Finistere, Sud – Brittany
This week, we went to the old fishing port of St. Guenole on the rocky coast of Brittany to watch “la criee” - the return and unloading of the fishing boats at day’s end. The haul, crates of live and wiggly langoustines, sea bream, sole, is plucked off the boat with a small crane, and swiftly wheeled into the “halles” or marketplace where the “hawking” (la criee) begins.
It used to be that anyone could go into the halles with their shopping basket and buy fish straight from the fishermen in their yellow rubber overalls still slick from the sea. No more.
Now, only the pros, middle-men, as it were, are allowed inside and can buy direct from the fishermen. The public is sent to the fish store on the other side of the dock. A lovely fish store, but one step removed, nonetheless.
Even in sea-faring Brittany.
Later, as I stood in the long line, watching French families buy their clams, tuna and oysters, it made me realize how incredibly lucky we are to be able to buy our fish DIRECTLY from the fisherman who caught it at the farmer’s market. It’s become such a routine each Saturday to find briny oysters, sushi-grade tuna and striped bass that we sometimes take it for granted. I had to come all the way to my native Brittany to truly appreciate it.
Ironically, what I’m discovering on this trip is that, in this area at least, the French plein-air markets which serve as the model for so many of the markets we flock to now in Westchester are disappearing – being replaced by gigantic food stores like Carrefour and LeClerc. Granted, the LeClerc SUPER-market (bigger than Costco!) has two fishing boats that service its area supermarkets daily. Last Saturday, I heard there were 160 people in the fish line at one point. (And you thought the Hastings fish line was bad…)
Food for thought….
Should be a great day on the market this Saturday. Ruby Reilly will perform one last time before heading back to Oberlin.
Hope you all take a moment to appreciate the gorgeous local produce, the grass-fed beef, artisanal bread, cheese, yogurt and, yes, fish.
Here’s a recipe for fish skewers with a basil chimichurri sauce.
See you at the market!