I have read and watched so much about the Parisian open air food market in travel magazines and movies that it became one of my ‘must do’ activities when I was there this summer. These open air food markets have been around since the middle-ages and are composed of organized small farmers and purveyors of the freshest organic food. Artisan cheeses, rustic sausages and charcuteries, fish and seafood, fruits and vegetables, jams, preserves and confitures, breads and baked goods and many other food staples and products that the local people have in their pantries at all times for their daily meal or for a special family gathering. Because of this neighborhood open air “food mecca”, it is no wonder that it also attracts a vibrant crowd of Parisians and neighboring visitors. Of course, one may choose to buy their produce and food ingredients in the local supermarket but nothing beats buying these kitchen staples from an open air food market. There is a sense of community and partnership between the seller and the buyer and this relationship is very special. Sacred even.
One morning during one of our strolls in some Parisian street, I was so delighted to chance upon an open air food market. How lucky could I get? I crossed the street and entered the busy and dynamic food market. One thing I immediately noticed was that the people who were there buying food for the day or the week were smartly dressed, complete with their chic looking marketing bags or rolling basket. I could tell immediately that most of them were locals and ‘regulars’ in the area because of their familiarity with the vendors.
Fruit & Vegetable Section
The greens and vegetable section looked very fresh and mostly organic.
(Who wouldn’t want to do their food marketing in an open air, well organized food market located in a clean neighborhood? You can even bring your kid in a stroller while you choose your fresh produce.)
(Look at all these green organic leaves perfect for a mesclun salad. Each customer patiently waiting for her turn to be attended to by a very busy vegetable vendor.)
(Look at all these fresh gorgeous haricots verts, endives, rhubarb, gorgeous fat white asparagus and tiny red radishes.)
And the fruits are abundant and varied…
(So happy to see here the more familiar fruits like tropical bananas, and cantaloupes (melons). This is where we bought organic strawberries to pair with the very rich chantilly cream we bought in a Fromager shop.)
(The kiwis, raspberries and blue berries looked so fresh and delicious as well.)
The Cheese Section
This was one of my favourite stalls in the open air food market. My eyes and nose were both engaged as I oogled at all the artisan and delicious cheeses with names I couldn’t even pronounce.
(This is the popular cheese lady. Everyone was vying for her attention for their favorite cheese, patiently waiting for their turn.)
(Detailed photo of cheeses)
Sausage & Charcuterie section
This was a delicatessen section specialising in cured meats like hams and specialty sausages. These were sausages that incorporated special ingredients like blue cheese, black peppers, chestnuts , herbes de provence and pimiento among others. There were so many choices it was impossible to leave the stall without buying something.
Fish & Seafood Section
(If you are a client who wants your fish filleted and deboned, this vendor cleans the fish for you so that when you get home, it is ready for cooking.)
(And if you want lobsters, crabs and shrimps, this shop may be for you.)
(This fish is Sole fish otherwise known as “Dapa” in the Philippines. A great and simple way to enjoy this fish is to pan-fry it with lemon-butter sauce or baked with lemon. Not overcooking the fish will give you the best and delicious result.)
And when you get hungry from checking out all the abundance the open air food market has to offer, you line up for this crepe-like snacks, folded in half and sealed on the edges like an empanada to hold the filling inside. It is street food like this that makes all the walking and lining up worth it.
For a tourist like me, there is great attraction in experiencing this sense of Parisian community and joy of living, even for just a day. And one of the best ways for me to get to know a place, its produce and its people is to visit an open air food market where I can feel the pulse, the hunger, and the thirst for whatever drives a community and its people to come together and enjoy life. This is what I recommend you do when visiting Paris or any place in the globe.
For information on schedules and locations of the nearest open air food market in Paris or anywhere in France, google for the information. Don’t wait to chance upon it. Look it up and try to squeeze it in your busy schedule. I promise you won’t regret it. In fact, it will be one of those memories that will surely stand out.