too.

Even here, as luck would have it: Nobody plays the Canadian card like the Canadians.  :smile:

That's because the only people who have been able to figure out exactly what is a Canadian are the Canadians, and if they know, they aren't telling.

We Americans vacillate between two oversimplifications, both of which conveniently leave out Québec: Canadians are Americans who spell words with too many vowels or vowels in the wrong places, have an unnatural fondness for donuts and end all their sentences with "eh?", or Canadians are weak-kneed peaceniks who want to turn North America into a clone of decadent Europe (I think that's the current line being pushed on Fox News Channel, but I can't swear by this).

As always, Cheney-like marksmanship, Sandy! Play nice though, we've quietly become your largest supplier of oil, gas, water and movie stars. :biggrin:

One recent incident might prove your point: my business partner from Philly was 'shushed' for cheering too loudly at a Canucks game. And no, we weren't playing the Flyers. But to move this response back to a gastronomic theme, he was also derided for leaving a midden of peanut shells under his seat. Needless to say, these were silently cleaned up by my countrymen between periods so that he might begin his mess again, afresh.

To really capture the essence of what it is to be a Canadian: Watch the highlights of the Olympic 'skeleton' competiton tonight.

Yours in anthropology,

Jamie

PS:

Moving on to Carrot Top's observation about reading: Postmodern literary theorists are fond of pointing out that every work of literature has two authors, the writer and the reader. This may be one of the few postmodernist lit-theory assertions that is undisputable.

Might we also say that every meal has two creators, the cook (chef) and the diner?

Absolutely. And to extend your thought, the same applies in every human transaction (which I believe is the point of de La Pradelle's little ditty) including the complicity of merchant and shopper.

Cheers,

J.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Moving on to Carrot Top's observation about reading:  Postmodern literary theorists are fond of pointing out that every work of literature has two authors, the writer and the reader.  This may be one of the few postmodernist lit-theory assertions that is undisputable.

Might we also say that every meal has two creators, the cook (chef) and the diner?

Yes, to your last question.

But please do not ever associate me with those people you've mentioned in the first sentence - you know, the PLT's.

Thank you. :wink:

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Honestly what concerns me most about reading this book is the foreword written by Jack Katz that says:

"This is an important book for all theorists of the self."

Honestly, my head almost hit the keyboard as I was struck with a sudden, intense urge to take a long nap.

:wink:

And also I must apologize for this post. I used the word "honestly" twice.

And everyone knows that two negatives make a positive.

God how I hate it when I discover I've lied without even knowing it.

Bad show. Bad bad bad.

But I am looking forward to the book arriving for further discussion, or alternately a nice long nap.

:smile:

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Well, you do have a point there. If I chose my boyfriends the way I choose my turnips, I'd be a very happy woman by now.  :smile:

Boyfriends? You can apply the same rules to them as to any other vegetable, Ptipois.

Just approach them, pick them up and poke them. If they are too heavy to lift, choose instead a spot on them that interests you and give it a few good pinches.

You'll find out a lot this way.

.....................................................................

But who cares to discuss boyfriends when instead we can discuss books about Farmer's Markets!?

Here is my question, directed to Jamie:

You've given us a list of questions to ponder as to what the effects of this book might be, and noted that it is an older book just recently re-issued by University of Chicago Press.

How did this book initially come to your notice? *Is* it being touted in the media (or do you have an "inside source". . . :huh: )

Basically, my question is - where did you find this particular package of eh. . .psalt?

:cool:

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But who cares to discuss boyfriends when instead we can discuss books about Farmer's Markets!?

Here is my question, directed to Jamie:

You've given us a list of questions to ponder as to what the effects of this book might be, and noted that it is an older book just recently re-issued by University of Chicago Press.

How did this book initially come to your notice? *Is* it being touted in the media (or do you have an "inside source". . . :huh: )

Basically, my question is - where did you find this particular package of eh. . .psalt?

