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Elizabeth David

Cycling Europe

A Week in Provence Part 2: Battle of the Farmers Markets

On our third day we freewheeled into Barjols for a visit to the market. I had read about the markets in the south of France in books by Elizabeth David, the English equivalent of Julia Child. And in Los Angeles, a chef acquaintance of mine used to talk about how these markets were the only ones she had ever been to that were better than the Santa Monica farmers markets. I had expectations.

The market was in a small square off the main road (where I spotted the woman in the photo reading). It was petite, just four stands. There was a handsome man selling handsome melons from Fox-Amphoux and another with stacks of gleaming eggplants, red peppers, and perfectly imperfect blush coloured tomatoes. Opposite was a stand specializing in goats cheese, each crotin hand decorated with either golden raisins, fresh herbs, or pink and black peppercorns. And finally there was the elderly lady tending her long table of almond biscuits in shades of pastel that matched the houses and shutters. The market was small but perfectly formed, and yet all I could think of was how the Santa Monica farmers markets spilled out for blocks, dwarfing this. And you could get chilaquiles. Husband was rubbing off on me.

I spent the afternoon by the pool finishing a mystery novel set in Marseilles, the kind of thing you are supposed to do on vacation. Husband lasted about an hour poolside before he retired to our stuffy room to text R&R with tips about their imminent vacation to — where else? — California.