I wonder whether she ever went to Ringwood cattle market? It had the disadvantage of being in England rather than the Midi, but provided the best food in Dorset and Hampshire once a week.
The Wednesday auctions in the egg shed were invaluable to the commoners and small farmers who have kept the New Forest and surrounding area for the past 1,000 years, and also to cooks like me.
When the cattle market was threatened by development in 1987, I wrote to various bodies and individuals urging them to save, help save or relocate it. None was able to see sufficient value in the market to support it. Listed buildings and Dartford warblers have some protection in England: home-made foods, ways of life and people do not.
At Ringwood we traded in local butter, unpasteurised Guernsey cream, snipe, woodcock and boxes of damsons. If, across the dwindling heath, a pounds 6m Wessex World comes to pass in Bournemouth, we will have exchanged a unique glimpse of Hardy's England for a facsimile.
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