A Commerce of the Imaginary

An excerpt from

Market Day in Provence

by Michèle de La Pradelle

“Pumpkins are rounder at the market”

The vast majority of market products are the same as elsewhere and sold at the same prices. Whatever “market look” they have is due to form or presentation; the difference is an effect of staging or wording. Producing this appearance is part of the stallholder’s art, practiced not so much to deceive the customer as to satisfy her wishes and expectations, and this game works all the better in that, as suggested, everyone wants to be taken in. The market is an enchanted world where stallholder talent combines with customer desire to make products appear different from what they are. As I heard someone say around Venturi’s stall, “Pumpkins are rounder at the market.”

The archetypal “market product” is a heavy melon bursting with sweetness because the Provençal sun has been so generous, or a head of lettuce so visibly harvested at dawn that day that you can almost see dewdrops on it, or firm, fragrant strawberries that still bear the trace of the pebbly soil they were grown in just south of Carpentras. In the minds of most customers, shopping at the market means first and foremost laying in a supply of fruits and vegetables, natural rather than industrial products. As Nicole Grossage explained to me, “The market sensitizes people to food level. The market’s brand image is the food; it’s where you find fresh, higher-quality produce.” In fact, as I was able to confirm in interviews, most of the fruits and vegetables available on the market, either at stallholders’ or in sedentary shops, were purchased from the MIN in Avignon, a major wholesale market featuring an extremely broad range of produce from a great variety of sources. In the appropriate season, melons and strawberries are always available at the marché-gare, whose function of course is to ship out local produce. But you can’t get Spanish oranges or Israeli avocados there.

“In winter,” explains Boyac, “we go mostly to MINs. There are actually very fine suppliers at the local Carpentras market, but I’m more in the habit of buying from Avignon suppliers. You have to admit that the Carpentras market is smaller. Sometimes I go to Marseille; they have a bigger selection than in Avignon. Starting in May we do Carpentras, where we can get at least 20 percent of our potential salad needs, and little things. We’re in an area where there are so many supply markets that it’s easy to buy. We buy about 20 percent from rural markets and all the rest from the middlemen, the wholesalers, who get the merchandise externally.” Contrary to what one may readily imagine, then, he only occasionally buys directly from growers, and when he does it’s through wholesale produce markets.

Despite the illusion they produce, the vast majority of market fruits and vegetables have therefore been grown almost industrially, using the most modern methods. Melons are grown “above ground” under plastic sheets in heated air, watered continuously drop by drop, with the sugar level automatically monitored. They have only the most distended kinship tie with the melons grown long ago by Provençal peasants.

In Empire of Signs, Roland Barthes comments on the effect of how certain Japanese dishes are presented: “It is the very essence of the market that comes to you, its freshness, its naturalness, its diversity.” The “market product” is a “compound object…at once nature and merchandise, commercial nature, accessible to popular possession.” And indeed, the term “freshness” on everybody’s lips, together with the idea of “genuine nature” available and affordable to all, right in the center of the city, sums up quite effectively the market ideology, the set of propositions that function both as arguments for market sellers and self-justifications for market buyers. “When you buy vegetables at the Intermarché [supermarket], they seem nice,” says Mme. Ripert, “but when I get them home they’re rotten or too green. It’s at the market, ultimately, that they’re freshest.” Mme. Coste would agree: “You can’t say supermarket fruit is not as pretty, but it’s not as fresh.” The superficial, deceptive beauty of supermarket produce thus stands in opposition to the “freshness” and the “real” though not necessarily visible quality of market produce. Clearly produce rotates more quickly at the market; fruits and vegetables do not lie around several days in the enclosed space and stale air of the store and they are not wrapped in plastic. But touting the “freshness” of the butter lettuce or tomatoes is a way of obscuring how they are handled: machine-sorted by size, crated, transported several times, spending long hours under truck tarps and in shippers’ dusty warehouses. The word “freshness” is a denial of the whole complex process by which produce moves from grower to shipper to wholesaler to retailer; it is a way of signifying the product’s direct relation to nature. In itself it is a myth of origin according to which, thanks to the market, this lettuce head has arrived as if by magic from the soil in which it was grown to the plate from which it is eaten.

