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:
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.