:cool:

I'll take your question under review, Karen, as I did Market Day in Provence. :biggrin:

I took a particular interest in the book, as I alluded to upthread, because I'm currently researching a chapter about how (consumerist) food procurement has changed over time. Several things that I find of particular interest are the complicity of consumer and vendor; aspirational purchasing (social or tribal validation and the vendors [can you say 'Whole Foods'?] who play to that phenomenon); and the consequences of credit as they apply to the above.

A couple of other soon-to-be (or recently) published books that might interest you; to some degree they broach consumerism, markets and are certainly of broader interest:

The Big Oyster: New York on the Half Shell by Mark Ruhlman (Ballantine Books). The author of Salt and Cod (but not Salt Cod) weighs in on the impact of the oyster from wampum to Horace Greeley and beyond. I'm not finished yet, but I suspect there is an environmental lesson as well.

Sacred Cow, Mad Cow: A History of Food Fears by Madeleine Ferrières; translated by Jody Gladding (Columbia University Press); a gigantic tome by French food historian Ferrières that traces food history from the Middle Ages in continental Europe to Chicago's meat-packing industry. Call it Fear of Poisoning. Of interest to this thread was the time-honoured French tradition of marching beef steers on the hoof to village and city abbatoirs; the theory being that only animals healthy enough for the journey were worthy of human consumption: early verification in exchange for noise and stink. But life was also characterized by epizootics and by the mid-1700s, there were 37,000 local ordinances in France governing the sale of meat.

Shopping in the Renaissance by Evelyn Welch (Yale University Press). As quoted from upthread; another fascinating history of the social buy:sell contract with much mention of food, markets and dining, and items from twisted knickers to cheese. :smile:

Cheers,

Jamie


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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The Big Oyster: New York on the Half Shell by Mark Ruhlman (Ballantine Books). The author of Salt and Cod (but not Salt Cod) weighs in on the impact of the oyster from wampum to Horace Greeley and beyond. I'm not finished yet, but I suspect there is an environmental lesson as well.

I think you meant Mark Kurlansky.


PS: I am a guy.

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I took a particular interest in the book, as I alluded to upthread, because I'm currently researching a chapter about how (consumerist) food procurement has changed over time. Several things that I find of particular interest are the complicity of consumer and vendor; aspirational purchasing (social or tribal validation and the vendors [can you say 'Whole Foods'?] who play to that phenomenon); and the consequences of credit as they apply to the above.

That is interesting, Jamie, and I think that it's pertinent now. Since this topic came to light I have been walking around with a new set of violet shaded glasses instead of pink ones. But that's good for me, it helps me make better choices. If anything it's bolstering my courage to actually just ask direct questions. I figure that if someone acts offended when I start probing to get more insight on where the goods are coming from, then they might not be legit in the first place.

What do you mean about the 'consequences of credit'? I'm not following that. Do you mean lack of doubt in consumer food transactions, granting any sales technique or gimmick 'credit'? I.e. this idea of certain situations where 'suspended disbelief' carries some transactions?

I've got the French version on order from the library, since my book budget is spent. I also want to get the flavor of the message in the VO since some subtleties may be lost in translation.

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"".............“The market sensitizes people to food level. The market’s brand image is the food; it’s where you find fresh, higher-quality produce.”

In fact, as I was able to confirm in interviews, most of the fruits and vegetables available on the market, either at stallholders’ or in sedentary shops, were purchased from the MIN in Avignon, a major wholesale market featuring an extremely broad range of produce from a great variety of sources........""

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/141845.html

Excellent reading.

So, where do we stand?


Peter

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While I have no problem with farmer's market vendors selling wares they get from elsewhere, I find it terribly deceptive for them to insinuate that said goods are from their own gardens, or that the prepared foods are made in their own kitchens.

It is brilliant marketing, and consumers seem utterly charmed by it, but the smoke and mirrors aspect of it all is a real turn-off. Technically, it is not lying if no one asks, but blatant lies are far worse. It reminds me of the vendors here in the Hudson Valley who were found to be selling supermarket tomatoes at a farm stand.

