The French Market and Dining Experience

Nicolette Brycki - The French Market and Dining Experience

It’s generally known that French people are slim. How is this possible with all of the bread, pastries, and wine they consume? You don’t see many of them outside running off their calories, or going to the gym (there are very few of them actually). From what I’ve noticed, although the French indulge in these treats, much of their joie de vivre comes from eating well and healthy; from taking pleasure in their fresh ingredients and presentation, and from enjoying their food.

The French culinary lifestyle is truly a farm to table culture, and organic or “bio” for them is actually quite easy to find, somewhat expected, and much less expensive than American organic options. Outdoor markets are generally accessible, and on most days. Produce is labeled, samples are given, and prices are relatively good. At a typical French summer market, you will find most, if not all, ingredients to make a simple lunch, or a beautiful three course meal. Naturally, there is plenty of produce, and most marchands take pride in selling locally-grown fruits and vegetables. You may not see your traditional fruit and vegetable “shapes”. Radishes appear oblong, not round. Carrots are twisted. Lettuce is dirty, so it takes a few washes to clean it up, but it makes a beautiful salad. You have the olive and tapenade marchand, who gladly gives you samples of green and black tapenades, homemade sundried tomatoes in olive oil, and roasted red peppers. There is the cheese man. Loads of cheese, he sells, at room temperature, and a bit overwhelming for me at least since there are over 300 varieties of French cheese.

A sample or two always helps me make my decision. The fish counter, with the day’s freshest catches is there, along with the cured meats seller. And then, you will find the French salts, herbes de Provence, and spices the French are known for. Since I didn’t have much of a kitchen during my travels in France, most times, I bought some easy-to-eat spreads, cheeses, olives, and vegetables at the market, and then went to the boulangerie to buy the perfect baguette for my lunch. I can’t forget the wine! Personal bottles of wine are easy to find in the supermarket for just a couple euros. Je prefere le rouge!

At restaurants, or if invited to a home for dinner, meals are usually “presented”, with a pretty arrangement of whatever the chef has served on the plate. Although desserts like tarte tatin, flan, and warm chocolate cake may be included in a prix fixe option at a restaurant, at home, for dessert, yogurt, cheese, or fruit is typical. Of course, since I was on vacation, I headed straight for the patisserie where I indulged in some sort of tart, much less sweet than American varieties, and always delicious.