Whenever I’m on a journey, either here in France or abroad, one of the first things I like to do is to go to a market.
You can meet a gentle blend of locals tourists all looking out for good produce. Very quickly, you are plunged into the atmosphere of the town, you can feel all the authenticity of the place and its inhabitants.
The French have a reputation for being bons-vivants and epicureans, loving good products and very attached to the products which come from their terroir. I would like to share my experience of Ollioules market with you.
Ollioules, small Var town full of provençal charm
This town is located at the exit of the famous gorges, which are crafted and sculptured by the river Reppe. Ollioules is the city of the olive tree and of flowers. The place is very close to its provençal heritage, and organises a number of festivals and typical events. It’s so nice to stroll around its streets, to take photos of its fountains and to discover its rich cultural heritage.
The market takes place every Thursday and Saturday morning at Jean Jaurès Square opposite the town hall.
I immediately feel immersed in the typically provençal atmosphere. I hear people speak with the musical accent that I love so much. As Gilbert Bécaud says so well in the song: “this world which laughs and cajoles”… “the accent which moves and never stops”.
The colours of the fruit and vegetables are a treat to my eyes, the smell of thyme, basil, garlic and other herbs tickle my nose and get me watering at the mouth. I am quickly overwhelmed by the atmosphere of the market!
I don’t know where to start – there are so many things to taste. I’m quite talkative so I start chatting to producers : Max, Nathalie, Dédé, Lionel… I am fascinated by their love of their trade. Most of them have been at this market for years, even generations. Here, you won’t find products which come from far away. Here, they tend to favour the local network, with products coming from the region and mostly from the town itself. Healthy products, grown with love, some using old varieties.
I carry on with my tour of the market…
… I mustn’t forget what I came here for – to get some vegetables to make Granny’s pistou soup. The mind boggles!
I hurry to fetch a piece of cade*. It’s just come out of the oven, Polo’s wife cuts some pieces for me, with a bit of salt and pepper and we’re good to go! I burn my fingers eating it straight away but that’s when it’s at its best! The taste is unrivalled – you really need to try it because you won’t find it anywhere else than in markets in the Toulon area.
* wood oven baked flatcake made of chickpea and olive oil.
I stop at the olive stall for the stuff we need for the apéritif! There are a lot of saucisson, too. I want to buy it all!
Off to the cheese stall … I like fresh or matured goat’s cheese. They are perfect to finish a meal.
I don’t need any fish today but I love having a look at Max and Nathalie’s stand. Max is a fisherman at Saint Mandrier with his boat “Marius”! How provençal can you get?! A contagious good mood emanates from his stand. While he’s scaling his fish, he will give you a few secrets about making the perfect homemade fish soup. He’s never short of good tips. I listen to him carefully and make a mental note of it all for next time.
My goal: pistou soup
Time is flying away and I could stay here for hours. I rush off to see “Dédé” to buy some vegetables. I take different types of bean for the soup, basil, courgettes, a few tomatoes for starters, a melon for dessert and there we are!
No, I don’t forget the most important thing, olive oil. No pistou soup without olive oil ! 😀
I go back with my basket full of produce, enough to please the guests and especially Granny. She was the one who noted the recipe on a piece of paper and gave it to my mother, who then passed it down to me. In this area, each family has its “own” recipe for pistou soup – even though it uses the same foundation..
So, will we be seeing you next Thursday at the market?