realize that the market is as much a source of inspiration as it is
It’s also the best indicator of how the seasons progress.
Sometime in late March or early April, you can count on being
at the market and hearing someone mention that spring is on its
way because the butter is changing color. In the winter, when the
cows are eating hay, the butter is pale, almost white; in the spring
and all through the summer and early fall, the butter turns golden
yellow, the sign that the cows are in the pastures and feeding on
grass. Soon after the butter becomes yellow, asparagus turn up,
fat spears of green asparagus, even fatter spears of white and
those rare spears of violet asparagus. They’ll be piled high in
the market and you can be sure that no matter where you eat,
whether restaurant or friend’s home, you’ll be served asparagus.
It will be asparagus, asparagus, asparagus, until the season ends.
Then there will be strawberries, many varieties of strawberries,
and you’ll find your favorites and you and everyone you know
will eat strawberries until, they too, disappear from the stalls.
And then it will be melons and, soon after, the first apples and
the root vegetables and before you want it to be, game season
will arrive and the market stands will be heavy with plumed
birds. The Paris markets are a calendar unto themselves.
Like everyone else who shops a market regularly, I have my
favorites: the fruit-nut-and-spice man at the Tuesday and Friday
markets; the Italian vendor at the Sunday organic market – his
gorgonzola is the best I have ever had; and the Sunday apple
seller, who is not cheerful, but whose apples’ deliciousness
override his scowl.
But the market that I think of as truly mine, is the covered market
– I’m there every day.
The market doesn’t have the bustle and charm of some other Paris
markets – it doesn’t have the energy of the Marché des Enfants
Rouges nor the diversity of the Marché Aligre – but it’s got what
a day-to-day cook needs: two butchers; two fish markets; one
vendor who specializes in Greek foods (he’s my steady source
of preserved lemons); one store with everything Italian; one stall
that’s a mini natural-foods market; a few prepared-food vendors
(I’m vague on these because I don’t shop with them, just as the
bakery there isn’t ‘mine’); a very good wine shop; a grand stall
in the center of the market that sells produce and fine hams,
cured meats and housemade jams and pickled vegetables, and
good ice cream too; and Fromagerie Sanders, the reason I’m in
the market daily.
I would be at the cheese stand endlessly for cheese, yogurt, milk,
cream, farm eggs and small-batch cultured butter no matter who
owned the place, but that Michel and Twiggy (yes, that’s her real
name and yes, she’s French) are the proprietors quintuples the
Twiggy is the first person I see when I walk into the market and
I often don’t get further into the space for another 15 minutes or
more, because after the traditional kiss on each cheek, there’s
the neighborhood news to catch up on, travel plans to discuss
– Twiggy travels often and far and always in search of great
opera performances – and tales of our children to tell. Oh, and of
course there’s cheese to buy.
At home in Paris, cheese is a part of every dinner. Depending on
the season, the regulars will be comté, brie, camembert or, in the
winter, our favorite cheese, Mont d’Or, ripe enough to eat with
a spoon. And when company’s coming, the cheese plate always
has at least three cheeses, one of which will be a special treat for
me: goat cheese. Because Michael doesn’t eat chèvre, I buy it
only when I know I’ll have people who’ll share it with me.
Twiggy knows that Michael doesn’t like goat, but she also knows
just about everything else he doesn’t like and all of what he
loves, a fact that came in handy when our son, Joshua, wanted to
put together a surprise package for us. All he had to do was say,