Markets and Mayhem

Published August 04, 2015

As many of you will know I recently travelled to Morocco for a Peta Mathias Culinary Experience and then onto France and Spain for a few weeks.

One aspect of my trip I was looking forward to was visiting producers markets.  I have watched many celebrity chefs touring different countries and raving about the markets and for myself, I have enjoyed buying produce from the prime producer.

My first experience of a producers market was in a small village in the Moroccan hinterland called El Kela des Sraghra. It was all very colourful, noisy and aromatic once you have got past the aggressive hawkers who tried to thrust all sorts of gimmicky rubbish on you but should you be brave enough to try and take a photo of them, all sorts of allah’s rained down on you!

This first encounter was going well for me, I had developed a good technique of taking photos by holding my SLR down at my waist and shooting from there without being detected and abused. But then we came to the “meat” section – all sorts of dead animals in all sorts of states – carcasses, bits, guts, blood, bones, skins and organs. I had to make a mad dash from the market heaving my “guts” out! And I’m not the squeamish sort!

market-mayhem-2.jpg#asset:362:newsImage

Our next market was in Marrakech at the indoor Jewish market where our cooking group went with Peta to buy our lunch ingredients which we were then going to cook in a Riad in the Medina. Not far into the market we had to go past the chicken section – live chickens, dead chickens, bits of chickens – feathers, legs, guts and poop. I bravely put my hand over my nose and with my head down charged through to the fresh vegetables, flowers, and spices. I focussed on these lovely sights but then we had to go to the fish section. This was back beside the chickens. I didn’t last inside long enough to see any fish and again went hurtling from the market heaving my intestines out with tears running down my cheeks. Unfortunately standing on the sidewalk in Marrakech isn’t always a pleasant experience with not so lovely smells wafting up from the sewers but it was the lesser of the two evils!  Nothing would have got me back in a producers market in Morocco after that. In Jeema el fna, the world famous market of Marrakech we visited a meat stall where the butcher has a five foot brick lined hole (a tandir) in which he lights a fire then suspends a whole lamb from a hook, covers it and leaves to cook for hours. You eat it hot from the hole with cumin infused salt – quite delicious if you don’t look at the legs of lambs hanging from the roof! But at least it was outdoors!

In France we spent a week barging along the Canal du Midi and our guide took us to a couple of markets to buy ingredients for various meals and to eat lunch on one occasion. These experiences were much more pleasant and inspiring, not so smelly and no body parts lying around. It made me wish we had similar markets here – there’s nothing quite like buying your cheese from a man who passionately believes in his product and enjoys the process of selling it to you.

The fish market in Valras Plage, Beziers was a quick visit for me as the smells had me reliving Morocco but its fair to say markets in France are ‘different’ better than Morocco.

market-mayhem-1.jpg#asset:361:newsImage

We stopped for lunch one day in the village of Gordes whilst a market was in full swing. The village was heaving with stalls, people and cars. We sat and ate our lunch on the only available space – the statue right in the middle of the square and as is the case everywhere in France, dozens of Asians photographed the statue and they now have me stuffing my face with delicious pastries – love photo bombing those Asians!

In Barcelona we ventured into the magic carpet market of Santa Catarina – the Iberico ham displays were awesome and no smell! You can hardly see the shopkeeper for hams.

The only market we went to in Paris is being understated and undersold to be called a market – Galleries Lafayette but in essence no different than other markets except the prices are through the roof!

Back it is to Countdown Superstore and mediocrity but I suppose I won’t be running from the store with my hand over my mouth and tears running down my cheeks!

 
 
 
 
TOM