Le Weekend, 6/23/23: Outdoor markets in Lyon, Paris, Bordeaux & Paris & cooking with fresh bay leaves ??

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June 23, 2023

Dear Frenchly Readers,

Last April, when our family landed in Lyon, the first thing Dan, my husband, and I did, was wake up early on our first morning, while the boys were still sleeping, and hit the outdoor market. (Before the parent police get called, my fourteen-year-old knew this was happening and the younger one was instructed to wake him up if he woke up first.) Outdoor markets in France have always been my favorite place to be in the world, no matter the temperature.

And, these days, when we book our Airbnb’s, rentals or hotels in France, we pay attention to where the nearest markets are and if there’s a supermarket—like a Monoprix or a Bio (organic food store)—nearby. Knowing how we will eat, and also knowing the joy we get from interacting with local farmers and purveyors, from seeing the bounty grown, often, within 100 miles of where we are standing, is a huge part of the simple life we enjoy in France. France is also a country try that has almost every temperature zone, from mountains to hot southern climes. You can find apples and citrus, artichokes and sunchokes, wines and cheeses.

Lyon is a small, manageable, working class city and has markets that retain their lovely commitment to regional delicacies, while also keeping a firm grip on Lyon’s reputation as  the seat of French culinary expertise. There are three major markets in Lyon: Two outdoor markets, one in the Croix-Rousse neighborhood and the St. Antoine, and then the famous Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, which is an indoor market featuring the best foods from all over France (if you are a foodie, this is not a place you want to miss.)

The St. Antoine market is perched on the banks of the lovely Saône river, and is located between the bridges Bonaparte and Maréchal-Juin. Slightly smaller during the week and reaching full capacity on weekends, this is one of Lyon’s most popular outdoor farmers’ markets as it is known for ready-to eat North African and Asian foods as well as anything a gourmand could possibly wish for. Dating back to 1910, when boats came down the river full of regional produce, meats and cheeses from nearby farmers, this market has the feeling of a walk back into history. On the weekend, there are over 140 vendors, and as you walk along picking out food to go home and cook, you will feel you’ve walked into a cornucopia.

The smaller, more local, Croix-Rousse market has around 100 vendors and focuses on the foundations of fabulous meals: vegetables, cheeses, fruits, fish, meats, breads. This is the one we frequent when we stay in that neighborhood. That first Sunday morning shopping, Dan and I returned to still slumbering boys, our arms laden with cheeses made in the Rhône-Alps region; asparagus; strawberries; spring endives—barely green and so incredibly tender—; lettuces; a spit-roasted chicken; small-batch yogurt; fresh, soft bay leaves; local butter; new potatoes and flowers. Our bags were so full, that when we discovered another section of the market with olives and nuts and more cheeses, we couldn’t add any more to our load. No matter, the market was going to open again on Tuesday.

That morning, after making a large press of coffee, Dan decided to boil those lovely new potatoes for breakfast. Something about the simplicity of bowls of potatoes and piles of strawberries appealed to us after a week in Paris where we had been on the move a lot, eating more in restaurants than in our Airbnb. Reader, I am not lying when I tell you those were the best potatoes I have ever had. Dan laughs when I say this and says confidently, “Two reasons: 1. The butter. 2. The butter. Ok, three reasons: And the bay leaves.”

Those bay leaves, still damp from the morning dew, were not the dry things we throw into soup back home. Just picked, they were soft and pliable and Dan minced them into long thing threads, resembling green saffron. On top of the buttered potatoes with the tiniest sprinkle of salt, those bay leaves gleamed and we were, all four, transported. Who knew bay leaves could take something usual and make it transcendent?

À cuisiner, regarder et lire çe weekend:

If you don’t have a handful of fresh bay leaves at your disposal, you can always cook your potatoes in bay scented water, and then add butter… and more butter à la Dan. And if you’re not going to be traveling to a French market anytime soon, your own local farmers market is likely in full swing by now. I know ours in Maine is. Dan and our younger son just came back with quite a haul this morning: bags full of celery, kale, strawberries, halloumi cheese, yogurt, lettuce, herbs, and more. Sure there weren’t any bay leaves, those local French cheeses or spit roasted chickens, but we make do, as you will, too.

Andrea Meyer has a new Le Ciné for us this weekend, and this movie has moved to the top of my “To Watch” list. Made by director Alice Winocour, whose brother survived the 2015 Bataclan terrorist attacks in Paris, this is the story of a woman whose life is altered forever when she survives a shooting in a restaurant. The movie follows her as she bravely starts piecing together what happened, while trying to go back in time and, at the same time,  realizing that everything is now different, she will never see her world  the same way again.  It sounds like a very moving film.

I just finished the NY Times “Well” writer, Jancee Dunn’s, new book, Hot and Bothered, about perimenopause. I’ve decided I am going to mention perimenopause at least once a day now in an effort to break the taboo. I might seem random like, “Hey want some salad, and do you know about perimenopause?” But no matter. Weirder things have happened. Dunn is such a friendly, amusing, smart and informative writer. I love this advice from her about the “Walk and Talk,” too.

And, if you want to stop believing that French parents have it all figured out, Lauren Collins writes for the New Yorker this week that that’s, perhaps, a fallacy; French parents are as lost as we are over here in the U.S.

BONUS: If you plan to travel to France here are some lists of terrific outdoor markets in Paris, in Lyon, in Bordeaux and in Nice to help you plan your trip.

À bientôt,

Caitlin.

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Caitlin Shetterly is the Editor-in-Chief of Frenchly. She is also the author of 4 books: Fault Lines, Made for You and MeModified, and the upcoming novel, Pete and Alice in Maine, which will be published on July 4th, 2023 by Harper. She is a native daughter and she lives with her two sons and husband in an old house on the coast of Maine. 

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