Through his selling setup, the stallholder stages two competing representations of nature: its universal, generous fecundity, but also a more intimate image: the well-tended nook, the lovingly cultivated little garden behind the house. Most fruit and vegetable sellers in Carpentras, whether stallholders or not, choose the first representation and play above all on the abundance and diversity of the produce they sell. The impression of lush, prodigious nature is due to both the accumulation of foodstuffs and the way the stall is organized. A stall is made up of a long, multiple-sectioned wooden table that can stretch for eight or ten meters, behind which extremely busy vendors run back and forth from mounds of tomatoes to pyramids of citrus fruit, passing in front of a cash box quite visibly set on an upturned wooden crate. The table is about eighty-five centimeters high, to enable the customer to take in the entire panoply of produce at a glance. The most precious items are set in baskets slightly inclined toward the customer so that their contents may be seen better. But stallholders also manage to make it look as if everything is within reaching distance. Merchandise is displayed unwrapped, in bulk; products that customers can select themselves and hand to the vendor (avocados, usually sold singly; Spanish melons; bunches of bananas) are up front, below table level.

The number of products is striking, and the way they are arranged tends to create an impression of “mass”: mounds of cabbages and celery root, heaps of batavia, scarole, frisée, feuille de chêne, butter and other lettuces, pyramids of oranges and tomatoes, mountains of cauliflower heads, leeks set upright in big bouquets, and so on. There is no empty space; the structure of the table disappears under the heaps of produce. Stocks are continually replenished so that product volume never seems to sink, at least when the market is in full swing. Colors are alternated for the pleasure of the eye but also to intensify product contrast and increase the impression of profusion. The purple of the eggplants shows nearly black next to the gleaming tomatoes; the lemons seems tarter when positioned next to spring-green spinach.

The implicit pictorial model is of course the horn of plenty, where the whole of nature is summed up in an assembly of fruits from the four corners of the earth. On stalls explicitly of this type, ginger, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, and even Caribbean mango squash are close by the usual local products: strawberries and tomatoes from the surrounding irrigated market gardens, long or round squash with the flower still attached. The most exotic fruits—litchis, mangos, passion fruit—are next to the dried fruits and nuts traditionally consumed at winter evening gatherings and on Christmas Day (the “thirteen desserts”): apricots, dates, hazelnuts, walnuts, Provence almonds and the longette variety from Spain, strings of dried Baglama figs, golden sultanas or Malaga raisins, so tasty despite the seeds . . . “I like going to Llorca’s,” says Mme. Coste, “because there are fruits everywhere, and tropical fruits. They’re tastefully arranged. It works well today to show things off. You make good money if you’ve got a few baskets out in front.”

In this garden of Eden, distance between continents and the alternation of the seasons are abolished. Shop interstices are garnished with pineapples and limes—and bunches of grapes, surprising in the month of March. Paradoxically, the “dead” season is the lushest moment on the market. “Contrary to what you might expect,” explains Boyac, “the selection is much greater in winter than summer. Summer is local, fifty products maximum, whereas in winter we easily reach a hundred, a hundred twenty items. Green beans from Senegal, strawberries from California—we can get anything we want. In summer you can’t find cauliflower or endive, but in winter you can get cherries, melons, strawberries, peaches, apricots. In the three to six months of winter, all products can be found.”

At the corner of the Rue des Halles where it meets the Place de l’Horloge, Roux plays on quite another representation. His stall is made of a simple plank of wood less than three meters long laid on trestles and covered with an oilcloth. In front he has carefully lined up a few bunches of leeks; handwritten in chalk on a small slate board above them are the words: "leeks, untreated, 6F." Next to them are a couple of pretty parsley bunches and nicely bound chives; in the center of the stall a big platter of cooked beets; nearby, a wicker basket holding a few eggs. In the back are several crates containing spinach, shriveled-looking reinette [pippin] apples, a few fleecy green cabbages. Red and yellow tulips in a small metallic bucket add a note of brilliant color. The price of every product is marked. On the side and at a lower level he’s rigged up some cursory scaffolding out of a few plastic crates and put out boxes of turnips, carrots, belle de Fontenay potatoes and smaller ones of the ratte variety, still covered with soil.

The nature that Roux stages is that of the Sunday gardener: cherries eaten straight off the tree, patiently transplanted lettuce whose progress is observed daily. These are patently healthy vegetables, untampered with, straight from the vegetable garden, still full of flavor, authentic flavor hearkening back to the time when vegetables were grown in manure-fertilized soil, well before the invasion of chemical varieties or pesticides. Several signs are meant to show this: the turnips sport their greens; the leeks are uncut (“Shall I cut off the green for you?”); a few downy feathers are still sticking to the eggs; the lettuce is gritty and there are even one or two small slugs ostentatiously inching their way along the leaves. Obviously the concern here is to display the product in all its rawness; quality, the message goes, is not a matter of appearance. The puckered apples are assumed to be much better than shining, size-sorted granny smiths. Holders of similar stalls seem to want to evoke the patient family labor that went into the product. While some leave their leeks just as they were when pulled out of the ground, others wash and arrange them carefully in even bunches; at some such stalls the carrots are covered with compost; at others they have been cleaned and the roots trimmed.

