‘The origin of species’ and local markets (horse-meat optional)

Pick 'n' mix - cepes, the king of the mushroom

Pick ‘n’ mix – cepes, the king of the mushroom


The whole horse-meat farce has highlighted once again a subject close to my heart – the importance of buying and eating locally sourced, fresh and seasonal produce. In many countries we have become far too far removed from the source of our food and far too disinterested in how this food is produced. Thank goodness this is not the case here in the Ariège (one of the many reasons we are here) where there is a very strong tradition of producing one’s own food (fruit, vegetables, eggs, rabbits and pigs) and of buying from local producers so that you know exactly where your food is coming from and what it contains (or hopefully doesn’t contain).

This is the right part of the world for me because I actually have a pathological hatred of shopping (in shops) which I realize is not very girlie of me but it is just not my thing. Luckily nowadays when I need a new shirt or pair of jeans, I can simply find and buy online and have my friendly postie deliver without having to go near a shop. And I particularly dislike shopping in the supermarket but this is something I find much harder to avoid because we are a family of six on a budget. In France, supermarkets are just beginning to cotton on to the idea of grocery shopping online but it is too big and too rural a country for home delivery to be an option so I do find myself in Intermarché far more often than I would like.

Having said that, however, one of the many reasons I love living here in South West France is that it is still quite possible to do the majority of the weekly shop at the local market which is exactly what I do. So every Monday morning, as soon as I have dropped the children at school, you will find me in the market place at Salies du Salat where I am first name terms with many of the stall holders and where I can find wonderful local, organically grown, in-season produce at a much better price than in the supermarket. Here shopping is brought back to a human level – I can discuss every subject under the sun (the French just love a good debate) while choosing my apples or my ham and generally pass the time of day so that by the time I am finished it just feels that I have spent a pleasant couple of hours chatting having incidentally done my weekly shop. We are spoiled for choice for fantastic local produce here; the cheese is out of this world, the eggs freshly laid, the meat excellent quality (yes there is horse but it is labelled as such!) and locally sourced and the fruit and vegetables are seasonal unless they have come over the border from Spain, in which case it is possible to find the odd red pepper or tomato in the winter months. Then a quick trip to the smiliest bakery in France and I am back at my desk by mid-morning to begin my working week.

By Saturday, if we are running out of fresh produce, we have one of the best markets in France, incredibly colourful and eccentric, just 15 minutes away in Saint Girons which is worth a visit even if you don’t have any shopping to do.

Somehow shopping at the local market is uplifting and life affirming while supermarket shopping destroys the soul. I leave the market feeling happy and energetic and I leave the supermarket feeling depressed and drained. If only I could wean my children off breakfast cereal and pasta and myself off coffee and chocolate, I could pretty much eliminate the supermarket shop altogether which I think is going to be one of my new season resolutions.

And now I shall get off my soap box and I promise my next post will be back on property…!

Comments are closed.