When we first started coming to Nîmes, it was all about the surrounding markets — Uzès on Saturdays, Saint Rémy de Provence on Wednesdays — as well as the Nîmes farmers’ market on Fridays and the flea market on Sundays. We took for granted the covered market in Nîmes, Les Halles, shopping there only when there was no other outing in sight.
This changed one Christmas when we returned to join friends for the holidays. Les Halles, with its butchers and poulterers seemed the only place to buy the Christmas fowl; Professor Higgins and I had a half hour discussion with the proprietor of a stall specializing in birds (including other servers as well as surrounding customers who took it for granted that we would take what ever time we needed to make the right decision), weighing up the contrasting attributes of goose and capon. In the end, we choose goose. “C’est plus onctueux,” said the beautiful, elegant and perfectly coiffed Madame who had been served just before us.
Old hands that we have now become, we have given up the struggle of crowding in with the tourists (!) at the Provençal markets in favor of establishing relationships with the producers in Les Halles. Today, in our first shopping expedition we bought cherries, San Danielle ham, chorizo, three kinds of lettuce, sweet onions from Lédignan, garlic, cheese (18-month-old Comté, Camembert de Calvas, Roquefort (Papillion)), eggs, cooked crevettes, gambas, tuna steaks, coeurs de boeuf (tomatoes), tapenade noir avec basilic, olives (Lucques, picholines, Nyons), salted anchovies and bread made with natural yeast (au levain).
We noted the changes — the expansion of the tapas bar, the growing-up of the fishmonger’s son, the holiday closure by the man who sells the Camargue rice. We tried new stalls in our perennial search for Cocos Blancs and Cocos Rouges. When I bought a string of baby chorizos, I was given another, en cadeau, ensuring my return.
Nicest of all was returning to our favorite green grocer/fruitier because they remembered us. And knew what we would buy — onions, tomatoes, coco blancs and a pot of basil.
Green Salad with baby chorizo and gambas deglazed with pastis. Salad of Cocos Blancs and Cocos Rouges. Salad of tomatoes with sweet white onions.
It seems it’s tilted to the Spanish in the World Cup.