Sandy beaches, palm trees, beautiful people, expensive cars and perfect sunny, warm weather. No, we’re not in Southern California. We have arrived in Cannes. The Cote d’Azur. The apartment terrace is inviting and relaxing with views of the Mediterranean off in the distance and red tiled roof houses scattered below amongst the Italian cypress and large palm trees.
Our first day out we decide to take a trip to the farmer’s market-le Marche Forville-located in downtown Cannes. The air is moist and humid with only a slight breeze in the air, but the walk was nonetheless enjoyable as we ventured to the market.
The French love their farmer’s markets and this one is a large and exciting one! From fresh flowers to fresh fruit and veggies to fresh sausages to handmade artisan cheeses galore- it can all be found here. Let me stop at cheese. I could write a whole blog entry on the French cheeses (and I will), but for now, I will just briefly touch on the cheeses. There were goat cheeses big and small, round and pyramid shaped; sheep cheeses that were fresh from the farm and cow bries that made my mouth water. The smell, well, that is quite another issue and is rather unpleasant until you get used to it.
The freshly picked fruit made my mouth pucker at the thought of the sweetness and tartness of these colorful and juicy fruits. There were tiny yellow -gold mirabelles (a tart plum that’s full of flavor), sour scarlet colored red currants and figs and berries galore. I immediately envisioned myself buying bushels to create pies and jams. Then I realized that my husband and I shouldn’t eat a whole pie ourselves and that I don’t know how to makes jams!
The vibrant greens, oranges and reds of the vegetables brought me back to my youth in Iowa and Minnesota where we always had a plentiful garden. Picking the green beans, searching for the elusive cucumbers and twisting off the plump tomatoes and were always a joy for me. My mother would take these tomatoes and make wonderful tomato paste and sauces. These French tomatoes were a sight to behold. There were the coeur de boeuf (beef heart)-large bright red ribbed tomatoes that were juicy and fragrant; the sweet, yellow coeur de pigeon (pigeon heart) that are shaped like grapes-much like the “grape tomatoes” that are found in the states and odd shaped heirloom tomatoes that were colors of the rainbow.
The mushroom stands were one of my favorite. People were reaching into baskets full of chanterelle, morel and langue de boeuf -a reddish mushroom that grows at the foot of a tree and resembles a cow’s tongue. My husband shared with me his fond memories of going out with his grandmother to hunt for mushrooms in the forests of central France. They would take a stick and move the leaves around to reveal the mushrooms, making sure that the mushroom had a “crown” on top to show that it wasn’t poisonous. One of the stand’s beautiful displays even gave me a great visual as to where these mushrooms came from.
So, you may ask yourselves, what did we actually buy to bring home to prepare for a delicious and fresh lunch? Rein. Nada. Nothing. That will be for another day. For today, we wanted to relax and soak in some culture and people watch. We took a stroll near the croisette and enjoyed a salade nicoise, some ratatouille (my mother -in -law’s is better!) and a carafe of rose at one of our favorite restaurants.
Connecting with food from its origins-before being made into tasty dishes-is so important. It reminds us of where our food comes from. It gives us a sense of connection with nature. I know for us today, we were able to share some childhood memories that directly connected us to our some of first memories of food. Who would have thought that would happen at farmer’s market halfway across the world? End of a very good day.