Green market economy

Farmers markets are an institution in Paris. It is particularly during the asparagus season that Mademoiselle Lili grabs her rolling shopping bag and sets off for her favourite markets to soothe her culinary homesickness.

Between Bastille and Nation there’s a little piece of Paris where you can experience the rare but beautiful feeling of being alone among Parisians. The 12th Parisian arrondissement scores points for its charm rather than its sights. Now that the first stems of asparagus are poking their heads out of the earth in the South of France, every weekend I head there on foot with my rolling shopping bag. The delicious spring vegetable is underappreciated in France. While the whole of Germany is crazy about asparagus right now, in Parisian supermarkets it’s as hard to find as truffles. And because I don’t want to miss out on certain culinary traditions, I have to go to the farmers market to get asparagus.

For me Marché d’Aligre (Place d’Aligre) is the loveliest market in the whole of Paris. Like a little village in itself. The old indoor market halls are open all week, from Tuesday to Sunday, but it is only on the weekends that the whole neighbourhood meets here. “Bobo” families, the Parisian abbreviation for Bohème bourgeoise, which is roughly translated as hipster, come here to buy politically correct fruit and vegetables and mingle with old-established inhabitants and migrants from all countries of the world. Inside there are organic vegetables and all kinds of French delicacies. Outside there is a flea market and other stalls where chattering groups of people push their way through or stop for a chat. Once my shopping caddy is full, I stand in line in Baron Rouge (1, Rue Théophile Roussel) like everybody else. Every Saturday and Sunday, the landlord Bernard picks up oysters, the catch of the morning from a Breton oyster farmer he trusts. This is so popular that the ingenious landlord has built his own prehistoric looking guillotine to quickly and effectively open the molluscs instead of using his hand and a knife. Whoever desires can also accompany these with a bottle of fine wine (champagne is only 40 euros a bottle) from his wine bar and have a talk with God and the world at the standing tables inside and outside.

In the meantime, I can also make my vegetarian friends happy at the market: nothing is butchered in Boucherie Végétarienne (15, rue d’Aligre). Here there are soy burgers and steaks that you can take home or eat there.Another of my favourite destinations is the indoor Marché des Enfants Rouges (39, Rue de Bretagne) hidden in a backyard in the trendy northern part of the Marais district. The oldest market in Paris is named after the former orphanage where the children used to wear red uniforms. There are a few stalls with fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, cheese and charcuterie, but today this is above all a street food destination. All the world’s flavours are under one roof: You can eat a cheap yet decent Japanese, Moroccan, Lebanese, African or Italian meal at colourful tables. The lamb tajine with plums and couscous is particularly recommended. Or the Poulet Yassa from the African vendor. And, my beloved asparagus is waiting for me back home.