Time for local produce – and a friendly chat!
Market day is important in rural Dordogne, it’s an opportunity to buy fresh food, often from local producers, as well as to catch up on gossip in the area.
Newcomers to the region will find the markets an unexpected pleasure. After the glossy supermarket displays of fruits and vegetables that taste of nothing, a Dordogne market is a feast for the senses. Juicy tomatoes freshly picked, sometimes irregular-shaped, are plump with flavour. Whole stalls devoted to varieties of garlic, loose or in trusses. Foie gras and confit de canard from farmers in the outlying areas.
The produce will follow the rhythm of the seasons. In the spring and summer, enormous piles of green beans, boxes of strawberries and crates of melons crowd the stalls. As autumn comes in, numerous varieties of apples appear, with quinces and pears and grapes. With the colder air, the walnuts arrive, with their associated produce – small bottles of oil, succulent tarts, jars of nuts mixed with honey. Then winter, and gleaming cabbages unfold their large leaves, with strings of onions and bunches of carrots with their ferny tops – all the material for a warming stew for the chilly evenings.
The larger markets do much more than food. Itinerant stallholders will peddle anything they can shift. In the summer the exotic and lively patterns of Africa arrive, and dyed dresses and wraps hang in a profusion of colours. Local craftsmen will display their pottery. There will be stalls of handmade soap, kitchen implements, dog baskets and garden tools. From a far corner, over the buzz, there’s a distant sound of accordion from the music stall.
Market day is an important point to remember in the week – and not just because it disrupts traffic. It becomes an obligatory shopping morning. Lunchtime can be a feast if you’ve succumbed to the large prawns on the fishstall, or the charcutier’s jambon de pays. Miles ahead in quality to any supermarket fare, every time.
But the market isn’t just about stocking up; it’s also a time for meeting and greeting. People will travel in from outlying villages, and catch up on what’s happening. The countryside can be suited to a solitary lifestyle, but market day is a time to catch up on friends and acquaintances. Progress round the market stalls can often be impeded by groups of people chatting. No one’s in a hurry. A chat can lead to an invitation for a drink or just a pleasant coffee in the sun. Market day is an essential part of life in the Dordogne.
Photo courtesy of Dordogne Perigord Tourisme