Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Market Day In Sens

Monday Morning, September 11, 2006: Following a breakfast of pains au chocolate and baguettes with butter and honey gathered on the estate of Chateau du Fey, we set out for the nearby town of Sens, passing plowed fields, neatly manicured gardens and shuttered cottages with lace curtains. Sens sits on the river L’yonne and was once a major ecclesiastical center. The primary structure is La Cathedrale Saint Etienne de Sens, a soaring house of worship with bright red doors and formidable hinges, ornate stained glass and flocks of pigeons. Construction began around the year 1130. While there is hardly a soul within the cathedral, there is great activity across the plaza.

Our first stop is the covered market where local fruits, vegetables, meat and fish are sold on Monday and Friday. We are told that market day is, in fact, a social event in the village and women even dress up to meet and chat with friends as they select fresh produce for the week. We step into the domed marketplace and people are everywhere, carefully examining fresh produce, many engaged in lively and intense conversations. It is clear to see that agriculture, food and produce is a communal event in the Burgundy valley.

The produce is perfection – ropes of garlic roasted the color of caramel, white and red radishes neatly stacked, earthy mushrooms, tiny lentils and piles and piles of curly bright green lettuce. There are neat stalls labeled with numbers and proprietor names, and I am fascinated by the selection of meats and poultry offered by the butchers. There is rabbit, duck, chickens from the Burgundy valley, sausage, terrines of many varieties and chicken aspic, a traditional French dish which is a rectangular loaf of golden gelatin surrounding fleshy chunks of chicken.

Lunch at a nearby bistro is reminiscent of my classes at the French Culinary Institute. It is classic traditional French country food served in the authentic setting and emphasizing local ingredients. There is a composed salad of marinated vegetables, tender duck confit with mushrooms and a magnificent Frasier Cake adorned with a ring of strawberries and raspberries and topped with pretty pink marzipan.

© 2006 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

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