Walking through several markets in Normandy recently it struck me how much the local communities support their regular market. There are many familiar producers there offering fresh fish, meats, cheeses, bread, veg and salads, fruit ( some wonderful types of local varieties), preserves, calvados and a range of hot foods and non food stalls.
Each town has a regular market and you can spend each day of the week (apart from Sunday) at a market. This is a tradition that has been active for centuries and I suspect many of the same families have been involved as well.
You might ask is this a tourist only phenomena but I think it is as much for visitors as well as the locals. With the wealth of local produce and the only real outlets being the chain supermarkets, such as Intermarche and Carrefour, the markets offer access to the produce and craft of the local producer. There are patisseries, boulangeries, charcuteries and other shops on the high streets but the markets offer the whole shopping experience in one place.
Some meat from a local market on the BBQ. It could not have been more local and full of flavour. The same week we had fresh fish including John Dory and Lemon Sole. Both were absolutely delicious, fresh and each mouthful was a fabulous journey in taste!
These markets are invaluable in maintaining the cultural and agricultural heritage and I firmly believe that in the UK we are beginning to realise that veg, meat, fish, bread etc is better if it comes from local sources. Which in turn means we are looking to the past in order to improve how we sustain our food production for the future.
We should learn from the way the markets and the towns work together to support their communities. Price isn’t everything, freshness, flavour and knowing the history and method of production is increasingly more important.
I love markets both from being there to sell my produce but also to talk to other producers and find out about all of the different food and drink available. It excites me to see more new producers coming to markets. I think that the potential for our markets in Oxfordshire is huge. We just need the councils and other authorities to be aware of the value markets bring to local communities.
I will leave you with a final thought. In Normandy the car parking in the town is free and at anytime including market day! What impact would this attitude have for our town centres and shopping areas, but also for our markets.
Just a thought! I