A Burgundy diary – 15 January 2022

To market in Autun

Yesterday I went to the market in Autun. It is there in the middle of the town every Friday morning. It takes place in a vaulted three-side wide passage-way beneath the mairie and outside in the open air in front of the steps of the mairie. You walk in between the stalls ranged each side of the passage-way and then round three sides of an open square. I love it. It is truly an essence of France.

You can buy all sorts produce in the Autun market, including local, and less local, cheeses and yoghurt (cow’s and sheep’s); a variety of fruit and vegetables (organic and otherwise); meat; honey and bread; fresh pasta (with solid blocks of parmesan); Morvan trout; and fish from a more generalised fish-monger; olives, nuts and crystallised fruit. And the paté en croute, a Burgundian speciality, comes from Chez Camille, a well-known restaurant in Arnay-le-Duc: the chef there has won prizes for his paté en croute.

I suspect there are very few regular markets left in England. I don’t know how many there are in France. I know that round here there are a good few weekly markets (including on two days in my local village of Épinac). I do not know what the economics of market commerce is. They face stiff competition from the baleful supermarkets which can open much longer hours: good for the customers, but not for the staff. Buying from someone who comes to recognise you in a market, as in a local shop, is very different from taking your food from an anonymous series of shelves in aisles in a supermarket. And it is fun to see the same stall-holders in different towns or villages locally.

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