June 23, 2012
On a bright morning in late June we wind through the narrow streets of Perpignan’s pedestrian shopping district looking for the elusive place de la République and the Saturday Farmers Market of all organic products. Finally, turning the corner there it was, a small cluster of stands huddled together in the oversized square. “This can’t be it. Perpignan is the largest city in the department.” But it was.
Closer examination revealed a wide range of organically grown local produce and a few specialty stalls such as Pain d’Eric (Eric’s Bread), selling my new favorite campaillou – a moist rustic sourdough cooked in a super-sized loaf and sold by the kilo. It keeps well in the freezer and makes a great bread salad.
Vendors are surprisingly chatty. A discussion at the charcuterie stand starts with casual questions about what we are doing in Perpignan, takes a tour around the various merits of the regions and his cousin in Michigan before landing on the beaches of Normandy. It’s amazing how many Frenchmen still bring up World War II when talking to Americans. Although it was long before my time, the positive recognition is still nice to hear.
As he wraps up our purchase of thinly sliced smoked lean pork tenderloin, he explains that it should be served with a drizzle of good olive oil and hands us a package of cocktail olives to go with it. Happy to get some good French practice in we pick up a few additional items, including olive oil, and walk back through the streets of Perpignan quite content with the morning’s market experience.