Of course, it's a "buyer beware" market, so articles like this help us to see the truth behind the homegrown splendor, and remind us to ask the important questions. I've purchased farmer's market items that were horrible, so now I try to convince them to let me sample first. :smile:


Jennifer L. Iannolo

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I'm sure this kind of thing happens -- especially at markets frequented by tourists -- but my personal experience with rural French markets is that they are authentic.

I lived for three months in Azay-le-Rideau, and would go to the market both in that town and the larger one in nearby Langeais. We met cheesemakers who had local farms. Yes, there were cheese sellers who sold a cross-section of French cheeses too. We visited the small farm owned by the vegetable seller we came to like, and saw their rows of produce and the chickens who laid the eggs we bought.

We also saw them buy and sell to other local people. Once, a woman with a fruit tree of some sort came and sold our vegetable sellers the fruit she picked from that tree. And several people who would drive around the really rural areas with a car full of produce came and bought stuff.

In general, most of the stuff we saw that the markets we frequented was local. I don't think this is the exception.

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While I have no problem with farmer's market vendors selling wares they get from elsewhere, I find it terribly deceptive for them to insinuate that said goods are from their own gardens, or that the prepared foods are made in their own kitchens.

It is brilliant marketing, and consumers seem utterly charmed by it, but the smoke and mirrors aspect of it all is a real turn-off. Technically, it is not lying if no one asks, but blatant lies are far worse. It reminds me of the vendors here in the Hudson Valley who were found to be selling supermarket tomatoes at a farm stand.

This would really bother me too, if it were true.

In reading the exerpt, you'll see that the author inserts her own interpretation of vendors 'insinuations', and only in one case could she actually find anyone who actually lied (the pate seller). When asked, they were forthright in stating the source of their goods. There's nothing shameful or lower quality about regional produce that makes its way to market by way of wholesalers, either. There are a lot less smoke and mirrors than you think, really.

In general, most of the stuff we saw that the markets we frequented was local. I don't think this is the exception.

I'll agree with that and also say that there is a visible difference in quality between the local stuff and that which has been grown for long shipment.

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I'm sure this kind of thing happens -- especially at markets frequented by tourists -- but my personal experience with rural French markets is that they are authentic.

They are, in a normal (i.e. not spoiled by tourism) situation.

In general, most of the stuff we saw that the markets we frequented was local.  I don't think this is the exception.

It isn't, Schneier.

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The Big Oyster: New York on the Half Shell by Mark Ruhlman (Ballantine Books). The author of Salt and Cod (but not Salt Cod) weighs in on the impact of the oyster from wampum to Horace Greeley and beyond. I'm not finished yet, but I suspect there is an environmental lesson as well.

I think you meant Mark Kurlansky.

Indeed I did.


from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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I took a particular interest in the book, as I alluded to upthread, because I'm currently researching a chapter about how (consumerist) food procurement has changed over time. Several things that I find of particular interest are the complicity of consumer and vendor; aspirational purchasing (social or tribal validation and the vendors [can you say 'Whole Foods'?] who play to that phenomenon); and the consequences of credit as they apply to the above.

That is interesting, Jamie, and I think that it's pertinent now. Since this topic came to light I have been walking around with a new set of violet shaded glasses instead of pink ones. But that's good for me, it helps me make better choices. If anything it's bolstering my courage to actually just ask direct questions. I figure that if someone acts offended when I start probing to get more insight on where the goods are coming from, then they might not be legit in the first place.

What do you mean about the 'consequences of credit'? I'm not following that. Do you mean lack of doubt in consumer food transactions, granting any sales technique or gimmick 'credit'? I.e. this idea of certain situations where 'suspended disbelief' carries some transactions?

I've got the French version on order from the library, since my book budget is spent. I also want to get the flavor of the message in the VO since some subtleties may be lost in translation.

Lucy, I was referring to 'credit' in its meaning of purchasing something with borrowed money, the most common form being a credit card. Convenient credit is the jet-fuel of consumerist societies and I think differentiates cultures that might purchase what they want versus what they need. This is just one explanation for an entire aisle of variously branded mineral waters at Whole Foods; hence modern food purchasing = mea gulpa.

