Tuesday, September 04, 2012

To Market, To Market, French Style - Annie West

 
My upcoming release, DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY, was partly inspired by a recent trip to France. Yes, yes, I know, the title sounds like the story is all about hot desert nights and that certainly features at the end of the book. Plus there's a rather mouthwatering sheikh to enjoy along the way. But most of the story is set in Europe as my heroine tries desperately to put off the day she must return to the man she's promised to marry. And along the way she mades the mistake of falling for the man who's been sent to protect and bring her home. Sigh. I love the tug of war between love and duty in this one.

Anyway...thinking about this story made me think of wonderful places I'd visited while researching, some of which are places Soraya visits too. I thought I'd share a few of them with you. Top of my list was rural France.

One of my favourite experiences was visiting French street markets. This one in Le Bugue in the Dordogne region was typical. Lots and lots of fresh produce as you can see. And what would a french market be without ropes of garlic? This stall was actually the smallest of the garlic stalls I found. Another find was a stall specialising in saffron, those tiny threads each picked by hand from low growing crocus flowers. I'm happy to use it in my cooking but so glad I don't have to harvest it! This was at the beginning of the market and I thought it was only the size of the small town square. Little did I know! It went on and on down a long street filled with everything from home made salamis to olives of every shape, variety and seasoning imaginable to...well, to most things edible.

What a terrific way to spend a few hours.

If garlic seems an obvious ingredient in a French food market, how about cheese? I was stunned by the cheese stalls. Some were refrigerated behind glass, like the deli counters at home, full of small pieces of all sorts of creamy cheeses. This one was rather more down to earth, with enormous wheels of cheese coming straight from the farm by the look of them. This stall seemed unattended but I'm sure someone would have arrived if we'd started helping ourselves. I did wonder though if they'd sell their produce in tiny 100gram lots or whether it had to be by the kilo!

Another fascinating stall, especially after the colour and earthy scent of the stalls laden with fresh veges, was this one that specialised in teas. Not plain old black or green tea but unusual combinations and flavours of tea and tea to help with all sorts of ailments. Tea for health not just tea for enjoyment or to quench thirst and each type apparently hand blended. The stall was much, much larger than this. This was just a small shelf out the front with interesting herbs and dried leaves. They did a roaring trade too, mainly with locals I think. The scents from that stall were fascinating too, and I spent ages investigating what was on offer.

Surprisingly (as we were inland after all) one of the last stalls was a massive seafood tent. They had all sorts of fresh seafood on ice from fish to massive prawns, crabs and shellfish. In addition, and much more appealing to passing tourists, were the massive steaming trays of paella (or so it looked to me) and other hot seafood dishes. That's them at the front of the stall - the round containers.

I visit my local farmers' markets at home from time to time and enjoy getting food direct from the grower, knowing it's fresh and tasty. It's always a fun experience. But I have to say there was something especially enjoyable about sampling a French food market. The sun was shining and some of the items on sale were fascinatingly exotic, to me at least. Add to that the fact that purchases were made in French and I didn't have to stagger home with a week's supplies, just enough to supply a delicious outdoor picnic, and it was a wonderful carefree experience. One I can recommend to anyone!

Do you shop at markets? What are the local specialities you enjoy most? Or are there foods you'd love to find on sale that never appear where you shop?


Next month I'll indulge myself with more market pictures but no food this time. I hope you'll join me then too for a little more marketing in sunny France.

If you want to read more about DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY (out in the UK in October), you can visit my website for an excerpt or order it from The Book Depository now (free postage anywhere in the world and a discount if you order before October).

Oh, and if you're in Australia or New Zealand, my bestselling book THE GREEK TYCOON'S UNEXPECTED WIFE is out this month in a gorgeous anthology called 'GREEK AFFAIRS: TEMPTED BY THE TYCOON'.

24 comments:

  1. WOW! Love it all, thanks for sharing Annie :)))

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  2. P.S We have lots of markets because of our close location to rural areas but the one that people travel for miles to attend is the Matakana Markets :)

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    1. Hi Tash! I'm making a note of the Makatana Markets. Eve the name sounds terrific. I'm assuming there's lots of fresh fruit and veges? That was one of the things that was so lovely at this one - the food was so fresh. Ooh, just looking at these pics makes me want to go back.

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  3. i'm not often do shop in market, but i thought my mom would love to buy a cheap food :)

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    1. Eli, I'm with your mum - cheap, fresh food is terrific!

