One of the best things about France are the markets. Ever since I was a child, I always looked forward to Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday mornings and would wake up extra early to get ready. Discovering nature’s seasonal offerings, tasting honey and dried sausages, buying pottery and spices are all part of the gourmet carousel. Colours, smells, music, atmosphere – it’s the best way to buy food.
The market we most like in Médoc is the one in St-Vivien-de-Médoc. This small village is very charming, and the main square turns into a vivid market every Wednesday morning until noon. I love to choose my fruits and vegetables from local farmers – their produce is always seasonal and fresh. After going to the markets regularly, I know where to go for the best eggs, best foie gras, best sausages, best garlic. Everybody has something good to offer.
If you like seafood, rush to the fishmonger first – he’s always the most popular man around, and fish has to be sold fresh. He’ll tell you about the oysters, the fish, how the tides were. Once I have chosen my seafood I kindly ask him to keep it aside for an hour so I can browse around. It’s usually so hot and sunny – not ideal for walking around with fresh seafood. For oyster lovers, you will find little stalls selling fresh local oysters from Arcachon and Cap-Ferret, to be accompanied by a nice white wine.
It is essential to buy at least two baguettes – when you are walking around seeing all the culinary wonders, you’ll start getting hungry. The kids and I love choosing fruits and vegetable together. They all go for their pick and fill their little brown paper bags with fresh almonds, cherries, peaches, nectarines. Shopping with a large basket is a must. Not only does it look good, but it is eco-friendly – if you don’t have one, don’t worry, as there are always several basket stalls, colourful ones, plain ones, big and small – there’s a choice for everyone.
I always go to Marie-Noêlle and Pierre Aubert for their amazing organically grown purple garlic – its taste and colour is unbeatable, and they are perfect for roasting. After that I head to the soap stall – there is a large variety of natural soaps, sold by 5 or 10. They are reasonably priced, and perfect for the large glass jar in our bathroom. Calendula is my favourite.
Buying eggs at Laurence the ‘fromagère’ cheese stall is a big affair – we pick 12 beautiful eggs, the kids help me choose. As they love ‘boiled eggs and soldiers’, they take this egg picking ritual very seriously. The inner child in me surfaces as I candidly ask for crème chantilly à la vanille (vanilla chantilly cream). I usually whip my own cream at home, but the sheer delight of seeing the cream swirl in the take-away box is irresistible.
Somehow we always manage to stay near closing time, starving. So we head to the Regal’Pizza van – they are renowned for their Medocan speciality (and also for their excellent pizza dough – what’s their secret? Rosé wine in the batter) – it’s called a ‘magret’ (duck filet) pizza, garnished with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and duck magret. Pure local satisfaction.
All photos by Oddur Thorisson