It’s market day. The small village market place in the Pyrénées-Orientales springs into life as the crowd gathers in front of the stalls. The fruit scents mingle, the colours blend together, the tourists and locals stroll around, watching, comparing, or heading to a pitch with which they are familiar.
Multi-coloured table grapes and sun-drenched apricots attract the aficionados. “It’s the Roussillon red”, says the seller, “it’s great, go on, try some“. The young mother tastes and, once convinced, fills a basket to have it weighed. She then hesitantly looks at the peaches: Will it be those from Costières in the Gard or those from the Pyrénées? White or yellow? She ends up buying a bit of both and gives a try to their rivals too: the juicy, chubby and colourful nectarines.
Next to her, other hands are already reaching out to the coveted fruits. Apples, apricots, nectarines, pears and tomatoes are filling the bag. A natter starts between the customers… “Plums are nice, I’m going to make a clafoutis” … “I only make a cherry clafoutis especially with cherries from Céret, not far from here! I’ll have to give it a try, but I prefer spring fruits, especially strawberries.
Later on, half a watermelon plays a seductive part in exposing its ruby coloured flesh. Along with melon, this impressive fruit is symptomatic of refreshing starters. In front of the mound of melons, people exchange their opinions about choosing the tastiest fruit. “You have to weigh it, it must be heavy” … “You have to count the rings“… “You have to look at the halo around the stalk…”. And what about watermelon? “Tap it”, said an old man, “it should sound hollow.” The advice on the market is abundant; you just have to find the right one…
The dealer cuts a fig in half to reveal its main feature “go on, have a look at the lovely figs, they have ripened in the sun…” It’s true that they are appetising. We think of them being wonderfully sweet and melting in the mouth. The fig, an iconic fruit of the South, is the emblem of the village of Vézenobres at the foot of the Cévennes, and has a number of features which are not only associated with fine gastronomy: it is excellent for your health, just like grapes and kiwi fruit, so abundant in the orchards of Roussillon. Having been won over, the customer chooses some, neither too firm, nor too ripe, and left – accompanied by some tasting tips from the seller.