We always go to the market in Le Neubourg in Normandy on the Wednesday before Christmas. Definitely not a tourist venue, but it’s a real country market with lots of little old ladies selling what they can spare from their gardens, such as chestnuts, eggs, leeks, carrots and even holly with red berries (that’s why I can’t find any in the forests – they’ve taken it all). There are vendors you only find on local markets selling blouses (a sort of house coat that country housewives of the older generation still wear over their regular clothing), charentaises (those awful checked carpet slippers), rubber boots (because it rains so much), flannel nightdresses buttoned up to the neck, handkerchiefs and other things you can’t buy in Monoprix any more.
Then there are the local specialities such as onion-flavoured black pudding from the charcuterie and Norman high-fat cheeses such as the well-known round camembert, the square-shaped pont l’évèque, the heart-shaped neufchatel, the strong-smelling livarot that I won’t let Relationnel buy any more and the very delicious excessively creamy brillat-savarin that I don’t let myself buy because of how quickly it seems to disappear!
We also like to buy our favourite “spéciales” oysters from Normandy but this year, for some unknown reason, there wasn’t a single oyster vendor on the whole market! So instead we bought 4 kilos of coquilles Saint Jacques (the large sea scallops they fish off the Norman coast which I love), a real bargain at 22 euros! They opened them all in record time, joking among themselves the whole time, despite the cold and steady drizzle! Last year, they were just as cheery in the snow.
There isn’t only food and little old ladies’ clothing of course. You can buy the latest fashion, including jeans and demin jackets, stretch pants and boots and these gorgeous little hats! I tried a couple on in the hope of keeping my ears warm without having to wear my hood all the time but I look absolutely ghastly, not anything like these cut little models!
But what I like best is the live poultry. An amazing variety of hens and ducks (including wild mallards), capons, turkeys, guinea fowl and geese. I felt rather sorry for them, knowing that they’d soon be in the pot, particularly since we’ll be having côte de boeuf cooked in the open hearth! I won’t mention the foie gras …