No visit to France would be complete without taking the time to wander through a market. French marchés are legendary for their fresh produce, mouth-watering artisan cheeses, baked-this-morning breads and array of fish, meat, and charcuterie for sale. Marchés aux puces - flea markets - are also popular with locals and tourists alike. Unlike France, the U.S. isn't really known for its market culture. We're more known for our supermarket culture. Regardless of our reputation, in cities and towns all across the country, Americans are holding their own in the shopping local department. A handful of Washington, DC neighborhoods boast weekend bazaars, with the most well-known being Eastern Market.
Eastern Market is truly a Washington institution. Built in 1873, it has served the capital community ever since. When a fire ripped through the historical building on May 1, 2007, the whole city mourned for the afflicted vendors and for their cherished weekend gathering spot. While the building itself is still undergoing renovations, the market lives on in a temporary building across the street. Other goods such as jewelry, photography, clothing, and books are sold in stalls that line the adjacent street.
A Sunday visit to Eastern Market got me thinking: just how different, or similar, are French and American markets? The crêpe stand made me think I was in Paris, while the Obama paintings reminded me otherwise. There is a cheese vendor at Eastern Market, but with considerably less selection than you'll find in France, and the sweets were more cookies and less croissants aux amandes. Markets in France always have an olive stand (or two, or three), while here in DC there was a man selling pickles. And both sides of the Atlantic enjoy peddling regional specialties, which in Washington means crabcakes galore. There's nothing quite like a plentiful French market, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy their counterparts here in the U.S. After all, it's so much easier when you don't have to order everything in kilograms.