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28 September 2009

SIDE TRIPS: To Market, To Market!


There are open-air markets every day in a town or village around here. My favorite one is on Sunday mornings in the nearby town of Aubel. It’s smaller than the raucous, lively market in my town, but the quality of the food is extremely high. Most of the food sellers are selling what they’ve produced themselves, rather than re-selling food that they’ve bought. The food is local, fresh, and I love dealing directly with the producers.Not all of the vendors here are producers as well, and some of the producers mix ‘imported’ food with their own stuff. But the atmosphere here is always happy, the food is good, and the 15-minute drive is through some gorgeous countryside. I love to go.


Yesterday morning I took my camera and brought back some photos, so if you’re too far away to come to the market with me, you can come along on a virtual tour!



This man sells sausages that he’s made. There are several different kinds, some spicier than others. Some have herbs and others are made with different kinds of meat in them. He also sells a prosciutto-like dried ham made from wild boar, a specialty of the Ardennes. Have a taste!





Next comes cheese. Because we're a cheese producing region, there are a lot of cheese vendors at this market. I had to get there very early this morning to get this photo--normally this counter is three or four people deep. He has cheese from Belgium, France, Italy and Germany. But the photo he wanted me to take was the one on the right, with the local cheese, Herve. Aubel is situated on the plateau of Herve, where a soft, ‘strong’ (read stinky) cheese is produced. I’ve seen this cheese for sale in markets in Provence, where it’s much appreciated for its strong flavor. These people not only produce the cheese, they also have free-range eggs and cream cheese for sale.

And of course, fruit and veggies!

The big vendors are often resellers, ‘though some of their products may be local. “du Pays” means it’s from the Region. “Belgique” means it’s from Belgium. The grenaille potatoes you see above are firm, for boiling. Other strains are better for mashed potatoes, still others for the famous Belgian fries.



This woman is selling a traditional specialty of the region, cuberdons. These little cones have a soft, jellied center. The range of flavors is amazing, though the traditional one is raspberry. YUM! The colors glowing in the sun were irresistable for me. I bought an assortment.

I love this guy. He sells eggs, butter and whatever orchard fruit is in season from the back of his car. No fuss, no fancy booth--just opens up his car and sells it to you. His butter tastes of what his cows have been eating--flowers, onions, garlic sometimes. It’s wonderful to cook with.

Along with the buzz of crowds shopping and the merchants hawking their wares we have music. And smells. The smell of fresh bread, of spices, of vegetables and fruit. Someday they’ll invent a camera that can capture sounds and smells--








This is where I often buy my goat cheese. She also has homemade jams and honey from her bees.














More cheese. This man has cream cheese from both goats and cows. He also has hard gouda-like cheeses with garlic, herbs, spices in them. In the spring there’s one with nettles! If I want one he doesn’t have, he can tell me when it will be ready. His cheeses are local, they’re organic, and I love buying them from the person who milked the cow.







It’s mushroom season! The mushroom lovers are out combing the forest, finding c
hantarelles, girolles, cepes and trompettes de mort. I have to confess that I don’t have any confidence in my own ability to identify mushrooms--I don’t hunt them. I buy them. This year is not a good one for mushrooms in Belgium, because we’ve had a dry and glorious summer, without our normal rains. So many of the mushrooms available here are from France.

We’re not far from the North sea, so of course there’s a fishmonger. What I like about his stuff is that it doesn’t smell like fish. It smells like the sea. It’s fresh and always good. It was hard to get photos because it’s all behind glass and the sun was shining.


I grew up in the Southeastern part of the US: Ham. Barbecue. Greens. Okra. One of the things that I miss here is ham. You can buy it, but it’s already cut and it’s often bland and tasteless. You CAN’T buy a ham to cook at home, though. I don’t know why. I think maybe because the ovens are smaller and a whole ham wouldn’t fit? Or maybe because it’s just not the tradition here. In any case, I have finally found a source of wonderful ham. This young lady and her grandmother sell ham and fresh meat at the market. This ham is reallyreally tasty. It’s sliced by hand, and you can specify which piece you want. The grandmother told me that it takes three months to make a ham, and her family has been hamming since 1904. There aren’t many farmers who still make their own ham. Most of it’s commercial. I will patronize this family as long as they are there. Good ham is something one shouldn’t have to do without!




We are currently having a dispute between the dairy farmers and the supermarkets. The farmers are paid only a fraction of what it costs them to produce the milk. As we used to say when I was a consultant, “You can’t lose a little on each one and make it up in volume”. So a group of young dairy farmers is selling milk directly to the public in the market.


Can you see why I like this market?

25 comments:

eatlivetravelwrite said...

Beautiful post! I love local markets like that! Reminds me of the Wed and Sat morning market at Place Dumon in Bruxelles... Not as country, for sure, but lovely local little stalls...

Lizzy said...

That market looks so fun and I love how you know the story behind each vendor.

La Table De Nana said...

