Slow down and smell the flowers: Place Monge market does it every time

May 28th, 2008

Last Friday morning, I was in a rush to catch a train home from Paris. It was a turn-around visit, with little time to spare. But I knew there would be good things in the Place Monge market, both regional products and teasers from abroad, to taste and to take home. Flat crates of Rhineland rhubarb tempted me – a few stalks for sauce? Like dill, the rhubarb of northern climes always has more flavor. I admired elegant lilies and peonies on two flower stalls, and little pots of fresh herbs, ready to brighten city window sills (and add some zip to entrées and salads). One stall sold apples and several kinds of apple juices from Picardy orchards, another offered shimmering olives – in brine, in oil, and spiced – as well as almonds (as you guessed, I was on the look-out) and dried fruits. Fish, sausages, meat counters, and …let me count the cheeses… but there was no time to dawdle.

I stopped at the corner, just before my dash for the metro, and waited in line. Could not resist watching Lebanese bread being baked on a black griddle, could not resist a sampling of meat pies – fataya filled with spinach and pine nuts, cheese crescents with a hint of mint, and a pot of laban (a dense yogurt that I yearn to make at home) – even if this made my run to the TGV more pressured. It was worth it, as I slipped into my seat on the train to Bordeaux with four and a half minutes to spare, and pulled out a small lamb pie to nibble on as we headed south. Another Friday, I will know where to stop first at the Place Monge market – after a quick survey of a new season’s blossoms.

Note to shoppers: The Place Monge Market (at the Place Monge Metro stop) is an open-air market held on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday mornings from 7:00 to 1:00. This neighborhood market is within walking distance of the Muséum de l’Histoire Naturelle and Jardin des Plantes, in the 5th arrondissement.