Here nature is evoked not by means of a display of abundance and diversity but with small amounts of a low number of products. To give the impression that the seller is offering everything he has, no unpacked merchandise is visible. Moreover, the products are displayed separately from each other, and oilcloth shows through pretty much everywhere, as if the three-meter plank were much too long for the little one has to sell. Here what is underlined is the product’s scarcity, its rarity. Everything works to suggest the patient effort that went into obtaining the treasures here offered up to the customer’s admiration. The fact that produce at this type of stall is often sold by the bunch or unit rather than by weight reinforces the impression of scarcity.

Moreover, the selection of products here does not follow customer logic —“I need carrots and a bouquet garni for the daube”; “This guy’s got tarragon but not lettuce”—but rather the logic of the gardener torn between constraints of soil and climate, her concern to grow good produce, and her own momentary fancy. To whoever wishes to hear it, the stall recounts the cycle of the seasons (I don’t have strawberries yet; We don’t carry anything wrapped in plastic), the nature of the soil (“The asparagus? It’s from Velleron—it’s all sand down there”), and the gardener’s adventures (I tried pumpkins this year—it worked). Putting a dead rabbit or a bouquet amidst the cabbages, henhouse eggs next to snap peas, a bunch of daffodils close by the raw fava beans; adding a few items gathered wild (a basket of girolle mushrooms, a punnet of blackberries, a few branches of sweet fennel) evokes the multiform activity of the traditional domestic economy.

The piecemeal look of this selling arrangement also strengthens the impression that we are not dealing with a professional tradesman here, but rather with a peasant of the sort Chayanov described, who occasionally comes to sell his surplus on the market. Sometimes the crates are set out on canvas on the floor, as was the practice in the nineteenth century. Or the stall is a low, small, rudimentary construction made of found materials (old crates, garden or camp tables); the produce is set on old crates or displayed in household objects (straw or rush baskets, platters, salad bowls, washbasins); the cash box is a small biscuit tin. And the seller, often sitting on a folding chair, a cap pulled down low over his brow, sometimes still wears a blue canvas apron like gardeners of olden times.

This arrangement, designed to evoke the peasant economy (which has long since disappeared from the region), is in fact not frequently encountered on the Carpentras market. The small number of stallholders who play this card serve as a reference for the many more whose allusions are so subtle they are not always perceived—gardener’s baskets instead of crates, slates bearing the words “haricots du pays’” [local beans] in clumsy handwriting, bouquets of flowers that here can pass for decoration—or whose knowing winks at the customer allow doubt to subsist: a question like “So you don’t want any of my plums?” is meant to be heard as meaning that the fruit comes from the seller’s own garden.

This kind of display is more frequently found on L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, for example, where the Sunday flea market along the river pulls in a big tourist clientele. Narrow-range stallholder trade has held up best in places with many tourists. It was at this market in any case that I found the most fully evolved instance of such a stall. The very structure of the table across which seller and buyer usually interact has disappeared, and piled up on overturned plastic crates in an indescribable jumble are a few very round pumpkins, huge squashes, onion bunches, the scale, some celery stalks, and, in place of Prévert’s raton laveur, a guinea pig with its own sign: “I’m a guinea pig, don’t touch me.”

This type of display may lead the customer to believe, or at least suggests to him, that he is buying lettuce or leeks directly from the person who patiently transplanted and hoed them. In reality, Roux’s fruits and vegetables come from the marché-gare (the section called le petit marché, used above all by producers who have only small quantities to sell), though he does have his “own” little producer, a neighbor of his in Pernes.

Very few growers sell fruit and vegetables directly on the Carpentras market. It should be recalled that the Comtat is a region not of small multi-item growers but of intensive, specialized farming for wholesale nationwide marketing. The surrounding farms have pleasure gardens, not vegetable gardens—lawns and flower beds that suggest second homes. Their owners have a Labrador or Siamese, not a barnyard full of hens or a rabbit hutch. The current state of Comtat agriculture is more accurately evoked on the market by the occasional stall selling one product only—unshippable “split” melons in the summer, for example. Here the seller, patently not a producer, rolls out his bulk item roughly and calls out to the customer to liquidate his stock as fast as possible. Paradoxically, selling a single product not by unit but by “lot,” a practice occasionally used by discounters for dishcloths or socks, does somewhat evoke the specialized-sections market of olden times that some Carpentras inhabitants still remember. Stalls with highly diversified products arrived here fairly recently.

