It was a beautiful day in Paris today, and I went to the marché and bought flowers and as usual, way more other things than I had planned. You should never go to the marché hungry.
People have different strategies for doing their shopping. Some say you should go first thing, when the stands are just being set up and there is a wide selection. I'm not matinale and have only managed that once. It's less crowded and there's lots of variety still in the middle of the morning. By the early afternoon, as the stands are being packed up, you can get real bargains, all the last fruits for a song because the merchant doesn't want to have it carry the crate almost empty to his truck.
It always cheers me up to go there-- the merchants joke and tease and call out to each other across the aisle, you run into people you know, and there is always some item you haven't seen before. I learned the seasons from this market when I first came to France. No, at the marché you couldn't get strawberries in October or cherries in December. But you could find elvers swimming like live threads of glass, and fiddlehead ferns and topinambours and glimmering silvery mackerel. When the cherries arrived they were more delicious for being available only for three weeks in June.
Nowadays even France has succumbed to the food-from-afar syndrome, and you can certainly buy apples in May and blackberries in February, even at the marché; but it's still an exciting place to shop for food. Today there were dozens of different kinds of apples; heirloom tomatoes in ten different colors; the last of the sunflowers from Provence; and huge meaty cèpe mushrooms, some as big as a child's arm. The merchant told us to be sure not to cut off the greenish gills underneath, "it's where all the flavor is."