Now that I live in the countryside, the gradual transitions and changes that come with each season are unmistakably clear. The bright orange squashes on display at the markets or the fresh figs both black and green – are apparent signs of the time of year. Each season has its color and its food. And while we say goodbye to the bright red tomatoes of Summer, we have plenty to welcome in the upcoming Fall.
In a city finding these signs is more difficult- we may realize Autumn is coming more from a change of clothing on display in a shop window rather than the leaves falling from a tree, for example- and as a result we feel disconnected and out of sync with the seasons, especially when it comes to what we eat.
City dwellers have easy access to all things edible, making seasonal eating even less of a norm. A large selection of restaurants specializing in cuisine from around the world along with supermarkets selling out-of-season strawberries can make eating with the seasons a habit we must develop and remain devoted to.
The benefits and the pleasures of eating, and shopping, with the season quickly become clear as this decision leads to eating fresher, more varied, and local ingredients. Here are a few ways to bring the seasons back into your city life:
“Eat local” is something we see in hash tags and ads more and more often. More than just a trend, this simple philosophy is a great approach to eating seasonally. Buying locally grown fruits and vegetables (directly from the farmer when possible) means that your food will reflect what is truly in season in your region. The outdoor food markets of Paris are a great place to start. Use this map to help you find farmers at a market near you. As you get more accustomed to shopping seasonally it will be easier for you to spot farmers and locally grown produce depending on what they’re selling at what time of year. Some Paris markets, like Marché d’Aligre, don’t have farmers but do have reliable resellers of locally produced food. Gilles Flahut, one such vendor at Marché d’Aligre, even has a handy website where you can see which fruits and vegetables are in season in France and when.
Cooking at home with seasonal ingredients is fun and full of discovery, but we all want a night out once in awhile. Paris has no lack of restaurants but unfortunately not all of them are as committed to using seasonal ingredients as you may be. Carefully reading menus will provide indications as to what extent the restaurant is conscious of seasonality. A tomato mozzarella salad proposed during a non-summer month for example is an indicator that the restaurant is not working with local produce. There’s nothing worse than an out of season tomato, so keep looking until you’ve found a restaurant that’s committed to farm-to-table dining. The restaurants range from cosy, like neighborhood favorite Holybelly to fancier spots, like Verjus. Luckily, the tendency to cook with seasonal ingredients is on the rise in the capital and the selection of dining options is constantly expanding.
As mentioned before, out of season tomatoes are the worst- but does that mean you only get to eat tomatoes three months out of the year? Not necessarily- you just have to plan ahead. In the best case situation you have a country contact- a grandma, friend, or other family member that goes crazy over jamming and canning in the summertime and can stock your pantry with the sunny season’s harvest every year. Barring that, there are ways to savor summer flavors throughout the year. Canned tomatoes, berry jams, and dried fruits are a few examples of favorite flavors that can be saved for later. If you’re motivated to learn, many of these things can be done at home. Set a day aside and buy a few kilos of tomatoes when they’re at their ripest in July or August and make enough tomato sauce to see you through the winter. Have a jam making party and exchange flavors with friends, promising varied toast toppings for the months to come. If you have a freezer, stock it with those fleeting things that disappear too quickly. Fresh asparagus, basil, and strawberries are a few seasonal treasures that freeze well.
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