I don’t think I’ve seen this in Malvern Village, Adelaide.
The owner was such a lovely man and so proud when I asked if I could photograph his dog.
But that pooch, the snarl scared the crap out of me.
Thrills and spillage in the home of Kat (& Benjamin Darnault Wines) in Minervois, South of France
Le Jardin de Valerie
Back towards Pierre and Laetitia, on the same side is Valerie’s ‘garden’…
‘Le Jardin de Valerie’ is the one of the most enticing stands… Her tables are lined with beautiful baskets laden with luminous green salads, rocket, mini broccolis, mini cabbages, shiny yellow ‘courgettes’/ zucchinis, celeriac, the best potatoes I’ve eaten in a long time and an enticing array of home-made ‘gelees’ and confitures (jams). The jelly made of muscat is a beautiful accompaniment to a chunk of aged ‘brebis’/ sheep’s milk (where are you Vincent?!?… your Brebis de Napoleon was the one of the best cheeses we’ve ever had. You are missed at the markets!).
It’s not officially ‘organic’ produce, but Valerie’s principles are the same – cultivation with full respect for the environment, minimal water use and ‘lutte biologique’/ biological pest control. Compared to a lot of other fruit and vegetable producers you see at the markets, it’s by no means a big stand but in this scale, I’m reminded that all these beautiful vegetables are the product of one woman’s dedication and energy. Having visited Valerie’s ‘potagers’ (vegetable gardens) during an open day late last Summer, I was in awe at seeing the size of the whole thing, knowing that she maintained all of it herself (5 acres), and how much land you need to work to provide for a market stall, let alone your own weekly provisions! For her it’s a 7 day a week job from early morning till dark, but judging by her face she couldn’t be happier.
It’s been nearly two years since Valerie quit her job at the local paper and became a full-time grower and her enthusiasm for her produce is infectious. While I’m glancing over all the varieties of vegetables she’s always ready to share ideas for dishes she’s cooked at home with the same produce. She grows around 40-50 different varities of vegetables, including many ancient varities that you don’t see anymore in the supermarkets. I love buying her baby cabbages and the tiny heads of ‘mini’ broccolis and it’s the first time I’ve ever cooked with vegies like this. The flavours are so sweet and concentrated.
Her plans are ever expanding, she’s very excited about the large orchard recently planted of organic fruit trees which will help contribute to her jellies and jams.
I love shopping at the markets. I’m not able to find absolutely everything to stock the cupboards like I can in the supermarket, but its rewarding to get to know producers like Valerie, Pierre, Jacques and Laetitia and chat about how and why they do what they do.
These people usually have huge smiles on their faces – no matter how cold or hot or early in the morning – and you can see their satisfaction from selling their produce direct to the consumer. It’s also great exchanging recipe ideas and even just talking about the weather. Something we do a lot of around here!
One of the great things about living where we do, is the access to good produce. The Mediterranean climate allows for almost anything to be grown, and more and more I’m trying to buy locally from people I get to know at the local village markets.
The Olonzac market, one of the biggest in our area, is held every Tuesday morning until about 1pm. You can find almost anything: fruit, vegies, pastries, breads, meats, fish, flowers, fresh coffee, cheeses, olives, local honey, wine, ready-made asian dishes from the guy with his own personal dvd collection on loop in his van (Lilas’ favourite)… those hard to find ingredients for ‘exotic’ cuisine such as lemongrass, coriander and chilies and then there’s your zippers, hats, bras, oversized undies, slippers, kitchen utensils, Indian dresses, incense, second-hand books, army surplus clothing, jewellery… it’s endless.
This market is growing in size each year and in full Summer has traffic jams of people, carts and pushers down the bottleneck streets – you should try pushing a pusher through this mass…
There’s Pierre with his bread. You can spot him from a mile off, with his old van and black wool beret. He’s like a character from a film – and his organic bread is of the old, sourdough rustic style. He takes his time, nearly always a big smile on his face and an open pot of honey on his table to spread on his breakfast ‘pain’. And there’s always his thermos of hot coffee and tin mug ready for dipping. Pierre’s bread is the sort that you can keep for a week – not at all your light, airy baguette, but a full, wholesome loaf that is just divine toasted with butter and Vegemite.
Just up from Pierre is Laetitia, the young girl who a lot of the year has only her free-range eggs to sell. She has a tiny stand but always many people jostling around her. Throughout the year she sells apples, onions, potatoes, and in full summer has mountains of cheap tomatoes, nectarines, grapes, peaches and a queue leading back for miles. You have to be quick – her tomatoes can sell out by 9.30am.
Towards the roundabout on your left are the people selling THAT saucisson (salami)… ‘Mont Charvin’. The one that costs an arm and a leg, full of beautiful chunks of bright green pistachios. It’s a small investment buying even just one of their products, but once you’ve tasted the difference, you can’t buy supermarket salami again. In general I buy a lot less saucisson now, but boy do we enjoy the ’50 centimes slices’ when they’re around. By chance, I got to meet Jacques, the maker of this wonderful product the other day. I was thrilled to be able to tell him how much we loved his ‘salted meats’ and hear his story of how he and his brother-in-law, once butchers in Paris, settled down south and built a company from scratch offering a range of products made in the Savoie region of France, using no additives or preservatives.
But before I stop by the saucisson stand, I head quickly for Valerie’s before she runs out of vegetables…
(to be continued, part 2)