Yours on borrowed time,

Jamie


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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I haven't had time to read all of this thread, but I'm not surprised at the interest anglophones display in all things French and particularly in all things related to French cullinary matters. There's a love/hate relationship and inferiority/superiority complex with the French. Never having been ot France or being clueless doesn't usually stop anglos from having an opinion either.

"Myth" is an appropriate word for the title of this thread. I won't proclaim to be any sort of expert on French markets, but I've shopped in them for the purpose of securing provisions for dinner and I've shopped in open markets and supermarkets with a professional chef born in Brittany and working in a NY Times four star restaurant in NY.

I probably won't veer far from what Ptipois says, and if I do, she's probably correct and I'm suffering from some misapprehension, though as in most things there will be some subjectivity. I think it's been established that an open air or closed city/town/village market is not a farmer's market. The stalls are occupied by vendors of all sorts. Many of the vendors have a shop in one town and do the rounds of open markets in the area coming to different towns on different days. Many are just itinerant vendors who make the rounds of various weekly markets. They buy from their sources who may be artisans or commerical producers. There are also those very small farmers and producers of cheese, honey, wine, etc. who bring their homemade wares to market themselves.

The French are sticklers for typing and labeling. Fait main and produit fermier are label terms that are enforceable by law and quite reliable. The French also know the value of a good marque. On a thread about canned sardines in the Spain forum, I noted that a fine restaurant serving sardines will display the tin along with the sardines. A noted food critic in that thread stressed the best French sardines are vintage dated. No one will open these tins and sell them as fait maison. Anyone selling a poulet de Bresse or a label rouge chicken will not have the temerity to say they raised it if they didn't. On the other hand, I know my friends sometime buy unpedigreed chickens from a local farmer that go for more than chickens with pedigree. The local farmer has has built a market based on the flavor of her chickens and not on false advertising or simply that she's a small local producer. To the best of my knowledge she doesn't go to the market, people come to her, but I believe that's immaterial and her business relates well to the points being made in this thread.

Just as some people like to anthropomorphize ducks and g eese to criticize the gavage, they like to think of French markets in terms of what they have, or would like to have, at home, be it England, Canada or the US. It's just a damn market. One stall has processed cheese and the next has fresh lait cru. As for local produce, wherever I've been, the produce is all labeled as to origin. Oranges from Morocco, tomatoes from Spain, as well as produce from areas in France.

The larger the city, the greater the variety and, generally, the greater the difference between the best and worst quality available. The real finds of course, are often in the tiny village markets which only draw locals. The finds are not necessarily top quality, but they are finds simply because they are unique in some way and from producers too small to make, or grow, enough to satisfy a commercial distributor or even make the trip to a larger city worthwhile.

This whole thread seems predicated on the assumption that not only are the "markets" different from the commerical supermarkets, but that one is "good" and the other inherently "bad." That may be, but it's largely from a foreign viewpoint. Our friends in the Languedoc think that way, but it's because they've come to retire in the France of their dreams and early travel.

The fact is that the hypermarche may well be a source of excellent artisanal provisions. I've told the story of being picked up by my Breton chef and taken to his family house for dinner. On the way we had to stop off and shop. I was thrilled, up until we pulled into the suburban hypermarche parking lot and grabbed a cart. What a let down as we passed the aisles of Oscar Meyer imitations and sliced processed cheese in plastic packages, but what a surprise to hit the fresh produce aisle with numerous varieties of garlic and lemons. Can most of you who use citrus zest in cooking, get fruit that's not been sprayed with pesticide and fungicide? In that French supermarket, the lemons and oranges were all marked as untreated or else the poison on the skin was noted. We were headed for the cheese aisle well beyond the plastic boxes and found a selection--in Brittany no less where they are not known for their cheese--of cheeses I've not seen equaled in NYC and a good number were very local from small producers. More impressive was the selection of rillettes. In order rising price there was pork, duck and rabbit. To my surprise, there was pure pork again at the top of the price scale, but this was from a special breed of pig raised with organic feed.

