Produce in Paris: Red, Green, and In-Between Pears (Poires)
September 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
On Friday mornings there is a pretty big outdoor market just a two-minute walk from my apartment. This was my second visit, though it will definitely be a weekly occurrence. Somehow I end up spending an hour or more at the market, trying to figure out how the lines work, when I am allowed to pick my own products and when I have to ask for what I want, which vendor to buy which product from when they all look so fresh and beautiful. I try to price compare but I can never remember what I saw where or how much it cost so I usually end up selecting a vendor based on various criteria, either how friendly and helpful they are, or how many customers they have, or if they have a particularly beautiful product or something that I have not seen elsewhere, or some combination of all those factors.
This morning, the first stall I passed was mobbed with people and I knew it had not been there the past week. The prices seemed low and the line-selection-purchase process was organized and clear. And a sign advertised the vendors as the farmers, meaning straight from land to table, irresistible indeed. So I joined the line, then decided what I wanted as I went. First, pears, a kilo, a mix of the three different varieties they were selling. Then, a demi (one-half kilo) of the delicious French small green plum, the reine-claude. Finally, everyone was asking for a particular type of apple, so I ordered two just to see what all the fuss was about.
What I ended up most appreciating about this vendor was not only the obvious freshness of the products, but the care and familiarity with which they sold their fruit. For example, when I asked for a mix of pears as all were the same price, the vendor warned me that the small red ones were very ripe, I could only buy them if I promised to eat them today. I promised. Then, with the reine-claudes, he warned me that they were not quite ripe yet and that I had to wait. That kind of connection to the food you are selling, to care that much about what the experience of your customer is going to be, raises the entire food buying and consuming process to a new level of pleasure.
Back to the pears. Pears are not usually one of my favorite fruits. They are too often mealy, not that sweet, with tough skin, and end up being unsatisfying taste-wise while making a drippy sticky mess when you try to eat them. But as soon as I saw these I really wanted them. Within three hours of returning from the market I have already eaten two. They are perfect. Ripe, soft but not melting, sweet and juicy, and I think that they look quite beautiful and appealing in the bowl.