The Markets of Provence and Sel de Lavande
La Vie Rustic’s goal is to bring to anyone, anywhere, the experience of the French life, and markets figure high on the list. Shopping at the open-air markets is a ritual for many people, a must-do for tourists, and always a social event. Charcuterie, cheeses, breads, vegetables – they’re all to be found. We’re offering some of the products you might find in the markets, or at least a way to do create them yourself.
Visions of a Market
In the markets, vendors vie with one another to make the most enticing displays. Pyramids of plump red and white radishes tower above artfully arranged bouquets of gold squash blossoms and baskets of perfumed wild strawberries.
Big bundles of freshly cut spinach leaves, huge heads of lettuce, and fresh herbs engender dreams of pristine salads, while eggplants and tomatoes speak of ratatouille. Shiny-eyed fish, still slippery from the sea, are tucked into ice, surrounded with lemons and parsley and garlanded with glistening seaweed to temp shoppers.
Cheese and charcuterie, bread and pastries round out the food, while on the periphery the eye catches straw and wicker baskets, bolts of fabric, wine, olive oil, tools, and even clothes. Through all wafts the garlic-and herb-laden scent of chickens turning on rotisseries, of safronned paella, and spicy harissa sauced couscous, all ready to be boxed and taken home for lunch. By 12:15, the market is beginning to close down, and by 1:00 PM little trace of the bustling activity remains.
La Vie Rustic brings you the means to DIY your own roulade (pancetta) that will look just like this beautiful one, pictured above, at a market in Provence. La Vie Rustic also brings you California/French versions of the herbed artisan salts that are on display everywhere, with each vendor creating his or her own version.
New to La Vie Rustic’s artisan salts is Sel de Lavande. How to use it? Sprinkle it on a chicken before roasting, mix it with freshly ground pepper to season pork chops or lamb chops and then grill over grape vines.
Content: Sel de Guerande and French Lavender Net Wt. 90 grams; Origin France and California
Another type of market, marche de brocante, a sort of upscale flea market plus antiques may be held weekly or monthly in the larger cities and towns, and elsewhere seasonally. Shoppers can wander among aisle upon aisle of tables and rugs spread with the history of Europe. Seventeenth century porcelain services for twenty sit next to single art deco plates, nineteenth century transfer ware, and collections of salt and pepper shakers. I’m drawn in by the old silver, polished to brilliancy, stacks and trunks of antique linens from long-ago trousseaus, often unused, and bolts of fabric discovered in warehouses closed and abandoned after the Great War. Ribbons, tassels, buttons, and lengths of lace are all there at the brocante markets.
This last trip I bought vintage tea towels, a very old wooden fabric printing block, the kind used to make the original Provencal prints, vintage bistro glasses, and a green glass silver decorated music box – with the music part missing. I also bought some pristine, right-out- of- the trousseau linen sheets. I had to pass up the gold-trimmed Limoges full set of dishes.I couldn’t imagine how I would get it home.