“Un plus grand–Oui, c’est bon, merci.” A little bigger, yes that’s good, thank you.
When I studied in France, I lived at the food markets, but it took me months to find the courage to buy cheese. The Apples, pears, peaches, and peppers arranged in neat pyramids and baskets were easy; “Une pomme, s’il vous plaît.” (One apple, please.) But the cheese…the stacks were gorgeous and the conversations quick. It was so much easier to buy a piece at Monoprix. Eventually I learned to listen better and realized no one asked for cheese by the gram, but rather by the occasion.
If you’ve never been, a French food market is a feast for all your senses. The scents titillate, the food displays resemble sculptures, and you want to taste everything. It’s just so pretty, it looks more than good enough to eat. These markets haunted my thoughts this summer as I wandered weekly through the St. Paul Farmers’ Market–kind of like a madeleine, you might say. It’s not that our local farmers’ markets aren’t lovely, they’re just utilitarian.
Well, most of the stands are. The veggies are crated up in cardboard containers–you pick the one you want and it’s bagged in one of those ubiquitous sacs that I think are banned in California now. And on you go, unless of course, you’re a regular and stop to chat about so-and-so’s health or when the first frost might hit The Cities. Sometimes you have to wait awhile, especially for corn–Kettle or fresh roasted.
Except for the flower vendors, all the stands pretty much looked alike: long tables covered with food and bulging, open trucks parked behind the; smiling farmers happily bagging their crops, doling out change. You could be in St. Paul, Minneapolis, or Pine City. Minnesota farmers’ markets all have a similar vibe. The people working look like what farmer should…(I might be biased my paternal grandparents were farmers). There’s dirt on the carrots; you have to wash them when you get home.
There was this one stand. It was beautiful. The food spilled artfully out of wicker baskets onto a checkered cotton table-cloth. The signs, hand written like everyone’s were, instead, elegant. The prices were the same: $5 for two cartons or $3 for one.
But there was no line–ever.
I brought my camera Sunday hoping to find them, take some photos and ask how their summer was. Regretfully they weren’t there. I wanted to know if they found market successful.
I realized something. I never bought veggies there. The stand was just too pretty–it didn’t look a Minnesota farmers’ market should. The visual scene they created didn’t correlate with my idea of “farmers’ market.”
Have you ever shopped somewhere that visually didn’t match up for you?
I’ll leave you with some photos from last Sunday’s market. Do they look like a farmers’ market should?