Why I love the market even when it’s cold or rainy #1

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We go to the fresh produce market in Blois every Saturday in Place Louis XII no matter what the weather. You never know what you’ll find! We arrive any time between 10 am and 11 am and park in the underground parking lot nearby.

A brass band in winter

A brass band in winter

Over the last 3 years and particularly since we moved here permanently six months ago, we have developed a set routine to include our favourite vendors.

oysters

In winter, we start with the oyster vendor and buy two dozen spéciales as these are our favourites. At 7.20 euro a dozen, they are considerably cheaper than the ones we used to buy in the 1st arrondissement in Paris. Our vendor and her husband live and raise their oysters in Charentes and come to Blois three days a week. Between them, they cover the Amboise market on Friday and Sunday mornings, two markets in Blois on Saturday morning and various selling points on Friday and Saturday afternoon, from the beginning of September to the end of April.

The saucissons vendor on the market with local varieties such as deer and wild boar.

The saucissons vendor on the market with local varieties such as deer and wild boar.

Next stop is the saucisson seller with local varieties such as deer and wild boar. Saucisson in French corresponds to dry sausage of the salami type as opposed to saucisse of the frankfurter type. Saucisson is one of our favourite appetizers.

One day there was even a donkey to attract donations for children with cancer

One day there was even a donkey to attract donations for children with cancer

The chicken and rabbit vendor  comes next. Rabbit is one of Jean Michel’s specialities that we buy from time to time and have with chasselas grapes or prunes depending the season.

The mushroom vendor who sells button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms and Japanese shitake

The mushroom vendor who sells button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms and Japanese shitake

After that, we have the mushroom man. He works with a partner who grows button mushrooms (called Parisian in French) , shitake and oyster mushrooms. He loves joking and talking to each customer. He always wants to know what you are going to do with the mushrooms and selects them accordingly – very firm to be eaten uncooked, large if they are to be sliced, tiny to accompany a roast.

The egg lady who is part of the fruit & vegetable stall

The egg lady who is part of the fruit & vegetable stall

The next vendor is the organic baker. The vendors (a young man or a young woman) are not very friendly, but Jean Michel prefers their baguette with his oysters – I prefer the multi-grain bread I make myself.

one of the philosophical signs on the fruit & vegetable stall

One of the philosophical signs on the fruit & vegetable stall

A large self-serve fruit and vegetable stall comes next. The owner of the stall is a farmer himself and all the produce he sells is fresh and local. In between the cardboard boxes are little signs with philosophical quotes such as “Humility is like a pair of scales. The more you make it go down on one side, the higher it goes on the other”. The lady behind the scales writes everything down on a piece of xcrap paper and then adds it up. They also sell free-range eggs so we take along our empty cartons.

Three generations of Italians run the stall

Three generations of Italians run the stall

Next on the list is the Italian stall. It’s very popular so we always buy four types of ravioli and some tagliatelle and freeze them so we won’t have to queue as often. You can plunge the pasta directly into boiling water still frozen and cook it like fresh pasta. The stall is run by three generations and their produce comes directly from Italy.

When it's no longer scallop season, they sell fresh fish, shells and prawns

When it’s no longer scallop season, they sell fresh fish, shells and prawns

In winter, we often buy scallops (coquille Saint Jacques in French) from a stall run by two young men. Their hands must be frozen by the end of the morning, after opening literally hundreds of scallops. For the last two or three weeks, a young woman has been present, cooking scallop kebabs on a gas-fired griddle plate. She has a little sample plate cut into small pieces with a couple of whole scallops. Jean Michel thinks they are for sampling too ! I explain to the woman but she just laughs and says “don’t worry”.

The red & black coffee stall

The red & black coffee stall

Now comes the best bit. The coffee stand. Not only can you buy coffee grains, you can also buy fresh espresso, tea and hot chocolate. We order our two cups of black espresso and hand over our empty packets to be refilled with colombie and déca (decaffeinated coffee). There’s the usual banter between the lady who serves the coffee and the man who owns the stall. He pitches in when it get busy but spends the rest of the time talking to all his mates who stop by.

The make-shift coffee tables behind the stall, also red and white.

The make-shift coffee tables behind the stall, also covered with red and white table cloths.

We take our coffee to the trestle tables and benches behind the stall. It’s just started to rain so we appreciate the awning. By now the tables have filled up as it’s the weekly meeting place for a group called “On Va Sortir” (let’s go out) but there are still a couple of places left. We say hello to the others at our table and listen in on a conversation about the famous Chambord brocante held the day before during which it rained solidly.

Jean Michel and the Chambord vendor

Jean Michel and the Chambord vendor

They have a friend who had a stall. She suddenly arrives with her daughter and sits down in the space next to  Jean Michel. We were very keen to hear about her “wet” experience. Rendez-vous in my next post to hear her story!

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14 Responses to Why I love the market even when it’s cold or rainy #1

  1. Helen says:

    Such gastronomic delights. I’m married to a Pom. Meat and 3 veg. Not quite that bad. I have made some progress in changing the menu.
    Helen recently posted…Tallebudgera CreekMy Profile

  2. Susan Walter says:

    A good market local should be one of the attractions for any area in my opinion. We live where we do because of Loches market.
    Susan Walter recently posted…Goanna TracksMy Profile

  3. It’s very busy, which is a good thing. I’m reminded of our main farmer’s market.
    William Kendall recently posted…Once A ChurchMy Profile

  4. Rosemary Kneipp says:

    I think they are such a wonderful tradition.

  5. A kindred spirit! Me too. I went to the big market in St Etienne in the snow and it seemed like it was just me and the old men with newspapers. I always buy too much.

  6. Pingback: Why I love the market even when it’s cold or rainy #2 | Aussie in France

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  9. Thank you for this wonderful description of the Blois Market, and your beautiful photos take me back there. We were in Blois recently and found the market so charming. I will be linking your story to a blog post I am writing so that my readers can hear even more about the market.

  10. Pingback: Blois – a French market feast | Manifesting Paradise

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