It’s a good thing that the first stalls of the market are full of crockery and Provencal fabrics – it’s easier to hold onto your money knowing that if you buy the blood-red earthenware dish now, you will have to carry its weight for the next hour or so.
By the time you pass the hat stall and the street corner flooded with woven baskets of every hue, you will be ready for some refreshment. Take cover from the heat of the sun under the yellow canopy of the bar, and line your stomach with an espresso and a pain-au-chocolat from the patisserie across the street – the one hidden behind the stall of paintings displayed on wooden easels. It’s best not to go further on an empty stomach, for as your nose will have betrayed to you by now, a feast of local delights awaits. It would be wise to go immediately to the rotisserie trailer, where you must put your name to a poulet blanche for dinner. It will be ready for you on your return journey.
The bread stall next, where the most rustic pain is arranged alongside the most delicate pastry – line your basket with one stick for lunch. Ignore the guilty voice in your head, and get a little paper bag of lemon curd-filled bite sized doughnuts to much as you shop. The tang of the curd is a heavenly match for your sugar-coated lips.Nowhere else do tomatoes smell as they do in Provence, and it feels good to buy them soft and ripe, ready to be sliced and sloshed with balsamic vinegar as an accompaniment to the chicken later.
The basil plant you have carefully placed in your basket will provide the only other flavour required. Here you will also find the string of garlic bulbs that you must smuggle back in your suitcase – the aroma of which will have holiday memories alive and well for weeks in your kitchen at home.Be sure to ask for your black olive tapenade en Francais! You are sure to get more for your euro that way, and Madame will take extra care in wrapping your bulging tub, so the oily garlicky mush has no chance of escape. Whatever bread is left from lunch will mop up this perfect accompaniment to your first glass of red before dinner as you gaze out from your balcony to Mont Ventoux. It’s a feat not many can manage to walk past the showcase of the cheesemonger who, with a sample of this and a shaving of that can make even the most seasoned haggler part with more money than he intended. The same haggler will agree later after dinner that it was worth every penny.
So now, with the heat becoming almost unbearable, it’s time to collect your chicken from the sweating red-faced rôtissoire who appears as if he himself is being roasted alongside the birds. It’s an impossibility not to include a bag of the roasting potatoes and onions that have been quietly nestling beneath, being basted by the falling juices from the chickens above, and an impossibility not to sneak one little spud from the bag as you tuck it in beside your other wares. Walking back through the crockery stalls, now is a good time to part with whatever few euro you have left in exchange for one of those bowls or jugs, and why not, for even on the coldest day in December, they will bring to your kitchen wonderful memories of a Monday morning shopping in Provence.
Story written by Sheena Lambert | Since 2006 Holiday Velvet offers Provence accommodation.