As so many Americans seem to be learning after years of shopping at big-box industrial supermarkets, open-air food markets are more than just a place to buy the week’s groceries. They serve as a hub of activity and a way to invest in one's community by supporting local farmers. When you visit or live in a place that’s not where you’re from, markets can also be instructive: they can teach you about the value that a city puts on shopping for, preparing, and most importantly, enjoying food.
As an American who has lived in Paris for the past 8 years, I have come to embrace the best of both my native and adopted homeland. I founded the blogging project Paris Paysanne in 2010, after realizing that little was being done to address the increasing industrialization of food in France, from neighborhood markets closing to the quickly spreading supermarket chains. I wanted it to provide a much needed gateway into the rich world of farmers at Paris markets, as well as offer a guide to finding and supporting local, independent producers.
Given the strong culinary tradition that’s synonymous with French culture, one might assume that shopping at the open-air market is de rigeur for locals in Paris. In fact, Parisians have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of farmers present at their weekly marchés. Speak with any farmer at a neighborhood market and they will tell you stories of how as little as 10 years ago, there were twice as many local farmers in attendance at the market; now you are lucky to find even one.
A growing presence of imported, industrial food and the replacement of the open-air market by the omnipresent hypermarché are in part to blame for the farmers losing their place at what was once the original outpost for fresh food and vegetables. My appreciation of the creativity and momentum of the ‘eat local’ movement in the U.S. paired with my love for France and its terroir led me to combine my expat point of view with my love of exploring Paris and its markets.