When we shop in the town of Pezenas, in the Herault, on days when there is no market, things are not so different except that the selection is smaller as there are fewer stores. The ten dollar rotisserie chicken at one place is not worth the price, but the twenty dollar chicken next door is worth twenty dollars although most everything else at the first shop is first rate. One learns. It's called shopping. Has a shop keeper ever lied to me? I suppose so, but less often in France than most places and my accent pretty much identifies me as a tourist.

I am of course, a cynic, but I am as cynical of the market place of cyncial opinions as I am of the market place of food.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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When we shop in the town of Pezenas, in the Herault, on days when there is no market, things are not so different except that the selection is smaller as there are fewer stores. The ten dollar rotisserie chicken at one place is not worth the price, but the twenty dollar chicken next door is worth twenty dollars although most everything else at the first shop is first rate. One learns. It's called shopping. Has a shop keeper ever lied to me? I suppose so, but less often in France than most places and my accent pretty much identifies me as a tourist.

I am of course, a cynic, but I am as cynical of the market place of cyncial opinions as I am of the market place of food.

Bux,

I don't know that the author was particulalry cynical in her research and findings; if anything her bias was toward benign bemusement cast in a rather academic tone heightened by an awkward translation with a slightly nasal quality. And yes, her treatise is very much about shopping.

Lastly, I would defend your right to be a cynic to the grave.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Thank you, Bux, for your insight.

The author clearly (at least in the English exerpt cited here) had a chip on her shoulder... whether this was because she had unrealistic expectations from the beginning is unclear, although it seems like it could be a plausible explanation.

The question also about where the natural bar lies in French culture is something to consider.

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Thank you, Bux, for your insight.

The author clearly (at least in the English exerpt cited here) had a chip on her shoulder... whether this was because she had unrealistic expectations from the beginning is unclear, although it seems like it could be a plausible explanation.

The question also about where the natural bar lies in French culture is something to consider.

Au contraire, Lucy! I thought that the author had a very even disposition - a chip on both shoulders! :rolleyes: And I zinc ze natural bar lies in wait for thee.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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I could not read through this entire thread beacause A. it was getting pretty tedious, and more importantly B. it was quite ridiculous reading the perspectives of non-french individuals over-analyzing a very successful and time honored french tradition. The french know exactly who the "artisans" are and if they so choose, they make their purchases from such vendors. These are not savvy french, but the same sort of french as you and I would be if we were lucky enough to live there. The french support the "markets" because it is part of their culture - a god given right at that. They know that they could run into Auchan or Carrefour and get many of the same products (maybe even cheaper) but they love to shop in the organic environment that markets provide. In general they could care less who grew that head of "salade" as long as the price is right and there is an opportunity to haggle - bargaining at the market is french blood sport. The french are a quirky lot and they love to play mind games, hood wink and trick each other. They are also slick and very frugal shoppers. So don't be fooled by a fooler. How typical of a french person to write such a book - they also love to be important (self-important) with big opionions. I have not and will probably not read this book (or Why french women don't get fat); and don't feel like I really need to in order to contribute here. Having lived there for several years and being married to a french man for more than that I do have some serious background and reliable observations. Don't forget to read between the lines when travelling in France.

I'll end on a true story starring my financially comfortable yet extremely frugal French father-in-law (who shops 2 x week at the market).

Every time Mr. F heads off the Banque to meet with the manager he makes sure he wears his worst clothes. These include a tattered jacket, pants with patches and my favorite: the shoes with the soles that flap open with each step. I kid you not. He told me that this is to fool the bank employees into thinking he is poor and therefore not draw any unwanted attention to himself.

I thought it was pretty odd at first, but can understand his humour, even more so now watching all the backing and forthing over a real or pretend artisanal carrot.

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Bargaining, eh? So the marked prices aren't set?


Michael aka "Pan

 

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