I love a good market. Farmer’s market, indoor market, or heck–even a really well-laid-out Whole Foods. Anywhere that high-quality food is laid out in an attractive, welcoming manner is a place that calls me, much like off-brand Mexican cheez puff snacks call to Liz Lemon on “30 Rock”: “I want to go to there.” Les Halles market in Avignon is one such fabulous market, although I’m sure Freud would have a field day with my fevered love for a place that showcases saucisson so prominently.
We had plans to buy a big bag of food and then take it to the park for lunch; the only difficulty we had was deciding where to start. Sausages? Cheeses? Fruits? Something sweet for after lunch; macarons, perhaps? We ignored all of those and decided to start elsewhere: the spices. We were in the market for a few gifts for family, and I can think of no better gift for people who like to bake chicken than a pouch of herbs de Provence. We were met with the following display:
Is that not gorgeous? I hesitate to say “Oh, my…” because of the horrible, horrible 50 Shades of Grey association, but…oh, my. What an incredible sensory buffet. Beautiful colors! Everyday favorites with a little twist, like pink salt flavored with roses! Peppercorns in rainbow colors! Oh-so-special rarities! I’m getting flushed just thinking about it.
We spent entirely too much money on spices that came in long glass tubes stopped with corks, which have gone a long way to both improving our meals at home and giving our spice rack–populated with McCormick–a little continental dignity.
Next, led by our noses to a rather ripe-smelling counter, we got a little education about Provencal cheese. The region is known for goat cheese, tangy chevres served plain and others served in oils and herbs. Bless her heart, my three-year-old can devour an entire wheel of chevre on her own, so we bought three. Why not? It’s vacation! Stinky cheese for all! On top of some fresh pears and some bulging (there we go, Freud) saucisson? Delicious, and we got a stack of macaron cookies to finish it off. The only thing we didn’t get was wine–outdoor drinking in the hot sun of mid-day would be a fabulous vacation indulgence, but with two little kids to chase we had to bow to responsibility. Stupid responsibility.
I said going into this trip that I didn’t want to get too bogged down visiting things and seeing different sights–I wanted to get lost in the full Provencal sensory experience. Les Halles was my gateway to a languid afternoon soaking up sunshine, the music of the French language, and tasting the brilliant flavors of southern France.