endivesEverybody likes fresh food but sometimes the French take it to another level.

When I first moved here, I noticed the utter chaos at the supermarkets on the day before a long holiday weekend. Shops at that time closed on Sunday and holidays (the custom is starting to chip away, but still, most stores stay closed). A friend explained that people waited until the last minute to shop so the food would be fresh.

P1020536
Actually, this is a flute, which is a bit bigger than a baguette.

Baguettes are bought daily, and most bakeries make them throughout the morning if not all day, so they’re fresh. Bread that’s straight from the oven is a different thing than something that’s been made off-site, packaged in plastic, and trucked to the store. If the baguettes are still hot, you have to buy two, because one is sure to be consumed before it gets home.P1090064But the thing I find most charming are the vegetables. Most of the local vendors at the Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday market pick the day before. They’ll even tell you that the asparagus, for example, was cut the night before (that’s in spring, when it’s in season, not now). P1090207And then there are things that come to market still alive. Like the endives, growing in pallets, and customers pick themselves.

Or the snails and chickens.125.Eggs market

P1090267Or the herbs sold in pots because cut wouldn’t be as fresh.P1090266

There are orchards and berry farms where you can pick your own, too.

Unlike some parts of the globe, we are not under a thick blanket of snow. In fact, we are having unseasonably warm temperatures in the 60s (usually winter temperatures are in the 30s to the 50s), along with buckets of rain from storms Carmen and Eleanor (in a week!). So we get fresh local vegetables throughout the winter–a million kinds of squash; root vegetables like carrots, turnips, parsnips, beets, celery root; brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, Swiss chard. P1090064P1090208P1090068P1050619Eating what’s seasonal is best for nutritional value as well as for the environment. And it ensures we eat a constantly changing variety of foods. Depending on where one lives, it isn’t always possible–when the ground is frozen and covered with snow, nothing is growing. But where the climate allows, such as in France and much of southern Europe, the garden produces all year.

20 thoughts on “Very Fresh, Very French

  1. The fresh food is one of the reasons why I would find it difficult to live in places were the only shopping opportunities are in supermarkets. We really are pretty spoiled here for fresh produce!! I love the endives in their box – I’ve never seen anything like that!! 🙂

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  2. So very jealous. We do get some fresh…Grown in greenhouses on the mainland and trucked over by ferry. Fresh bread is easy my husband makes it…yes by hand.
    Ali

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    1. Fresh isn’t always possible. Frozen also is good–the produce is picked at the top of the season, and the process retains most of the nutrients. But there’s nothing like fresh, especially fresh-picked, still with the dirt.
      Baking bread is a great thing to do. Lucky you to have an in-house baker! A friend of mine took up bread-making upon retirement and said it was a very zen thing to do. We have such easy access here I can be lazy, but I sometimes make the whole wheat/oatmeal bread from Smitten Kitchen.

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      1. He makes sourdough for himself and multigrain for me. We quite often take bread as a hostess gift….friends usually ask…
        Baguette are another matter. That’s a whole other thing.
        A

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        1. Wow! You know the “tradition” baguettes are a kind of sourdough, and far superior to the run-of-the-mill baguettes. We always ask for “tradition.” I bet your husband’s bread is awesome!!

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  3. I have had the same ethos wherever I have lived (significantly Britain, France and the US) and that is that I buy produce that grows or is raised as close to the ground I walk on as possible. Here in France we are very fortunate in the abundance of choice that ethos gives. In the US I make all our own bread, here of course, I don’t … when on my own I buy une flute as being perfectly sufficient for just me, when my husband or any of my children are with me we tend to have une baguette tradition and/or pain de seigle. Which reminds me – must dash …. I have a tiny galette des rois on order which I will be sharing with …. me! 😉

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      1. In fairness, even much further north in Britain, I was able to source fresh local produce all year round. When I lived in Italy, it was more akin to here. Living in Cantal, you make sacrifices over the range of produce available, in Grenoble I am back in produce heaven. You win some ….

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  4. Love the idea of buying endive so fresh it’s still rooted, and yours probably taste better, too. It’s in various large market stores here, but trying to explain what it is to teenage cashiers is something else again.
    I try as I can to follow the rule of thumb to buy food grown or raised within 50 miles, but it’s not always easy or possible.

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  5. I remember ALL of this!In fact THE ITALIAN gets mad if I buy his bread say on FRIDAY instead of SATURDAY!I don’t want to go to the grocery store on a SATURDAY!!!!!
    I wish we were CLOSED on SUNDAYS!It’s so civilized!
    Give people a day off…………just rest and be!
    XX

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    1. Yes and no. When you run out of something, it’s stressful. But it’s also true that 99.9% of the time there’s no reason to shop on Sunday and that it’s a lot easier to have family time when everybody has at least one day off that’s the same.

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  6. Eat what’s in the season – this is also advised in India and in the Yoga way. We try to do that with local seasonal vegetables and sweets during the festivals. The blog post brought back memories of our visit to France, Bordeaux and the markets to buy breads.

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