Let’s get one thing straight, I love France, their whole obsession with produce and the ease with which they display it and the preparation of food, is a constant source of wonderment to me.
The very best way to experience this, as in most cultures, is to visit a French market. I’ve been visiting the Saturday morning market in St Omer for a few years now and this weekend made the special trip to celebration Spring, have lunch and source some delicious delicacies for the larder.
Although it requires a 6.00am start – it’s easy enough to trip over via the Euro Tunnel and be in St Omer by 11.00am leaving plenty of time to get a coffee and crossaint before hitting the farmers market. St Omer is in the rural heart of Nord Pas de Calais – a thriving market town it has a charming bustling atmosphere and it’s one of those places overlooked when passing through, at only 40 minutes from Calais or the Tunnel sur Manche it’s not considered a destination for many – but that would mean missing out on so much.
The imposing cathedral and Hotel de Ville overlooks the main Flemish market square – the ancient architecture and tiny charming alleyways with their great cafes and restaurants make this an ideal place to be based to visit this whole area – or like me, just dip in and enjoy the busiest day of the week!
At the Saturday morning market, small producers come from all around the surrounding area, offering a huge range of regional food with a distinctly Flemish flavour- saussison of every flavour – with figs, hazelnuts, peppercorns and more, delicious fresh cheeses, including the local speciality Maroilles and Camembaert, artisan charcuterie, fruit and vegetables of the season (St Omer is famous for its cauliflowers!) – all so beautifully laid out it’s a feast for the eye.
For me one of the great pleasures of this market is a stroll along the tiny pedestrian alley on the south east corner of the square called Rue Louis Martel, for it is here that the small holders and local farmers gather –
with their tiny wooden tables, each one laden with a small array of their select produce they are selling that week – bunches of early rhubarb, half a dozen duck eggs, jars of confiture and honey, home made butter, strings of garlic,
bags of home dried flageolets.
Here the old ways are kept alive and well. I’m delighted to see septuagenarian, Madame Oefs de Canard, I buy her last string of firm French onions and a fabulous bunch of baby leeks before moving on to the next stall to get the first rhubarb of the year. Round courgettes, chicory, water cress and fennel, heritage tomatoes – time to stop now…
and go for lunch
St Omer Market is open every Saturday morning from 8.00am – 1.00pm
Once home I unpack…