Words and Photos by Marissa Wu
The sky promised rain as we wove our way through the pressing crowds, past stalls overflowing with spices and meats and pastries. The air tickled our noses with the strong odor of the charcuterie -- all the cured meats and sausages. Ripe produce was abundant, as well as fun specialties like tapenades, whole roasted pigs, and pain au chocolat. It was a feat for the eyes. There was a particularly vibrant vine of tomatoes that gave the dreary atmosphere a cheerful kick. After taking a tour and stopping often, I finally settled on Provençal potatoes. My companions preferred to eat and walk, buying goodies that struck their fancy as we ventured about.
One vendor offered whole roasted pig by the slice. The head was still intact, and it lay tranquilly on the cutting board -- delicious, if not a bit morbid. Christina was curious and bought a slice, offering it to us. To my surprise, it was good. Good as in, I am not a fan of pork or animal fat in general, but I would eat it again good. The fat had a silky and smooth quality to it; normally I find eating the fat of the meat an unpleasant sensation of slimy and chewy. This fat was not. If meat could be delightful, then this was delightful.
A few stalls down, a boulangerie was selling pain au chocolat, 3€ for 10. It was Josephine who stopped this time, unable to resist. “You guys are gonna help me eat them? Two for each of you!” she said.
I’ve seen pain au chocolat done a couple different ways. The first uses croissant dough, the second, brioche. It really is the bread that makes or breaks a good pain au chocolat, because the chocolate batons wrapped inside are pretty standard. In this particular case, it was the croissant version, but not executed well. The exterior was not flakey and crisp, the inside was not feathery and light. Rather, it was of uniform texture, and a bit dry. Not the best pain au chocolat of my life. Now at least you know what to look for, and can spare yourself the displeasure of a mediocre pastry.
Amy decided to stop at another one of the many bloulangerie carts and ordered a whole brioche studded with sugar pearls. It was soft and feathery -- just the way I like my brioche (but can never seem to replicate at home). That was a winner.
As for the Provençal potatoes, aside from the want of a touch of salt, they were quite hearty. Plenty of spices, some roasted tomatoes, and tenderly cooked potatoes are usually a winner in my book. If you ever have the chance to partake in raclette (a type of swiss cheese), please do so. Potatoes and cheese, need I elaborate? And so, this tiny southern town, famed for its light and the artists it has attracted, still has much to offer -- not only in its history, but in its food.