Saturday, 13 October 2007

I've Fallen in Love with a Hypermarket

Written in an email to friends in August
I thought I would be doing food shopping in the local markets, but we have a Leclerc in our local town. I was leaning across a display of tomatoes and was hit by the hot, musty smell of tomato vines in a greenhouse – never happened to me in Sainsbury’s! Melons and nectarines come ripe, sweet and juicy, salads are fresh and local and the deli counter stretches for miles and requires long discussions about what selections we’ll have today. The freezer has dozens of varieties of ice-cream including nougat, rum and raisin and crème caramel (at the moment we are rationing ourselves to two new types a week). And at the same time we buy summer duvets, cotton shirts, English to French adapters, chairs for the veranda and a small olive tree.

Local markets are not just for Wednesday and Saturday morning food shopping. We sat with a friend in an outside restaurant in the old square of the hill town of Monflanquin one hot evening and revelled in our first experience of a “night market” – long tables set out for people to make the most of the barbeque, stalls of local produce and the world and his wife and small dog and children out meeting and greeting.

Through July and August every town and village is full of holiday events – the tomato festival in Marmande, the prune festival in Agen, street theatre in Miramont. One evening we went to Clairac to try the local crêperie. Set in the courtyard of an old house with its high vine covered walls, heavy wooden shutters and old well we could have been in the Middle Ages. Afterwards we strolled towards the local church, to find they were rehearsing a Schuman cello concerto. We slipped inside to listen and loved the unexpectedness of it all.

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