The ability to try new things was the reason I came to France, to La Rochelle. To try out a new culture, a new language, and of course, new food. And when I arrived, I soon found the perfect place for all three: the markets.
Markets in France are not the same thing as markets in Australia. For starters, they’re not only held on the first Sunday of each month or the like. Every day (of course, some days are better than others – in La Rochelle it’s Saturdays and Wednesdays) you’ll find the markets here, and not in some out of the way CWA hall or “School of Arts” either. They’re there, in the centre of town, in the marketplace! A real marketplace with real markets! It’s an entirely different culture, let me tell you – find a friendly stall owner and have a bit of a chat and you might find yourself going home with 150g extra of green beans tucked into your bag as a gift. On the contrary, if you’re irritating or rude, every peach you buy will be covered in bruises.
And all of the language! I could spend hours just walking through the markets here listening to snatches of conversations – idioms and expressions that they just don’t teach you in a French class.
But one of the most fun things, obviously, is the food. I just love walking through the markets and looking at all of the things that I just have no idea what they are. I often just can’t help myself but buy something, completely oblivious about what it is and what I ought to do with it. And one thing that had me fixated for weeks was the betterave.
They look like giant burnt mouldy back slugs. And when the stall owners pop them in paper you can see the black greasiness soaking its way through the paper. I managed to gather, from their general placement on the stalls and subtle inspection that they were once some kind of root vegetable.
Finally, I just couldn’t help it and I bought one. Just a small one mind you.
I brought it home and brought it out after dinner one night with much trepidation. When I picked it up, the black greasiness went all over my fingers and it smooshed a little bit in my hand.
I cut it open and I was greeted with a big shock of purple – It’s beetroot! Beetroot that’s obviously been cooked in the ground or in some kind of fire-y place, but unmistakably sweet purple beetroot.
I love trying new things, because I think that sense of adventure that some people describe as child-like is something that is fantastic for everyone to experience, not just when they’re children, but for their whole lives. If you can’t feel that excitement and joy at discovering something new, that’s one less source of happiness in your life. And it’s a happiness that needs no money nor luxuries, just an eye for new and interesting things.