Friday, August 14, 2015

You know you’re not in France …

Vegetable gardening here in Illinois and visiting France have taught me to love marchés, or farmers markets. In both the U.S. and in France, fresh, local, heirloom, and artisanal flavors awaken the taste buds. And in France, farmers’ arrangements are an art form—a feast for the eyes. Less artistic, practical U.S. farmers generally just put little bins and pint and quart boxes on a table to display their produce. As I sling Provençal cabas, or market basket, over my shoulder and stride toward a new market, I’m eager for both freshness and artistry. Standing in the midway of the market, I glance up and down both lines of booths for the French signature: beauty. Here in the States, I’m often disappointed, as in our recent stop at a Michigan market.

Promising signs were pretty flower displays and a quiche vendor …

… and a chef creating both savory and sweet crêpes.

But then, you know you’re not in France when the market sells Yooper pasties and Amish cheese, especially with a tacky plastic cheese wedge on a car.

Some booths straddled the France/U.S. line, in my opinion. On one hand, sea salt caramels are ubiquitous along the Atlantic coast of France. On the other hand, chocolate covered bacon sounds right out of a Homer Simpson cartoon. And free copies of the New Testament? I have never seen this in France, though I’m sure it happens.

Regarding market baskets, well, again practicality reigns in this country, where most everyone nowadays brings reusable cloth bags to farmers markets. Compare the Michigan market’s single pole of baskets for sale with a French marché’s vibrant, tumbling sea of basket beauty.

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