Markets are the heart of our communities.
I have been going to our hometown's weekly Saturday market in Provence since the age of 12. Back then, going to le Marché d'Apt was one the highlights of my week. My mum would give 20 francs to buy snacks or some little gadget or toy. I would wear my latest trainers, work on my hairstyle, and head to the town's main square to meet my cousin Virginie and some of our mates. We would spend a couple of hours walking around the vast market, stopping and chatting with the stall holders we knew, sometimes indulging on a bag of fresh churros topped with Nutella.
I'd then meet my family and their friends at the local bistro and ask for a few more coins to play arcade games until the adults finished their apéritif before we'd have lunch. Lunch was simple French cuisine that we all love. I would pick the Plat du Jour most of time. Quite often it'd be "Bavette sauce Marchand de vin", a tender hanger steak with a red wine sauce. I would often finish my meal with "Une ile flottante", a meringue floating on a custard sauce. Don't ask me for the name of that restaurant. Sadly, it's changed owners several times over the years and it's not the same now. But our days there were very happy times. American kids have their malls; we had our markets.
I have been going to Le Marché ever since. Whenever I'm home in Provence, I go to the market. It can be -5°C of blistering January cold or 40° in the scorching sun in August, I won't miss it for anything else. I still go with friends and loved ones and some stands haven't changed in 30 years. It's comforting to know that Le Marché will always be there, providing food and good times. Though it has to be said, my interests and tastes have shifted somewhat—Nutella churros have been replaced with seasonal fruit and veg, mouth watering oysters, and fresh truffles, and now I'm the adult who goes to the bistro for a long apéritif before lunch!
Although I am loyal to Le Marché d'Apt, I have been exploring other local markets near where we live in the Luberon valley. They all take place on a different day of the week and feature producers who grow their veg or make their cheeses only a few miles away. One could literally go a different market each day. I love going the farmers market in Coustellet on a Sunday, the weekly market on Mondays in Forcalquier, the Wednesday one in Sault and the Friday one in Lourmarin. They are all different and unique. I talk about our local antique markets and vide-grenier here; I love them just as much.
Wherever I travel, especially around the Mediterranean, I try to find local markets. I find them so representative of local life and the local food. I love them at home, abroad, and I also really love them here in the UK. I try to do most of my weekly shopping at my local markets. Like most of you, I want to eat better by shopping better: shopping local, supporting small producers, and avoiding plastic-wrapped vegetables from the supermarket. I truly believe it's healthier and better for our economy.
Of course, I also love attending markets as a trader, selling my Tariette food and wares. I get to meet you in person, mingle with very interesting traders, genuine people from different horizons and backgrounds, and often create lasting bonds. This is priceless even when the weather is miserable.
I think now more than ever, during this lockdown, being forced to stay at home, not having anywhere to meet people and socialise, markets have created a formidable social link between people and they have managed to do it in a safe manner. I met so many lonely people there since the first lockdown, heard many stories of customers missing their loved ones. I think going to markets has helped many with loneliness and mental health issues, bringing a purpose to lockdown life. The priceless chats and small talk about the weather have helped many to get through these difficult times. This made me realise that I love markets even more than I thought, so hopefully I'll meet you at one soon!