Market Sundays

Sunday is my favorite day of the week, because Sunday is market day. I roll out of bed, throw on jeans and my black Adidas, maneuver my bike into the elevator and start pedaling towards the Mairie d’Asnieres, where the covered market is held every Thursday and Sunday morning. As a foreigner living in Paris, I’ve discovered that developing routines and rhythms is the easiest way to carve out a home for myself here. In a place where I have absolutely no point of reference, creating my own habits is what anchors me. My market ritual is something sacred, my form of Sunday worship, and my week just doesn’t feel complete without it. The infatuation I have with the Sunday market is partly because of the beautiful bounty of French food. I crave the smells and sounds of the market - whole chickens roasting on spits outside under tents, the choucroute steaming in silver pans, a kaleidascope display of French cheeses in all shapes, sizes, and colors; huge chunks of ruby red beef being hacked into pieces by the butcher; whole rabbits stretched out on their backs, pig heads with gaping toothless mouths and empty eye sockets; chickens with limp necks and open beaks; bread stacked nearly to the ceiling; vegetables tumbling from tables, young men with stubble cutting apples and oranges and avocados to tempt customers into buying. The rush and crush of the market is exhilarating, the array of fantastic foods is mouth-watering, the juxtaposition of oddities and delights so intriguing you never want to look away. It is because of this market that I know I’m ruined for life when it comes to butter, fresh goat cheese, and terrines. I crave the raw milk, small farm eggs still plastered with little downy feathers, fresh cuts of meat and an endless variety of cheeses. I’ll never be able to find such a distinct collection of delicacies in the U.S. because they have long ago died out and been reborn as expensive, artisanal, pretentious expressions of their original selves. But the market holds such a special place in my heart for more than just the food - it’s also about the people. It’s a way for me to connect with a community in which I often feel an outsider, a way to give myself context and feel belonging. Over food, people connect in a way that is entirely unique and quickly intimate. I look forward to this feeling of connection, to seeing the people that have developed into something closer to a friend than a vendor. And the reason why the market facilitates this kind of bond is because, unlike a clerk or cashier, these people are deeply embedded in the food they are selling. The goat cheese man who always makes sure to ask me how I am and noticed as my accent smoothed out makes the fresh goat cheese with his own hands, and drives from his farm every weekend to sell it. The man who carves off slices of pumpkin for me and chooses the crispest apples has hands crusted in dirt from working in the field. The guy who sells me bread and loves to practice his English with me has flour on his face from a morning of baking. These are the people who care about food, and when you care too, a kind of closeness is born. The market is how I orient myself in a world that I often feel lost in. It’s how I carve out a sense of belonging, create a home in a foreign place, and connect with those who understand this place to its roots.