Letter: Attractions of food markets in France

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The Independent Online
Sir: In 'an insider's shopping guide' for visitors to France, Joanna Blythman gives much helpful advice ('Taking the hyper out of the marche', 18 July). However I think it is an enormous pity not to mention the food markets which take place there, weekly, twice weekly, or even daily, in all the larger villages and towns that I have visited.

These markets are a dream of delight and pleasure to anyone who likes food and cooking. They combine exquisitely clean and well-stocked stalls of all sorts - poultry, meat, fish and shellfish, charcuterie, bread, cheese, vegetables, herbs and spices, olives and wine - as well as the small stands, or baskets, of the home- producing smallholders, still referred to as peasants, who bring in very good goat's cheeses, ham, wild mushrooms, and fresh garden produce.

To find local specialities and whatever is in season, a visit to a market is the perfect orientation, and anyone who has travelled in southern France must have had their senses dazzled by the beautiful piles of vegetables shining in the Mediterranean sun, all whipped away at midday, which still 'falls like a guillotine'.

Visiting these markets is really part of life in France; here you are allowed, and even encouraged, to pick and choose the best fruit, and often to try different cheeses, sausage or olives.

Prices are incredibly good, and you can even buy bunches of simple garden flowers to beautify that 'isolated gite' as described by Ms Blythman.

Incidentally, the local corner store, far from being inevitably dusty and smelling of rotten fruit, may also, and in my experience more frequently, be an excellent, smart, well-run little shop, that sells most of the things that you want, and puts the equivalent small British grocer completely in the shade.

Yours faithfully,

CAROLINE CONRAN

London, SE1

19 July

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