Sundays at the Marche Biologique: This beatific couple sells all the fixings for a heavenly Italian feast--just one of the surprises at this organic but not exactly local market.
9: 02 AM: The tantalizing aroma of Les Gustalins’ galette de pommes de terre is pulling me like a magnet into the Marche Biologique. Overnight the bare frames running down the center of boulevard Raspail have turned into a river of striped tents shading organic, sometimes biodynamic, vegetables and fruit and much more...
It’s early, but already a lean young man is intently flipping free-form potato and onion “pancakes” on a sizzling hot griddle. My eyes are barely open but my taste buds are wide awake.
9:14 AM: Zut! If only I had a kitchen here in Paris, I’d be avidly composing the most delicious supper, like everyone else shopping here today.
I might start with these beautiful briny oysters, just in from Brittany, or maybe a few plump crevettes. Sauteed filets of bar (a.k.a. sea bass) would be delicious drizzled with vanilla oil—just as William Ledeuil does at Ze Kitchen Galerie—made from the wild Cormoros beans sold a few stalls away.
Waiting in line at the fishmongers (just to take pictures), I’m startled when the man in front of me turns and, with a roguish glint, asks me to photograph the two of them—himself and the vendor—together. “We’re vieux amis,” he laughs. “ Actors." He pumps his fist. "In sex-action films.”
The fishmonger scowls and shakes his head. “Idiot!” Et moi? I'm fishing my camera out of the crevettes.
9:18 AM: Fragrant heirloom apples are a certain sign of fall, even if it feels like a summer morning. The dusky green ones are Reines Grises, an ancien variety that may go back to Louis XIV. I bite into one: It’s sweet and tart, with a vibrant flavor that's missing from more modern types.
I love the names and aromas of these apples: The Cox Holsteiner (said to taste like pineapple), the juicy Pinova Corail (a modern 3-way cross), pretty Pirouette. Even if there's no cooking, we can certainly eat them out of hand. A few of each, s’il vous plait!
9: 22 AM: What luck! For my imaginary dinner party I can pick up one of these golden tartes de pommes, as well as a little something for the cheese course. Thoughtfully the jolly cheese lady is selling both. All her fromages are from Burgundy and all are very fresh. The soft, runny fromage demi sec Brebis, made of whole ewe’s milk, are just 4 weeks old, while the tome au lait entiere, a firm, tangy chevre, has been aged 6 to 8 weeks. Shall I wrap it for you? Bien sur, madame!
9:34 AM: In case you’re wondering, it’s vegetable paradise around here. Rainbow-hued carottes, spiky lime-green Romanescu choufleur, violet artichokes.
And French breakfast radishes, so mild and sweet that you can eat them...for breakfast, as B does—or anytime with bread and butter.
9: 47 AM: Oh for a petit jardin. I could plant pots of rosemary and thyme on a sunny balcony, along with a big tub of purple asters. The pretty pansies, trailing lierre or ivy—so sweet that pansies are known as pensees, or thoughts—would brighten a window box during the grey days ahead.
9:52: Even if Gerard Depardieu hasn’t shown up yet--it's said that he and other celebs who live in the chic 6eme shop here--the market is thronged with well-dressed shoppers.
And there’s the market basket I covet. This one, stuffed with egg cartons to be returned, has a bamboo handle and wickerwork body. Note the rubber wheels for negotiating bumpy sidewalks.
(A few days later I see a sturdier, more tightly woven one on the rue de Buci. A cool 110 euros, but it looks as if it would last a couple of decades, as long as you don’t haul your children and dogs in it…)
10:03 AM: Now the line at Les Gustalins is so long it’s winding out of the tent The mostly female customers seem to be buying everything they could possibly need for Sunday lunch with the family. One woman scoops up six mini-quiches, a slew of apricot and plum tarts, and a stack of the famous galettes de pommes de terre. But I’m in luck. There are two left for us. At the last moment I spring for one pear and one apple tartelette.
10:12 AM: The galettes, best eaten hot off the griddle, are a little greasy, but we devour them even before we get to the little park in front of the Bon Marche. Sitting on a bench in the sun watching the children on the playground, I wonder what it would be like to have an apartment overlooking the square.
Oui, celui-la, the one with red geraniums on the balcony and the doors flung open to the sun. A girl can dream, can't she?
The Marche Biologique takes place Sunday mornings on the boulevard Raspail between rue Cherche-Midi and rue de Rennes.