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  4. We have farmer's markets around here and I love buying fresh produce and fruits. Especially fresh green beans, corn and strawberries. When I was young we used to go to a strawberry farm and pick our own strawberries, I loved doing that. It was hard work but the fruit was well worth it.

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    1. Hi Linda. That sounds yum. There's nothing like produce straight from the farm, is there? I have to say that picking strawberries isn't my idea of fun. When I was a girl our neighbours began growing strawberries commercially and I spend many hours helping with the harvest - argh!

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  5. I've never shopped at an open-air market
    such as the ones you describe today. The
    closest in style to them is the large far-
    mer's market in the north part of our city
    or the fruit/veggie markets we see alongside
    the roads each summer. There are also farms
    where you can gather their product yourself
    out in the country.

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    1. Hi Pat. It sounds like they're on the same principle as these ones. I like the idea of getting the food direct from the farms too. Our local farmers' markets have the producers selling their food, which always seems nicer than going to the supermarket, unless you're in a hurry. I find I like talking to the farmers about the crop and how it's going. Maybe it adds to the taste!

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  6. I love to shop at Markets, espeically the farmers market here in the city where I live... All those fresh fruits and vegtables, Home made breads and cakes.. And oh the fresh meat... my mouth is watering...
    Great post Annie, thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi Kathleen! I'm so glad you enjoyed my post. You'll have to look out next month for the second in this series - more good pics! You're making my mouth water too with the mention of home made breads and cakes. Our local market has a sour dough with pumpkin seeds on top that's just delicious.

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  7. I've been going to the local farm stand to get fabulous Jersey Tomatoes and have been getting some yummy local peaches too.

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    1. Hi Di. I don't know Jersey tomatoes but any tomato is good in my book. I love them. And local peaches - what a treat! We're just getting into strawberry season here. It's very early spring and I'm enjoying the luscious navel oranges.

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  8. On Saturday's in my town we have a European Market that is fantastic! We have people from all over come to it because it is so nice. I especially love the fresh baked breads one booth has every Saturday. They give out samples of everything plus you can dip it in olive oil. Yummy! Oh and there is the pastry booth. Heaven! There are all the fresh produce booths, fresh flower booths, crafts and music galore. They always have a band playing some jazzy music. It is a great time with a variety of things to buy.

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    1. Michele - that sounds so tempting! Love the sound of the pastry booth too. Terrific! Our local one has a family that makes fresh hot loukoumathes (Greek honey puffs dripping in syrup and cinnamon). Sigh. I like the idea of music at the markets too - very friendly!

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  9. Annie, I am suddenly ravenous! Fabulous post! I see a shiny stack of eggplants in that top photo - lucky I have some grilling as we speak.

    We have a farmers market nearby that operates only on Saturdays from 8am till 1. I love picking up potato varieties that we can't get in normal old supermarkets. And there's nothing like seeing a huge table full of cheese. Heavenly!

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  10. Vanessa, I know the feeling. The eggplants and the radishes were tremendous. I'm regretting now that I didn't do more close ups of the amazing seafood stall too. Hm, potato varieties. Our local market has a similar stall. I must investigate.

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  11. Ooh, now I'm hungry! What fantastic photos, Annie. And how lucky you were to go to such lovely places. I've read Defying Her Desert Duty - hubba hubba, what a great story!

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    1. Glad you like the pics, Anna. Believe me, the food was terrific.

      Smiling at your 'hubba, hubba'. He's definitely one hot hero. Am I allowed to say that? I suppose I'm biased.

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  12. Fabulous blog, Annie. Wonderful photos. Look at the size of the cheese! I don't often go to markets but your post has inspired me to visit them more often.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed this one, Cheryl. The cheeses were amazing. I really wondered if you could only buy them in 1 kg slabs. We did buy some lovely food at these markets and we had enormous fun picnicking from time to time in the countryside with our booty.

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  13. Fabulous post, Annie.
    Your photos brought back memories of a wonderful vacation where my husband and I drove around France. It was summer and we would pick up fresh fruit for lunch at those wonderful farmers' markets. We had to have a light lunch because every night we would have a fabulous four-course dinner in a small French restaurant!
    Good luck with the launch of DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY--you know I'm a fan of your fabulous sheik stories.

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  14. Kandy, what lovely memories! It sounds like a brilliant holiday. Isn't the food in France fun? I loved the markets and the restaurants and particularly the patisseries!

    Thanks for the good wishes for DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY! It's one of my favourite sheikh stories. Such a strong, charismatic hero.

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  15. As an Oz girl I love the markets, it where I get fresh mangos when they are in season. I love the markets in general as a chance to get better quality produce and in bulk

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