Some people visit markets in Paris purely for the fun and cultural immersion, and maybe to pick up souvenirs that can be transported home in a suitcase. I often advise travelers to Paris that one doesn’t need to have a kitchen to enjoy the food markets. There’s much more than raw ingredients for sale at the stalls: cheeses, breads, scarves, flowers, and more. For those fortunate enough to have access to a kitchen in Paris, the markets are doubly enticing. Beyond the ready-to-eat foods and souvenirs, they offer a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, and other goodies that will inspire cooks. The newly published My Paris Market Cookbook: A Culinary Tour of French Flavors and Seasonal Recipes by Emily Dilling (Skyhorse Publishing, $24.99) will be a welcome resource to return to in the kitchen after any market outing when the basket is bulging.
Before I go farther, it’s important to dispel any assumption that food markets in Paris are farmers’ markets. Many produce vendors are resellers. Emily Dilling, who founded the blog Paris Paysanne, has done a great deal to raise the profile of independent growers and shed light on their relative rarity at the Paris markets. It’s not always easy to tell the farmers from the resellers, although there are a few telltale signs.
I first got to know Emily via Paris Paysanne and her map of Farmers at Paris Markets, which provides a terrific public service. Well before I met Emily in Paris, it was apparent how complimentary our interests are. Both of us care deeply about food and have spent a great deal of time (and pleasure!) exploring Paris markets.
And so, I was excited when I learned that Emily was working on a cookbook featuring ingredients that one can easily find at most markets in Paris. Organized by season, the book serves up a tempting buffet of content: recipes, profiles, short essays, and photos by Nicholas Ball. Emily’s recipes are very manageable and require only a handful of ingredients. Measurements are in both metric and imperial/U.S. standard forms. Each section of the book starts with an introduction that lists seasonal items, so you know what to look for when you’re at the markets.
Profiles feature individuals who stand out for their contributions to the local food and beverage scene in Paris. People such as Kristen Beddard, founder of The Kale Project and the force behind the boom in popularity and availability of kale (le chou-kale) in Paris, and Valérie Debiais who is a regular vendor at Marché Raspail’s Sunday organic market and celebrated for her organic muffins and other homemade baked goods made with locally milled flour. Sidebars delve into topics that foodies and locavores will enjoy, such as the surge in cafés specializing in locally roasted coffee beans, natural wines (le vin nature), and specialty cookware shops in Paris such as E. Dehillerin, G. Detou, and A. Simon.
Informative, lively, and eminently practical even for a novice, My Paris Market Cookbook is a welcome addition to the cookbook shelf. I look forward to referring to it over and over in seasons to come. As Emily says, “French cooking, like life, is actually not that complicated—you just need good ingredients!”
(Photos borrowed with permission from Skyhorse Publishing)