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samedi 15 janvier 2011

Day 140: Marché of the Month: Marché Monge

As I eagerly walked to meet my guy and take him to lunch at the linen table-clothed and much talked about restaurant Le Timbre (3 rue Sainte-Beuve 75006; lunch menu 24-30 euro), I arranged a two-bird's-with-one-stone situation and stopped at this month's Marché: Le Marché Monge.

Clément had told me that he noticed quite a few organic stands sprouting up at this small market, which takes over the charming Place Monge every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 7h-13h, so I thought it would be worth taking a look.

The Market packs a lot into the little Place, with not only veggie vendors, but florists, apiculturists, and even clothing and pots and pan hawkers counting themselves amongst thehabitués of the marché.

If I hadn't been saving myself for my meal later, I definately would've bought some veggie spring rolls off the lady who sold asian-style soups, rolls, raviolis, and noodles-along with most of the necessary ingredients to make your own at home. But given my lunch plans, I was more of a spectator at the market and favored my eyes over my appetite.

The more I visit markets, the more I am aware and able to size up what I see around me. For example, it's true that the Marché Monge has some certified organic stands (2 to be exact), but these stands seem to offer a middle ground between the two extremes of the market: the industrial and the local.

Most people think that open air markets should automatically offer the opposite of industrial food, but as I purused the merchandise I was disappointed and annoyed to see shiny, almost plastic looking, apples arranged neatly in rows in the plastic bin at one of the market's stands.

Each apple had been branded with a sticker, bringing shame to the fruit and the other vendors, some of whom were farmers who had brought the fruits of their labor and most of which- like the vendors at the organic stands (who most likely buy their goods from Rungis or another wholesale market and bring it into the city) probably have a certain respect for the quality of the food they sell.

good apples


bad apples

It was a relief therefore, to find a few farmers who had brought their dirty and homegrown vegetables with them that day. And among the farmers' stands there was one clear star: Marc Mascetti and his team from Marcoussis.

Mascetti's farm is only 34 kilometers south of Paris. When I asked where exactly the farm was, Marc gave me these directions: "When the sun is at high noon, look at it and then walk 34 kilometers south".

While I'm not sure I would let Marc and his questionable sense of direction drive on a road trip, I was happy to have him guide me through the selection of vegetables he had brought with him that day.

Marc is clearly a popular guy at the market and he often stops selling in order to chat with regulars and gently tease them (he convinced a little girl that the incredibly unattractive crônesthat he was selling were actually magots that he sold to fishermen).

Marc went on to explain that crônes are on their way to extinction, as most people don't know what they are and have a hard time recognizing them as food. Add to that the fact that they have some unpleasant gas-inducing side effects, this little légumeseems destined to disappear.

True to my maudlin American marrow, I was moved by the sad story of the really, truly unappetizing crônes and I asked Marc for a handful. He was kind enough to throw in a few Topinambours(Jerusalem Artichokes). I then asked for 4 pears and paid my 2.80 € bill (See, buying local doesn't have to be expensive!) and continued on my way, shunning the shiny apples and happy with my dirty and pretty gross looking purchases.

Marché Monge
Place Monge, 75005
M° Place Monge (Line 7)
Wednesday, Friday, and
Sunday; 7h-13h

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