I’ve just been staying in France, and noticed, amongst other things, how it is normal there to have a local market on a regular basis, where people go to buy their fruit, veg, cheese, meat etc.
In England ‘locally sourced’ is the boast of a few restaurants and cafes, who can thereby hoist their prices, and farmers markets are very much a middle class domain where they exist. Most of us don’t have easy access to local produce – and most places don’t have much local produce any more anyway!
Does it matter? I think so! We have lost so much in our gradual move to convenience and choice, and the takeover of small producers by the biggies..
In the French market, the fruit and veg have come from local farms. It’s as fresh as it can be, and tastes delicious. Local farms provide cheese, meat – again, fresh and tasty, following years of traditional production. If there are condiments – oils, flavours – they are from nearby. The wine is the wine of the region. You are literally getting a regional flavour of France.
What’s more, you are buying from the grower, the producer. They know their products and are proud of them. I find they are delighted to tell you about them: how to use them keep them etc. It’s a direct line from grower or producer to consumer that feels healthy and guarantees a quality that is lost when it all becomes anonymous, packaged, preserved.
Now I know that once upon a time this would have been normal in England too. If you watched ‘Poldark’ on TV, they bought from local markets, or produced their own, and when I was a child, it was still certainly more possible to buy local.
Why did we let it disappear while France kept the tradition? Maybe it is as the French would say: we don’t care enough about what we eat and drink to care when local produce gets lost in the conglomerates who produce for profit rather than taste. We may have more choice – strawberries all year round! – and it may be quicker to buy everything in one place, but we have lost the soul of the food we eat, and with it some of our own soul.
I am not someone who normally delights in food, but in France, I feel as if I’m being fed properly, and enjoy every mouthful. There’s an added extra in the tomato, that cheese, that bread, that wine, which feeds my soul as well as my body – thank you France!!