My tour of le marché d’Aligre and le marché couvert Beauvau with Natasha B. began with the humble chouquette. The attendees, all American, gathered in a circle on the pavement and selected a choux pastry from a white paper bag. If you see someone eating whilst standing, they aren’t French. This didn’t seem to bother anyone even after they had been informed.
As we walked towards the markets, Natasha gave us a brief introduction to French food and culture, which are one and the same. The window of Au Fin Gourmet served as a teaching aid. We stared at award-winning terrines and rillettes made of various meats, cuts of pork, and wheels of cheese through the window. The French believe in quality, a foreign concept for les Américains.
On our walk through the outdoor marché d’Aligre, Natasha pointed out serval gems from around the country. Ail rose de Lautrec from Occitanie, oignon de Roscoff from Bretagne, lemon from Nice, leeks, and asparagus. We tasted wild garlic from a market stall, fruits de mer from la poissonnerie Paris Pêche, and charcuterie from a pig who had a girlfriend and liked listening to Elvis.
Then we made ourselves comfortable in a narrow space between two vendors in le marché couvert Beauvau. Butter, cheese, bread, charcuterie, jambon beurre, and wine started coming. Seconds and thirds were had by all, standing up, eating French food in the most un-French way possible.
On to Aux Merveilleux de Fred for my first meringue. I never liked the way meringues looked; they reminded me of marshmallows. But it is necessary to try toutes les choses when on a food tour in France. Needless to say, I now like meringues, or at least ones from Fred. I left the shop with a perfectly-pronounced bonne soirée instead of the more-appropriate bonne journée. I didn’t have a care in the world by this point.
We arrive at Le Baron Rouge, one of Natasha’s favorite places in Paris. Reasonably-priced wine in barrels. Handwritten menus on chalkboards over a long bar. We squeezed our chairs around a round table. Our gracious host retrieves glasses and wine to fill them. Pastries—they could have been eclairs—are circulated. Natasha opens the white box she acquired from an undisclosed vendor to reveal a photogenic raspberry tart. The conversation sets in, mainly about higher education. The youngest attendee is shopping for colleges stateside. I hope she studies abroad in France.