I was able to make the first photo larger and when I saw the man serving his sausage..I saw genuine hospitality and joy in his face:) I liked it! All the rest of the photos are so charming too..I had never seen the little pyramids:)

You must be so happy for the ham..it looks delicious..I would not hunt mushrooms either..I leave that to the pros:)

Thanks for taking us along..Gingham is so quaint at markets:) White Linen..beige linen.. Proven├žal prints:)

It's all so beautiful to me~

Bob said...

Words can't express my jealousy. I don't have crap for markets around me.

Petit Elefant said...

I'll come to market to market with you, looks like a blast.

The Gypsy Chef said...

What a wonderful market. What joy a good market brings. Everything looks so charming. Enjoy your market. It's a funny thing, when we were traveling through Brussels, I thought about you and told my friend about your blog. The next time I am going to Brussels I will certainly let you know. Pam

Kate said...

Wonderful markets! How fun it would be to tour the markets. In my area we are so limited.

Kate at Serendipity said...

Lizzy, I love to go to that market and they know my fact by now. Sunday I asked each one if I could take a photo, and we all got to talking. It made it even more special!

Monique, there were lots of other things I didn't get photos of--like the linen and the guy I buy all my kitchen towels from. Wonderful cotton towels, they last a long time. I was very happy with some of the photos, especially the salami guy. I'm going to print them out and take them back to the people next Sunday.

Bob: yeah, but you have peanut butter and italian suasage...

Allison, you'd be welcome to come along any time. Is that you on your blog with Nienie? What a story!

Pam, do let me know. We're about an hour and a half east of Brussels, an easy train ride away. There's a train that goes right into the airport--it's easy to meet people!

Kate, we love the markets here. They've been a part of everyday life here for longer than anyone can remember. My husband knows that if I see a market I'm going to browse. He's resigned to it!

Kate at Serendipity said...

Oh, Pooh! ELTW, I didn't mean to skip you! Is the market in the Place Dumon the one that's near the Porte de Halle? I know that market--it's a nice one. My favorite Brux market, though, is Place de Sablon on Sundays--antiques--WAY out of my price range! But I can always console myself with a stop by Marcolini or Wittamer...sigh.

eatlivetravelwrite said...

(sigh) Wittamer....

Hungry Dog said...

Lucky you to get to shop at this beautiful market! It's so interesting to see what different regions produce and sell. I really enjoyed this post, both text and photos!

Mini Baker said...

I just found your blog! And let me just tell you, I am SO jealous of your life in Europe! I studied abroad in Florence, Italy and traveled all over Germany and completely fell in love with the country. I'll be checking back often :)
-Mini Baker

Jill said...

Great post!! I feel like I was right there at the market! :)

Juliana said...

Nice of you sharing the pictures of your market, love all the pictures, specially the candies with so much color in it :-)

Juliana said...

It is me again...I forgot about the tapioca powder of flour, you may be able to find in Asian grocery store.

Simply Life said...

What a fun adventure!

Divina Pe said...

I just love farmers market. I feel so alive just going there. Thanks for the wonderful tour. I really enjoyed it.

Barbara said...

Don't you love open markets? I could shop forever! Your photos are wonderful! We just have a puny little green market in my town. I long for the markets in NYC or your European markets- loved them so much when I visited my daughter in Paris.

Jessica Lee Binder said...

Oh, I would love to come experience this market. I read your little story on the side and my dream is to eventually leave the stress of NY (which I grew up in) and move to somewhere in Europe.

Nathalie said...

That's my hometown market! I sooo miss the delicious food I could get there and cheap. Now that I'm living in New York, I'm struggling to find decent goat cheese at a normal price.

You described well the atmosphere of the market. It is especially nice during the summer as bands come to play some music.
And my friend who is the one selling delicious sweets called cuberdons is also selling amazing chocolates!

Carol said...

Hi!

I guess there are at least two Serendipity blogs! Stop by and see me. I love your photos of the market!

Carol at Serendipity

Grace said...

i'm already mourning the inevitable closing of the farmers markets around here. i always enjoy them, even walking around without buying anything. cool pictures, kate, and i'm glad your jump link is working--that's a relief to me!

Kate at Serendipity said...

Mini Baker, we love Germany too. We just got back from two weeks there! I still have to process my photos...

Juliana, thanks for the info about the tapioca flour. We have some asian groceries in Liege. I'll check there!

Barbara and Jessica, thanks! This market is small in comparison to others around here--I've probably shown you 25% of the vendors there. There's a market every Sunday in Liege that extends for 5 km down the river. I've never made it all the way through!

Nathalie, that's amazing. How did you find this? I love this little market, and I love Aubel. I live in Verviers--well, Heusy, actually, which was absorbed by Verviers. The cuberdon lady didn't have chocolates. I've never seen them in the Sunday market. Waaah!

Carol, I think there are three or four Serendipity blogs! Yours is great, as is Divina Pe's. We should start a Serendipity club...

Grace, yes, it works perfectly. Thank you thank you thank you for setting it up for me!

gaga said...

Beautiful pictures! Open air markets are so much fun.

Anonymous said...

You really got the atmosphere.
By the way thanks a lot for the photo you made from me as a street musician.
Normaly i dont like to be photografed but now i know this was for a good cause :)
I hope you also heard some local folk music.