Nothing is done to provide fruit and vegetable growers easier access to the stallholder market. I witnessed an interesting incident in this connection early in my research. During the winter, when the marché-gare is closed, a few producers had begun to go to Les Platanes on Fridays (where farmers used to sell their produce before the advent of the marché-gare) to sell lettuce they hadn’t been able to dispose of on the wholesale market. City hall decided to prohibit this because the producers had not requested spots. Clearly the producers weren’t looking to sell regularly on the market, just to use it occasionally to unload products that couldn’t wait until Monday.

There is only one local grower regularly present on the market; he is one of its most striking figures. Every Friday le père Jeanjean parks his little old two-horsepower van in front of the Palais de Justice and sets up his humble stand, a garden table laden with small bags of seeds: marmande or pierrette tomatoes, long Provence leeks, carrots, and the like. His weights and copper-plated two-tray scale are set behind the table on a crate. “I’ve been coming here forty years, in all weathers,” he repeats whenever you talk with him. “I’m of resistant temperament. When you love your work, you hang on.”

In reality, though Jeanjean is indeed a producer, he also runs a national-level business that exports all over the world. “We’re big producers of tomato seed,” he explains to me, “export markets primarily. We produce near on five tons of tomato seed—and just think of it: it takes a thousand kilos of tomatoes to get you four kilos of seed.” Under these conditions, selling on the market is “a pastime, a hobby,” as he himself acknowledges: “It’s my day out. I see all sorts of people I know, from here, from there. It’s a distraction for me.” Jeanjean is not there to do business. People come to see him to “chew the fat”: “I’ve got customers who are eighty-five years old still coming to get seeds for their gardens. They’re not big customers, but I’m telling you, if I’d recorded all the things that have been said around my stand…!”

Leaving his business to prosper under his son’s control, he continues to play the small producer on the market, one who has never made it and so can’t stop working. “The market is a presentation thing,” he says. He is also the old, experienced peasant ready to proffer all sorts of advice and counsel: “That’s the work of a real seed seller,” he explains. “Not only does he sell the stuff, he offers his ideas at the same time, assesses things in ways that people can’t usually do—that’s Père Jeanjean’s occupation.” He is fully conscious of playing his own character—“You’re always en représentation [playing to the audience] here, it’s a specialty of the Midi”—and also knows that as such, he’s a market attraction: “I’ve always been a figure on the market. There was a lady of nice appearance, and for several Fridays she stood in that corner over there watching, and then she’d leave. So one day I said to her, ‘And this good lady, what might she need?’ ‘I’m not a buyer,’ she answered, ‘but I come often just to listen to you speak, because it’s a mixture of Provençal, with a little French…’”

Paradoxically, then, the only real peasant on the market, the only stallholder selling directly to the consumer, is a fake merchant. He is there exclusively for his pleasure and that of others, not really to sell. In a way, he is the opposite of the occasional May ’68ers and other marginal presences selling their goat cheeses here and there—real producers of genuinely local products who have indeed come to sell them, but fake peasants. The two figures are two modes of the general practice of simulation that gives the market its touch of authenticity.

“Let me have some pâté, but your pâté”

Given the type of agriculture practiced in the region and city inhabitants’ multiple connections to the world of the countryside, only “vacationers” fall for the line that the garden lettuce or bush peaches were picked “just this morning.” While this does correspond to a conventional image of the market, it is not a serious selling point in Carpentras. “Homemade” products, though, are another story. Since people cannot really believe that the cabbages or artichokes Venturi sells were grown on his own land, they enjoy telling themselves that the charcutier makes his own sausage. They go to market in search of products sold directly by the producer as in bygone days, and that expectation has to be met one way or another.

