Once upon a time, before large supermarket chains took over most of the developed world, shopping at local markets was a standard feature of daily life. Nowadays, most French fill their shopping cart at Carrefour, Monoprix, Leclerc, Lidl or Super U and going to the market turned into a once-a-week family outing.

In France, most consumers don’t rely on retail markets to meet their fresh produce needs. Markets are no longer particularly cheap or lively—they serve an ethical purpose. You don’t just fill up the fridge, you support local producers, buy GMO-free veggies, backyard-raised chickens, artisan pastas and fresh seafood. Fifty euro later, the sins of the week—meals at McDonalds’s, salads with genetically modified corn and endangered tuna, disposable bottles of Évian—are forgiven. That Sunday, while supermarkets were closed, you rejected intensive agricultural production, globalization, megacorporation and junk food.

I’m being slightly sarcastic because food activism has a price. You need an upper middle-class income to feed a family relying only on farmers’ markets. Merchants know their customers. While some emphasize on genuine, local food is real, there are also many marketing gimmicks. Besides, there are more ready-to-eat meals than basic ingredients our grandparents used to buy. Why spend hours making a stew when you can buy it pre-portioned? Why make your own salad when the deli did the job for you?

For me, market stalls are a great way to reconnect with food. You don’t pick a brand but a product. There are no fancy labels, no multicolour packaging, no health claims in big bold letter. For instance, I don’t eat meat in Canada, yet I find meat and fish stalls mouth watering because it looks fresh and smells good. I like misshapen fruits and veggies and I’m happy to be able to recognize every single ingredient in deli food.

The future of agriculture is one of these topics that worries me. On one hand, as a consumer, I want fresh, tasty and cheap produce. On the other hand, growing food is a tough job and anyone working on a farm needs to be paid fairly. These sci-fi books predicting that by year 2050 we will just swallow a few pills instead of wasting time in the kitchen freak me out.

Cheese at the Marché de Talensac
Fish stall at the Marché de Talensac
Cheese at the Marché de Talensac
Crabs and spider crabs at the Marché de Talensac
Lobsters at the Marché de Talensac
Deli meat at the Marché de Talensac
Fish stall at the Marché de Talensac
Octopuses at the Marché de Talensac
Fish stall at the Marché de Talensac
Sea bass at the Marché de Talensac
Lobsters at the Marché de Talensac
Few mussels left at the Marché de Talensac
Spider crab at the Marché de Talensac
Fish stall at the Marché de Talensac
Fish stall at the Marché de Talensac
Mirabelle plums at the Marché de Talensac
Garlic, leeks, onions and bell peppers at the Marché de Talensac
Fruits and veggies at the Marché de Talensac
Fruits and veggies at the Marché de Talensac
 

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10 Comments

  1. kiky July 30, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    nowadays, giant retailers are also family-outing place in big cities in my country. Carrefour is also one of them, other popular retailer from South Korea. but still, I bought my fresh products in traditional market on weekend and I love going to these kind of markets if I traveled some where else. the bargaining conversation between sellers and buyers are so much fun.

    Reply
    1. Zhu July 31, 2017 at 3:22 pm

      There is zero bargaining in France, which can be strange to anyone used to foreign markets where it is the rule! It’s funny that you shop at Carrefour as well. What’s the local name for it? I mean, do you say “Carrefour”?

      Reply
      1. kiky July 31, 2017 at 10:16 pm

        it is Carrefour before it was acquired by local company in 2013. Now the name is Trans Carrefour but the new investor will omit the Carrefour brand gradually…

        Reply
        1. Zhu August 1, 2017 at 7:27 pm

          Interesting! I saw Carrefour stores throughout Argentina, Brazil and China. In China, it translated very well, which is why I was asking.

          Reply
  2. Martin Penwald July 31, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    I don’t eat apples in Canada because most of them look waxed.
    For doing one’s own garden, the FarmBot concept is pretty nice. There are probably adaptations to be made for Canadian winters, like using a greenhouse or shutting it down completely. And you still need some room in your yard (the standard model is 3 by 1,5 meters).
    https://farmbot.io

    Reply
    1. Zhu August 1, 2017 at 7:26 pm

      I wish I had a green thumb!

      I find tomatoes weird in Canada. They are tasteless.

      Reply
      1. Martin Penwald August 1, 2017 at 9:29 pm

        This garden robot seems to remove a lot of the constrains of gardening. Yes, it is pretty expensive, but once set up, it does the job in background, you just have to pick the food when it is ready.

        Reply
  3. Isa August 2, 2017 at 6:52 am

    I still don’t agree with you on that matter 🙂
    It’s way less expensive for me to buy my food entirely at the farmer’s market rather than the supermarket! 🙂 Plus, of course, it feels great to support local businesses and one of the job I admire the most

    Reply
    1. Zhu August 2, 2017 at 3:40 pm

      Maybe it depends on cities…? In Nantes, most markets are REALLY “bo-bo” and super expensive :-/

      (J’ai pensé à toi aujourd’hui, j’ai vu un “bouchon” transplanté à Nantes!)

      Reply
      1. Isa August 3, 2017 at 6:00 am

        Ptete bin ! C’est vrai qu’ici on a encore une culture maraîchère hyper vivante (pis capitale de la gastronomie blablabla…)
        Ceci dit, y’a énormément de monde dans le monde rural qui va au marché. Encore une fois je pense à ma région, mais c’est vraiment pas cher, dans les villages

        Damned, c’est comme une crêperie lyonnaise, ça !!!!

        Reply

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