The best thing about being in France, if you are a foodie, is going to the fresh food markets. J’aime bien ça! It kinda reminds of the fresh food markets in Singapore that I used to go to with my mother when I was a child, only wet markets in the days of ole Singapore were not as orderly as the ones here in France and definitely also not as quiet. Asian markets tend to be very noisy, with stall owners shouting out their wares and prices, housewives elbowing each other out of the way and haggling down prices. That of course was how I remember markets to be when I was a child. But, of course, the prices are now fixed and vendors no longer encourage haggling of any sorts.
In Honfleur, Normandie, not far from Deauville, we arrived into town, greeted by the usual tourists and unusual glorious weather for April. It didn’t take the Italian long to find a parking area where we left the car and contents of last night’s stay over at Deauville. We’d spent the day at the beach yesterday, soaking in the sun, eating moules et frites in a seafood restaurant right on the promenades des planches, taking a stroll up and down the said promenade lined with cabins where the French store all their beach paraphernalia.
It being Saturday the day we arrived in Honfleur, the market was in town. French marchés are not daily occurrences, some markets are opened on Wednesdays and Saturdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays. Vendors tend to move around to optimise sales and serve different towns and villages. But Saturdays are very common market days. And we were very fortunate to be in Honfleur that Saturday. The town centre is situated on the southern bank of the estuary of the river Seine in the Calvados region of Normandy. The port of Honfleur is flanked by picturesque houses with slate covered fronts. Many artists have painted this port, one being Claude Monet. Look at this:
We took a leisurely stroll along the marina soaking up the sunshine and taking photographs. RN with her camera, the Italianwith his and me, with my iphone. SS had decided to let her heart take the pictures because her camera had run out of batteries. As a child, she and I used to play this game – “take a picture with your heart” as digital cameras were not yet the accessories to have. If I remember correctly, if they were available, they were very expensive or they haven’t been invented yet. In any case, SS and I would take a picture with our hearts whenever we saw something we wanted etched into our memories. So on that very lovely sunny day, we both did exactly that. Only I cheated every now and then, and whipped my iphone out. Here’s a pic I took of a slate fronted house:
The previous pharmacist in the days of yore had used the front of his practice to advertise the remedy for sea sickness. I thought it added an extra element of quaintness to this already pretty and quaintly unique town.
Walking up the street where this pharmacy was located, we found yet another market – this time where the vendors were selling fruit and veg, meat and fish. It seems that the market in Honfleur extends from the marina, where one can buy stripy sailor T-shirts, shoes and sandals and all things not related to food, up along the hill towards the old church.
The food market was buzzing. Smelly cheeses assaulted my nose. Colourful vegetables and fruits met my eyes. I saw a woman with only a table for a stall, selling oyster mushrooms that came attached to a very big sponge:
I thought of creamy mushroom risotto, a mélange of mushrooms stir fried with oyster sauce. I could go on but my eyes caught something else – white asparagus. These ones sat beautifully bundled up in a crate and they had purple tips:
I love white asparagus. The season only lasts a very short time and I like the milder taste of the white ones compared to their green cousins. Unfortunately, I didn’t purchase any this time because we still had the whole day ahead of us. I held this sight in my heart, even though I’d taken a photo of it. And when we returned to Paris, the first thing I did was to head off to the green grocers to get some white asparagus, totally inspired by the purple tipped ones I had seen. This was what I cooked:
I am not a fan of hollandaise sauce which is the natural condiment accompanying this vegetable. So I whipped up a sauce of olive oil, white balsamic vinegar and lime. To balance out the flavour, I also added sugar to the mixture, making the vinaigrette somewhat sour/sweet. This took away the tartness caused by the lime juice (I used only half a lime). I grated some lime zest over the asparagus before pouring the sauce over them. Yummmmms!!! And they went so well with the stew I had made for dinner that night.
Back to Honfleur. It was nearing lunch time and the kids were hungry. We were fired up to look for a restaurant asap – hungry kids have to be fed promptly before grumpiness and temper tantrums set in causing much grief to the parents. Luckily for us, the saucisson man came to our rescue, providing the respite that we needed. Here we bought the girls some petites saucissons to keep their hunger at bay. These dried sausages came in the width and length of a pencil, easy to hold and eat and can be consumed immediately – the perfect snack for hungry children fast approaching grouchy levels. Monsieur Saucisson said that they were flavoured with walnut.
Personally, I couldn’t taste the walnut although the Italian did on the third time. Perhaps it was his excuse to eat another one, kawan kawan since salami are his favourite most things to eat next to pizzas. Nonetheless, these saucissons were goooood! The meat was dry cured, not greasy or chewy and pas trop fort in taste. I liked them, like I like Lap Cheong – Chinese dried sausages – which are sweeter and waxier but very tasty in Fried Rice. When I was little, my mom used to add them to omelettes. Those were good dried-sausage eating days, kawan kawan. How I miss them.
The kids happier, we then took our time to find a perfect restaurant. I wanted seafood but SS wanted crêpes. Oh, what to do? What to do? Do I do the self less mother thing and let a teenager dictate what we eat or do I do the selfish mother- knows-best thing and choose seafood? Stay tuned for more, kawan kawan!