In fact, one cannot really go to market without at least glancing at the multicolored beaded necklaces and slightly stiff western-style leather belts in the Passage Boyer, or being tempted by the small, makeshift stalls displaying a dozen small goat cheeses, a few small jars of honey, a little royal jelly, and five or six spice breads. Such stands are few, but they are scattered throughout the market, and all offer nearly identical products. Perhaps it is to them more than the other types of stalls that the market owes its overall character. Their handcraftedness is ostentatiously conveyed. On an extremely clean linen cloth laid over a rickety camp table, small quantities of two or three products are carefully positioned. Goat cheeses, which may be hard and dry, fresh and moist, demi-sec, or laid out in olive oil with a bay leaf or two; a few bottles of olive oil bearing a label of the sort once found on the cover of schoolchildren’s notebooks and here marked “cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil”; last, perhaps, a few sprigs of vervain, stalks of lavender, as if to show that all the treasures of the home producer are for sale here. A sign specifies a tiny locale of origin: “Ferme de Fonblanque, route de Mérindol, Faucon,” “Les granges, Montfroc,” “Campagne Redontiers, Murs.” This is both a guarantee of the product’s authenticity and an invitation to those who appreciate it to come and buy on site.

Occasionally, and with a redundancy at first surprising, a small handmade sign marked “raspberries for sale” is set next to three or four punnets of just that. This is a way of saying that the sellers are first and foremost country people, for whom trade is a secondary activity; that only after some hesitation have they decided to sell their produce rather than consume it themselves. Writing out “Honey” or “Apricot jam” in a pretty, round, almost childlike hand when there can be no doubt about the product’s identity lets the prospective customer know that what is on offer here has nothing to do with what she can get on supermarket shelves. The neatly glued-on label marked “Cornichons” guarantees that this is a homemade product prepared with loving care, a work signed by the author, one that calls up childhood images of a grandmother’s pantry cupboards or cellar shelves. Some labels go so far as to note that this is “genuine” beeswax or spice bread, in contradistinction to mass-produced substitutes. The spice bread’s genuineness inheres in its being made according to an old forgotten recipe—which the maker is only too happy to divulge should the customer show the slightest interest: half honey, half rye flour, natural spices….

To convey still more convincingly that the product is homemade, it is insinuated that the honey is from the vendor’s own beehives, that she herself has spun the wool for the sweaters or cut out the sandal leather. The presence of practicing craftspersons at the market—chair-bottomers, for instance—reinforces this illusion. In fact, though the product itself is handcrafted, the customer is not necessarily dealing with its maker; any direct relation between producer and buyer is exceptional today. At the solar watch seller’s stand in the Passage Boyer, the sign is there for all to see: “Atelier des Ormes, Le Barroux.” The vender confides that he didn’t make them himself; then, concerned to preserve his image, explains he buys them from “a friend.” And though we are quite willing to believe that Liliane Fresquet, whose stand in the Rue des Halles resembles those of the other goat cheese vendors like two peas in a pod, came down from the mountain to sell off her week’s production, in reality she lives in Avignon and also “does” L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Cavaillon, Vaison-la-Romaine, Salon, Nyons, and Marignane—for her boss, a producer in Bagnols who pays her by the month.

When there is no claim to offer exclusively homemade products, the vendor makes sure to position advantageously those that are. “In the food business, charcuterie and the like, there are still many who make their own products,” affirms Nicole Grossage, who may be assumed to know her market. “People want it because it’s homemade, whereas in the supermarkets everything comes wrapped in plastic—straight from the factory and that’s that! Here you’ve still got homemade hams and pâtés. In the city there’re almost none.’ In fact, from what the charcutiers at the market told me, very few of them make their own products anymore, but they do strive to meet customers’ expectations, even if that means letting them believe that what has actually been bought from wholesalers comes out of their own ateliers. As Delvaux explains with a touch of humor:

It’s important to people that we make our own products, so we have to lie. When I have them taste a pâté, they say, “Oh, it’s good, it’s really good!” If I don’t say I made it myself, they don’t think it’s as good. In the beginning I made almost everything myself, while trying to fill customer orders at the same time. That hurt me, obviously. Here I don’t make anything myself. It’d help if I had a shop, I could work in the back. But I don’t, so I started buying. In the beginning that raised a few eyebrows, but later people came and said, “All right, let me have some pâté, but your pâté, okay—homemade!” It wasn’t mine, I’d bought it at various places, so I’d say, “Here, this one is new, it’s a new recipe.” You cut off a bit, give them a taste. “You made it yourself?” “Yes, yes.” The product helps, but a bit of hype really makes it easier to put things over.

