The Soul Mate of ChèvreThis will be the last post of Lille I promise you--yes I have been back in Paris for a near week now, but in reality there could never be enough time, space, or patience to do justice to any one city. And yes, I have made many a post on the outdoor market--Munich, Koln, Aix, but this one is actually in France--how bout that! So say adieu to Lille through the crowded walkways of the immense and permanent market of Wazemmes, a weekend ritual for many in the northern French town since the turn of the century.
The 'downtown' center of Lille is split into three districts that have existed since the medieval era: Fives, Old Lille, and Wazemmes. The preserved antiquity of Lille is apparent through the lose cobblestones that keep you on your toes, and the omnipresent mal-odor that seeps through the stone walls, alleys, and streets of old Lille. Fine, sewer smell. The market that bears its locations name is opens its indoor and outdoor stalls and booths on and around rue Gambetta every Monday, Thursday, and Sunday to produce and bargain seekers both local and on the tourist track. Inside the covered Halles de Wazemmes one finds the assortment of shops found on any Parisian or French street--though all in one place. the crémerie, bucherie, poissonnerie, fromagerie, boulangerie, pâtisserie--as well as your specialty organic honey and--gasp--organic gluten free shop! Though there was no cod to be found bathing on the ice of the fishing stalls, the assortment of dressed chèvre for snacking (goat cheese) found in the windows of the fromagerie stalls has changed my entire outlook on the use of the curds.
While I adore goring on little morsels plain and pure, or accompanying a salad or slice of apple--these snacks give flair to any idea of "party cheese". Small slices or balls of goat cheese are rolled in a plethora of varying treats--from dried fruits ranging from golden raisins, pinapples, and tropical fruits, to crushed hazelnut, diced shallot, ground peppercorns--any small delight that will stick--then placed in a small cupcake sized wrapper, et voila! The cocktail party appetizer of the century. To wander the market with one in tow makes the experience all that more enjoyable, a French market, eating a ball of goat cheese rolled in dried pineapple--vive la France. Goat cheese and dried fruits were made for each other. I am starting to miss Mora's Goat Cheese & Fig ice cream.
The crowded outdoor alleys proffer as good a bounty as the indoor halles, though may the claustrophobic be warned, for the old-world market style comes alive in the pushing grunting throng of shoppers eager to get in out and eating. The Chances are your feet will be crushed, and sides poked and jammed by shopping bags and protruding baguettes. The produce vendors aid the chaos with their ear piercing cries of prices, bargains, and deals. The shear volume of imported fruit, local vegetables, hot roasting chickens dripping on electric spits, honeys, jams, and rustic breads galore is overwhelming for the first-time marketer (and short people, poor M). Easily passing over 100 varying vendors of non-edible items, their wares including bargain clothing, shampoos, jewelry, imports from china, India, and Turkey, antique vendors, and, anything and everything one could find at a garage sale. The flower row catches one on the descent, a last item to juggle amongst all of the purchases.
What, you ask, did I purchase--2 mangoes, 3 apricots, 7 lychees, 1 pear, 2 nectarines, an eggplant, goat cheese covered in dried pineapples, and a bag of gluten free granola. Let me lose in a market, and--well let anyone loose in a market and they will buy things. Conversing with salespeople what and how many you wish for is not only an amusing activity, but an opportunity greater than the classroom to practice language. When asked why, out of the myriad fish offered, there was no cod to be found, the monger replied "what would you want that for?" Well, the French do have their downfalls, I never said they were perfect.
Adieu Lille, I leave you; your markets, ancient streets, goat cheese, northern accents, jellied meats, and Brazilian themed restaurants until next time we meet.