Feast for the Nose and Eyes — Street Markets in Paris, May 23 2014
Bakery Rue Mouffetard May 2014
Street markets abound! Suddenly, tents mushroom where there were none before. And then, for a morning or a day, a feast for the eyes, nose, and taste buds continually entices passers-by to stop, examine, be drawn in by a friendly greeting and the gift of a bag in which to put selected items to be weighed and purchased.
Several days ago – at the end of last week, actually – we had purchased at one of the regularly held neighborhood street markets wonderful fresh produce and prepared foods to provide us with several beautiful lunches and a dinner at home.
Then yesterday, we wanted to go to a larger market a little further from home. But we got out of the house too late to see most of the temporary booths. However, the street that hosted that market was an extremely narrow (maybe 5 feet across, tops) medieval street lined on both sides with shops whose fronts were open to the street. As we made our way along, I became aware that many shops were announced first by the tantalizing fragrances that greeted my nose. The cheese shop’s pungent blend of ripe goat and cow cheeses drew my eyes immediately to the beautiful twenty foot long display of different shapes and colors of cheeses, from little round full cheeses barely 2 inches across, with thick crusts, to huge wheels of cheddar or Swiss hard cheeses.
And then we came to the organic fruit stand. Oh, my! First our eyes lighted upon 10 feet of fresh cherries piled high, surrounded by peaches, apricots, nectarines, “nefles” (whatever they are – kinda sour. We decided after our first trial that we’d leave those alone). And the strawberries! Several feet of containers of perfectly shaped, ruby red, perfectly ripe berries, with an irresistible fragrance (and flavor.). We entered the store to pay for our selection of fruit, and just wanted to linger, to enjoy the symphony of sweet, aromatic perfumes. Strawberries, raspberries, small sweet melons – the “fruits of love” – along with peaches and apricots, all smelled forth at a perfect pitch of ripeness.
Further along, the sausage shops added their pungent array of herbal smells to the harmony we had already enjoyed. These smelled like the brass members of the olfactory orchestra.
And even the chocolate and nougat shops added a grace note of sugary sweetness to the atmosphere of the market street.
We reached the end with a deep feeling of satisfaction, having inhaled deeply, savored the complementary harmonies of ripe, assertive smells, and felt somehow complete. It dawned on me that in the US this component of smell is dramatically lacking from our experiences of purchasing food. I regretted this lack in the completeness of our sensory palette as Americans. The addition of wonderful smells to a walk down the street will provide an unexpected richness to savor as we bring memories home with us at the end of this visit to Paris.
Fruit market, Rue Mouffetard, May 2014