The enchanting thought of the charcutier behind his stove or the cheese vendor herding her goats up the slopes of Mont Ventoux does somewhat contradict the image of the stallholder as continually on the move—from one market to another. Doesn’t the customer’s illogic justify in advance all the little manipulations to hoodwink her? Moreover, it is a matter not so much of misleading the customer on quality as of staging the “market product”—precisely those products the customer has come in search of—through a number of presentational artifices. The stand is set up so that whatever is manifestly “homemade” is directly under the customer’s nose; e.g., stuffed tomatoes or peppers presented in a Provençal earthenware baking dish as if they’d just come out of the oven, in a way that suggests the same is true of all the other products, the big sausages hanging in bunches, for example, or the little ones strung like a rosary, which the vendor grabs with his whole hand when cutting them down, as if to evoke the movement practiced by the sausage maker. Other stallholders use similarly metonymic arrangement—ultimately more suggestive than deceptive. In the Rue des Halles, Vieini puts the fresh fromage blanc in its ceramic bowl and the farmhouse yogurts in little wax-paper-covered glass jars at the forefront of his display case. And in the Place de la Mairie, next to the truck stand where Jaquet sells salaisons, he sets up a little table laden with irregular-shaped breads. “Baked in a wood-burning oven” reads the sign.

To preclude the thought that the product might be industrially manufactured, close attention is paid to its appearance. It is good for blood sausages to be oddly shaped and andouillettes not to be all the same size. “Country pâté” should be coarse, with small chunks of unground meat showing. When handmade products look imperfect, the contrast with the regularity of mass-produced ones is sharper. The hope is that the saucisses de Francfort, objectively indistinguishable from the vacuum-packed version piled into supermarket cases, will look better if positioned not too far from slightly clumsy, flour-dusted ravioli. Next to Dannon yogurts and bottles of Yoplait sits the fougeru cheese with its fern frond, the brie de Meaux on its straw mat, the rush-encircled livarot—all reassuring signs of rural authenticity that work to ward off any agro-industry images: they would be so out of place here!

How the product is handled in transfer from seller to buyer also counts. The very fact of selling butter "loose" off a big mound, cutting the beaufort or tomme cheese off a wedge from the wheel, evokes vacations in rustic rented cottages or the cowshed discovered off a turn in a path through mountain pastureland. The “market product” includes the set of gestures and discourse that accompany the transaction. With small successive touches, the vendor intimates his intimate knowledge of the merchandise, which thereby becomes a rare, unique object to which such things as pasteurized cheese and cellophane-wrapped cold cuts are utterly alien. Vieini the cheese man offers a taste of his saint-nectaire, recommends the comté today rather than the emmenthal, indicates a perfectly ripe coulommiers, guarantees that the bleu de Causses is just right, reassures an ignorant customer: “No, no, the maroilles is not too strong!” Such familiarity with the merchandise is more than a mere selling point; it’s an indirect way of affirming that these are indeed his cheeses, that though he assuredly did not handle the milk they’re made of, he has perhaps meticulously overseen the ripening process in his cellars. When you ask him for a “good” reblochon and he peels back wrapping paper on which one may read “Reblochon des Aravis” against a background of snowy mountain peaks, when he pinches it gently with a satisfied air and has you appreciate its soft springiness, how can you not imagine that he has his regular small purveyors, and that they in turn regularly visit a few old, isolated, dark-wood Savoyard chalets in the far-flung reaches of the Vallée du Grand-Bornand, like those pictured on post office calendars? Like the others, Jaquet probably buys his salaisons from wholesalers. But to watch him lovingly slice a few thin rounds of saucisse sèche or rosette de Lyon and pass them around—“which costs me!” he notes—commenting all the while on their respective virtues, how can you not believe that he has somehow had a hand in their making? Questioned on this point, he is determined to play the game through to the end: “A friend in the Ardèche makes them for me.”

Delvaux actually does make some of what he sells: “Pork sausage, merguez, country pâté, head cheese, various types of boudin, boudin à la viande—there you have it, not so bad!” He must nonetheless play the part of charcutier. In checkered smock and capacious white apron, he recommends his “specialty”—snail brioche—to a hesitant customer, explains his recipe for spinach pie, and keeps to himself the little “thing” that makes his rabbit pâté so very tasty.

Copyright notice: Excerpt from pages 109-121 of Market Day in Provence by Michèle de La Pradelle, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2006 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press. (Footnotes and other references included in the book may have been removed from this online version of the text.)

Michèle de La Pradelle
Market Day in Provence
Translated by Amy Jacobs. Foreword by Jack Katz.
©2006, 264 pages, 12 halftones, 2 maps
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 0-226-14184-5

For information on purchasing the book—from bookstores or here online—please go to the webpage for Market Day in Provence.

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