I have a strange addiction. I am addicted to the French market, also known as le marché. How did this happen? Is it serious? Contagious? Is there a cure? Read on, if you'd like, as I'll be exploring the answers to these questions, and others, in this continuing post: My Strange Addiction.
I am a Marché-ophile, and I'm not apologetic nor embarrassed to say this... But what is it that I am? And how has it affected me? Moreover, how do I answer that annoying question,"So, what do you do?" (Am I the only one that bristles when asked this question?) To figure out what it means to be a Marché-ophile, and all that encompasses this condition, I first have to recognize that I am a Francophile.
Other languages and cultures have always intrigued me. When I was twelve, my family hosted an exchange student from Mexico for a year. We also hosted teachers from around the world, several from France. I was mesmerized when they spoke. I loved the accent and the melodious rhythm of the language. I began studying the language and then applied to a French exchange program when I was sixteen. I had no idea where I would end up; I just knew I wanted to immerse myself in this language and culture.
I arrived in Quimper, La Bretagne, a thousand-year-old city that would teach me the difference between les crêpes et les galettes. My host family owned a fruit stand in the famous indoor market, Les Halles Saint-François, situated in the heart of the old town. If we weren't riding horses along the wild Breton coastline, you could find my host sister and me helping out at the stand. We helped customers find that perfect plum or that sweet-smelling melon Not only did I enjoy those small interactions we had with the clienteles, but I looked forward to them. I looked forward to seeing the same people every day and continuing our small chats about the weather, local events, or the fruit they were selecting. When I wasn't helping shoppers find the best pommes for that evening's tarte tatin, I became the shopper. With my newly-found skills, I would purchase crepe upon crepe and galette upon galette. I didn't care that I had become a gourmande and had gained a few pounds; I loved these thin pancakes filled with sweet or savory fillings as much as I loved exchanging small talk with the vendors. I watched the verbal exchanges between seasoned shoppers, and began creating my own style of meeting people... It was then that I discovered that I was addicted to les marchés. I was a "vrai" Marché-ophile. (okay, so I made this term up...but you get it, right?)
When I returned home to the mountains of northern California, I found myself missing my French friends, my French host family, my newly found love of the language, and, of course, les marchés. Farmers markets hadn't appeared yet in our neck of the woods at that time, so I would have to wait until I could return to France for my addiction to les marchés....