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Farmers’ Markets: My most favorite shopping places in Paris and in Mexico – La Gourmandista

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Farmers’ Markets: My most favorite shopping places in Paris and in Mexico

En mi puesto favorito de frutas y verduras del Marché d'Auteuil un sábado por la mañana

My grandmother used to live just a few blocks from a very popular in : The Mercado de Medellín. She and I would frequently walk around her neighborhood (Roma) and go get an avocado to complement my favorite Saturday lunch, which included a Vermicelli Soup and Potato Patties. For me, it was an adventure in itself. In my defense, I was only five years old at the most. Merchants would shout out in a very vivid way to attract their clientele, known as ‘marchanta', offering good deals and a taste of this or that. I hated the walk -mostly because I got tired, but loved going. And even though I was pretty young, I paid close attention to what happened in each stand.

Later in life, I learned less orthodox phrases from my mother's journeys to the market with her favorite merchants. First, there was Manuel, the butcher, to whom she always said “clean it well, Manuel, take all the fat off”. Then, there was René, the produce guy, who always heard warnings like “if it ain't good, I'll bring it back”… and the fruit was always at its best. Sweet, tasty.

Later on, as an adult, I seldom had the chance to go to the market, and like probably many in my generation, I ended up buying everything at the local supermarket. But hey, if I wanted real street food, then, even if it was just a pit stop, I quickly found a nonstop route to one of the different markets of the city. There is one on Río San Joaquín -one main avenue in City-, if I'm not mistaken, where one could eat the best dogfish quesadillas. Also, once in the Cuajimalpa market (another area in the city) I remember eating birria (a spicy stew, originally from the state of Jalisco, made of goat's meat) that would raise the dead. Obviously, if we talk about quesadilla stands, I have seen plenty in my lifetime, but definitely my favorite ones are those from the Saturday morning street market on the corner of Avenida STIM and Bosques de Reforma. Yummy! My mouth is already watering.

Once, maybe twice, I remember going to the wholesale farmer's markets for this or that, but always with my faithful guide to such places: Father. He, as my personal superhero, is the one and only connoisseur of ALL the good markets in Mexico City. It didn't matter what we needed; he always knew which one was the best one for getting the job done: La Viga, Jamaica, Sonora… He took me to all of them.

A flower stand at the  des Enfants Rouges in Paris

In France, I have been responsible for discovering its markets little by little on my own. I have to say that there are some through which one only needs to walk around their stands and that is enough to fall in love with them and their products, even if they are pop-up markets. Delicious and fresh are available, just in the same way as extraordinary regional delicacies.

If I had to choose my preferred Parisian market I would have to be inclined towards the one I am used to going, just a few meters away from my doorstep. However, the more I explore the city, the more I find. Yes, like in everything, prices will change just a bit, but each market has its own ambience.

Among those which have won my heart we can find the Marché d'Auteuil on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the one on Rue Gros on Tuesday and Friday mornings, as well as the one on Passy, which is an established market with truly exceptional products. A little bit farther away I can find markets to which friends and teachers have taken me to, and which I have come to discover little by little; needless to say, they are all equally unique in their own way. For example, I think the Marché des Enfants Rouges on Rue de Bretagne, which dates back to 1615, is a must-see in the city, along with all of its restaurants. I think that it was here where I have had the best Moroccan-style couscous I have eaten in my life. Another one within the city limits that I believe is equally famous, given its commercial offer as well as its unbeatable prices, is the one known as the Marché d'Aligre. I remember it was there where I found about 80% of the grocery list for a dinner party I hosted for a French couple of friends who were invited to taste my Chiles en Nogada. The best news was I only paid 30€ for my list; the rest I found in the supermarket and it added up to the same amount. But back to the markets: what can I say about the one on Avenue du Président Wilson and its very chic clientele, or the one on Rue Saint Charles, where I even saw horse lunchmeat, or the 100% Organic Sunday market on Boulevard Raspail?

Don't you agree this is wonderfully delightful?

But where do all these delicacies come from? I learned that, up until the 1960s, the greatest market was located downtown in an area known as Les Halles (in French it literally means Central Market). Now there is a horrid mall they've been trying to remodel since we got here in 2011, but it isn't just ready yet, and clearly the only things one cannot find there is fresh produce.

The locals talk about a place called . They say it is a market like no other, located outside of Paris, and to enter one “only” has to have a special kind of permit. My God, this meant it would be very difficult, if not impossible just to visit the place, never mind getting to shop for groceries there.  Out of one's mind, for sure. However, me being me, the more I hear about this place, the more I want to go, and the obstacles only make it more impossible a dare to resist. So now the goal in market shopping is to get into Rungis no matter what. Should be interesting to see how I manage.

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