My mouth watered as I read My French Heaven‘s post on how to navigate local markets!

Stéphane Gabart, the author, grew up in Bordeaux surrounded by some of the best food — and wine — in the world. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all wine merchants. Gabart chose food, studied under Paul Bocuse in Lyon and later worked for the Ritz-Carlton group in the United States for several years. In 2005, he returned to Bordeaux and opened the rather grand family home to the public as a bed and breakfast.

He takes his own very professional and highly atmospheric photos. They and the accompanying prose are the next best thing to getting a personal tour of local markets, villages and landmarks in that part of France.

As for markets, Gabart advises buying from people who actually farm the land. Vegetables and eggs should have a bit of dirt on them!

When in doubt, ask older customers for advice on the best stalls, fair prices and traditional recipes.

As for those who run the stalls:

“Authentic” vendors, the ones who actually have a farm and/or actually produce, raise or catch what they sell, are really passionate about their products and are always very eager and excited to talk about them. Passion, advice and service that can never be found under the neon lights of a supermarket.

The products are grown/produced/raised/caught locally (I am still referring to the “authentic crowd”). They are also in season, fresh and mostly organic.

Check provenance to make sure you’re buying local French products, though. A few stall holders and their products are from abroad. (I noticed this in Cannes, by the way.)

As Stéphane Gabart says:

A real Farmers’ Market is timeless. What I mean in that if you are in France or Italy, it makes you feel like you could very well be back in 1955. Like Brigitte Bardot or Claudia Cardinale could pass you by on a Vespa and you wouldn’t be surprised. It’s good to be in a place were you can forget about your Iphone for a second or two…

How true!

Here in England, we are fortunate to have the occasional French market. Granted, this is not as good as being there, but it is a reasonable substitute, especially for cheese, sausage, ham, olives, garlic and bread.

French Markets has a description of what one can expect and where upcoming markets will be in England.

My better half and I went to a French market several months ago and were delighted with the assortment of proper artisinal products on display — all at reasonable prices. The various cheeses, many with beneficial raw milk, and Lautrec garlic were heavenly!

Several years ago, we went to another French market with stalls from Brunomart, which has been trading in the UK for nearly ten years. Brunomart has an excellent selection of food. The sellers are friendly and helpful. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

What surprised me at both was how much children enjoyed the samples of food they were given. One boy at the extensive cheese counter wanted his dad to buy one of everything!

This Brunomart video shows the French market novice what he can expect. If you have such a market coming to your town, by all means, go, go, go!