Here is my typical morning: I wake up, drink my coffee from a bowl (not because it’s café au lait, but because the apartment has only one mug), then head out to the Quai Saint-Antoine for the daily marché alimentaire.
The marché alimentaire is a farmer’s market in the sense that Wal-Mart is a grocery store. Yes, there are plenty of stands piled high with tiny potatoes and enormous heads of lettuce, boxes of fresh berries and crates of peaches. But you can also buy mattresses. Really: right between the produce stands and the fresh flowers, there’s a tiny open-air mattress showroom, complete with bed frames, ergonomic pillows, and a sign advertising delivery options. There’s a stand with nothing but dishes and utensils carved from olive wood, and one that resembles a miniature hardware store.
After four visits, I’m starting to know the vendors, who are tremendously friendly and patient with my mediocre French. Yesterday, when I selected a lettuce, the woman checked it, said “Non, non, non,” pointed out brown spots, and picked a better one for me. (Pro tip: if you greet the vendor with “Bonjour Madame / Monsieur,” you can get away with butchering the language. When in doubt, point and say, “s’il vous plaît.”)
I rarely have any sort of plan when I go shopping. As long as we have the staples — bread, cheese, and some sort of fresh greens — it’s hard to go wrong. I’ve been making big glorious salads with whatever looked good at the market that morning: glazed shallots, carrots, and crispy lardons one day; warm haricots verts and new potatoes topped with a poached egg the next.
(And yes, that’s all on one hot plate: just cook the ingredients from slowest to fastest. One pot of salted water served to boil the potatoes, simmer the green beans, and poach the eggs, fishing each ingredient out before adding the next. I would’ve followed up by making soup from the seasoned water, but there was an incident with poaching the eggs. Harder than it looks.)
Amusing aside: while I was photographing the beautiful purple-and-green artichokes below, a man wandered over to see what I was taking pictures of. He confirmed my excellent eye for quality by reaching in and taking the two bunches that I was photographing. I sincerely hope he enjoyed them.