COSMOPOLITA

Today we took our guest up to the Sunday street market in Poitiers to give him a taste of authentic French life. Despite looming clouds the market was packed, from babes in papooses to centenarians in wheel chairs. There were people of every colour and creed, a babel of languages, colour tones from pallid white (me) to rich dark chocolate; European clothes, Middle Eastern clothes, North and West African traditional clothes, the ladies’ cheeks decorated in patterns of coloured powder. A fabulously cosmopolitan melting pot of cultures.

Stalls offered both sophisticated gaudy clothes, cheap jewellery and watches, beautiful handmade pointy-toed leather slippers in a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours. Cut flowers, pot plants, CDs advertised by loud music that added an extra touch of bounce to the shoppers. Stalls that sold only melons, or local goat cheese. Another selling paella from a gigantic frying pan; spit roasted chickens, plastic boats of French fries, coffee and frying sausages all mingling to create an enticing aroma – even for non-meat eaters! Eastern spices and sweetmeats, local vegetable and fruit produce, glistening fresh fish, bric-a-brac, scents, hats, and cheap plastic household items. Something for everybody.

We arrived simultaneously with another couple at a fruit and vegetable stall where I had spotted some particularly spectacular tomatoes. ‘Go ahead’, I signalled to the other couple, who nodded, with big smiles. Ten minutes later we were still standing patiently while they bought avocados; apricots; vine tomatoes and coeur de boeuf tomatoes; green beans; flat peaches; bananas; lettuce, spring onions and green garlic. The stall holder meticulously picked out each item of produce for them, mixing ripe, almost ripe and quite underripe at their request.

Clutching our brown paper bag of tomatoes we moved around the market, acquiring melons, mangoes, aubergines, lettuce from different stalls – I like to spread our patronage. 🙂

Once we’d bought what we came for, we began making for the car park, when we came upon an Iranian family selling their home-made foods. We bought two very large pieces of Iranian lavash. A little further along we met a lovely Russian lady, selling her own home-made pirozkhi. We couldn’t resist her smile, nor her pirozkhi, so they joined the fruit and vegetables and lavash. Retracing our steps, we backtracked to the Iranian stall and bought a savoury pastry – I can’t remember what it was called, but it was stuffed with cheese and spinach. One more stall stopped us in our tracks – dried fruit, candied fruits, olives, spices and tapenades. We came away from there with 200 grams of candied hibiscus flowers, and 200 grams of candied aloe vera.

Thus our ‘traditional French market experience’ was anything but. Likewise our lunch.

I had planned to post some photos of our lunch, but the food didn’t last long enough. The lavash was an interesting contrast to our normal baguettes. It had an unusual elasticity and stretchability and required two strong hands to dismember it. 🙂

In case you haven’t seen candied hibiscus and are wondering what it looks like:

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We agreed that we were glad to have tried the hibiscus flowers and aloe vera. I think they are one of those things worth trying once.

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15 thoughts on “COSMOPOLITA

  1. What an exciting market it must be with all the sights, smells and sounds. It must have been a wonderful experience for your guests. Now I am going to have to look up about the Iranian lavash, and the Russian pirozkhi. Thank you for sharing this experience with us.

    • It’s as good as going to the cinema, Heather, seeing all the different people, hearing their shouting, laughing, murmured conversations, but better than the cinema because you get all the delicious aromas, too. 🙂

  2. Susie, so poetic, and enticing…sounds wonderful…really looking forward to getting the cottage in suitable condition to leave long enough for our own mooch around ‘traditional’ French markets.

    • The Russian lady was lovely. I asked her if she missed Russia, and her eyes went very moist. She misses her homeland badly, but doesn’t have a passport so will never be able to go back. She says she has a Carte de Sejour to stay in France, but can’t leave. One of her children went to University here and married a French native, and she joined them here. Her pirozhki were wonderful, beautifully shaped and glossy golden brown. So obviously made with love.

  3. What a great missive Susie. You have painted a wonderful picture in words. Nice to hear about all the different cultures mixing in harmony, we could do with more of that on this earth. And the food WOW!!

  4. How wonderful that your market is so multicultural, I’d love to stumble upon Russian and Iranian food stalls though the idea of candied hibiscus and aloe vera doesn’t sound tempting to me. In my area there are quite a lot of candied flowers like violets, rose petals and mimosa, but I’ve never come across hibiscus or aloe. I like how you said you were glad to have tried them once, I gather you won’t be rushing back!!! The colour of the candied hibiscus is stunning. Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance, I hope you’ll come back again next month.

    • We are always curious about new foodstuffs, as long as they are meat-free. You are quite right about the candied flowers. Once is enough. 🙂 Looking forward to next month. 🙂

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