Slideshow: Market Scene: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Provencal Pottery
Provencal Pottery

More than once, the deep, rich colors of the local pottery suckered me into a purchase. The reds displayed here glinted in the sunlight; the deep greens of mugs nearby were reminiscent of the pale grasses of the local landscape. The thick, strong shapes seem as if they might survive anything—years in a French farmhouse, or even the rough and tumble world of my kitchen.

Oysters
Oysters

The late Mike Voisin, a seventh-generation oysterman, once told me that everybody’s favorite oysters are the ones from the region in which they grew up. I bought that, right up until I tasted these. The briny oysters slipped into my mouth like a clean ocean wave, forcing me to admit that maybe, just maybe, France wins the oyster competition.

Sea Urchins
Sea Urchins

For whatever reason, we associate sea urchin with Japanese and Italian food, so I was somewhat surprised to spot these spiky specimens in Southern France. April is the tail end of the season, so we were lucky to catch a glimpse of them before they disappear for the summer.

Potatoes Provencal
Potatoes Provencal

Add olives, peppers, and spices to just about anything, and you can call it Provençal, but rarely does it work better than with potatoes. A batch for breakfast is about as local as it gets, served warm from a bag that says it all: “Bon appétit.”

Garlic and Salt Cod
Garlic and Salt Cod

A pair of more typically Mediterranean foods might be hard to come by. Dried salt cod is a staple pantry ingredient that can end up as a dip with potatoes (brandade), a tart with tomatoes, or matched with olives and peppers. Regardless of preparation, chances are you'll find it paired with its partner in crime—a flavorful dose of sweet, pungent garlic.

Mammoth Vegetables
Mammoth Vegetables

There must be something special in the Provençal air, because it's some sort of magic that grows vegetables this big. Each pepper was the length of my forearm, each cabbage the size of a basketball.

Morel Mushrooms
Morel Mushrooms

Morel season was just getting started, so the pickings were slim: just a handful of light, early season mushrooms.

White Asparagus
White Asparagus

Asparagus season, on the other hand, is well underway. The tender vegetables were in full bloom, overflowing at every stand, in every color. Green, purple, and the much celebrated white, kept underground so that every ounce of their nutrients goes to flavor, not color.

Olive Stand
Olive Stand
A good rule of thumb at French markets: if there’s a line, you want to be in it. For the most part, the crowds weren’t too bad, but there wasn’t a second this olive stand wasn’t mobbed. Samples were passed down the line, and sure enough, the bright cured lemons, the bold, salty olives, and the sweet, oil-soaked dried tomatoes had the tasters swooning.
Comte Cheese
Comte Cheese
Less stinky but no less enticing was the giant wheel of Comte. The vendor sliced off tiny slivers with his giant knife, doling out samples to passersby.
Sausages
Sausages
The sheer variety of dried sausages alone was enough to convince me that it was time to find a way to make this my weekly market. Traditional charcuterie flavors were tucked alongside specialty mixtures: duck, chantrelle mushroom, hazelnut, and so many more.
Tortillette Sausage
Tortillette Sausage
Also, in a variety of shapes and sizes. Clearly this pig-tail corkscrew was my favorite.