French Markets & Supermarkets

French Markets & Supermarkets

Supermarket Vs Market

By Gemma Driver

The advantage of the markets, apart from being beautiful and enjoyable, is that you can speak to the producers and support them, whereas supermarkets will cream off most of a small-producer’s profits. It is obvious which market stalls are selling their own specialist products, like home-grown vegetables, poultry, or foie gras, as oppose to those traders who are selling lots of different cheeses, vegetables or meat, that they themselves have bought. Although the fact that a stall may have simply bought it’s stock is no reason not to support them, instead of a supermarket!

It is absolutely brilliant – for me, anyway! – to be able to ask a stall owner, selling one type of cheese, for example, how their animals live and how the cheese is made. A market stall selling just their own cheese or poultry will often have a pictures of their livestock’s living conditions. In a supermarket, even if a cheese or wine does come from nearby, it is likely that the products are manufactured from milk or grapes that are delivered to a coop by lots of different farmers, who may keep their animals indoors, fed on hay or pellets for a more regular milk production.

Individual shops, such as bakers, butchers and chocolate shops are a superb resource. They sell their own produce, or the owner can tell you all about where their stock and ingredients come from (usually local). In France, those that have chosen to dedicate their lives to running their own specilaist outlet, will have studied their trade and production skills for a number of years before getting started. This is why the standard of hand-baked pastries, for example, is so incredible. While these shops can be more expensive than the supermarkets, the quality of your purchases will be significantly higher, usually fresher, and with less preservatives etc. You don’t have to wait until market day to stock up on goodies from these shops, and they do need support; more and more French consumers are falling into the supermarket trap, and if we’re not careful the specialists will die out, like so many did in they UK.

In conclusion, markets are more fun and vibrant than supermarkets, with tasters, freebees, hustle, bustle etc, but are, along with specialist shops, also fantastic if you are curious about the origins of what you are eating. Cost-wise, the market stalls and individual shops cannot compete with the supermarkets.

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Gemma is a food writer, who lived in France for eight years, and now divides her time between her cottage in the rural Dordogne and her home in the UK.

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