Louhans? Where? What?
How did I end up in Louhans, Burgundy? When I was visiting the Manosque market last year, a vendor recommended me to visit this special one in Louhans, as it is known for also selling a large variety of live animals. This caught my interest, especially since it was not a classic tourist area I thought.
Louhans is in the heart of the Bresse region in Burgundy, famous for its delicious Bresse chicken, only produced in the area. It has a very rural touch and so is the market. And it is a huge market. Spread all over the city having three sections: the flea market type one, produce stalls and the live animal section.
The live animal section
The live animal section reflects a region where people still have a strong connection to food production. All kinds of live poultry, rabbits and a like were at sale. And customers do buy those animals to fatten and slaughter them or for producing eggs. It amazes me to see such a deeply embedded tradition to produce your own food. It indicates how strongly people put focus on a cuisine based on good and fresh products. Or that backyards are still large enough.
The handling of the animals is robust, not for the feint hearted. It is about trade, not every animal has really space like in a zoo. When a customer has selected hens or ducks and the like, they are put in a cardboard box, slits are being cut in, so it becomes easier to carry them and leaving some air for the animals to breathe or stick out their neck. Feathers of the duck wings maybe trimmed – in front of everybody – to avoid them from flying away when unloaded, which happens from time to time.
The variety of poultry is very diverse: chicken of all kinds, pigeons, turkeys, wild and domestic ducks, geese, guinea fowl, quail and probably more. It seems that everything which flies and can be eaten is available there. Most of the vendors had a similar range of chicken with prices for the live animal around the 10€. What I did not see were other farm animals like calves and sheep which are being sold as well.
A special breeder
One vendor – La Ferme de Quain in Devrouze (picture) – was specialized in rare chicken breeds. He cannot make a living out of it, as the prices for those animals cannot be afforded by everybody. Still as a passionate amateur he joins the market every Monday. He did not have a lot of respect for the low end poultry offering as he considered the meat as tasteless. His favourite breed from a meat quality perspective is the Le Merlerault a very rare black chicken from Normandy which needs more than a year to gain its full weight. As the end price would be more than 50€ a chicken, it is only something for enthusiasts. Would like to taste it though, just to get an idea if it is worth it. His customers do not only come from the area, but also from neighbouring countries like Switzerland, Germany & the Netherlands. Much to the excitement of the market visitors he also showed a couple peacocks. It always makes me happy to see passionate people like this vendor who contribute to preservation and diversity leaving the world a little less streamlined.
As it was cold that day there was a need to get some warm street food. Well here we are in the rural world, classic French inland cuisine was served. This included all kind of boiled meats, sauerkraut, sausages but also more sophisticated food. The butcher “La Sornaysienne” offered pure beef tripe sausage (Andouillette) with potatoes boiled together in a mustard sauce. The portion served was immediately empty as it was so satidfying, simple but well put together.
The other sections of the market
Spread across the city the market delivers everything which is needed for the daily cuisine: vegetables, fruit, artisan cheese, meat, sausages, oysters, nougat, herbs and much more.
The Bresse chicken gets of course special attention. They have to be presented by the butcher as a whole with the blue feet, white feathers around the neck & head as well as the red comb. This way can it is assured that the customer gets the real thing. And the Bresse chicken colours also represent the ones of the French flag. Of course the butcher prepares the chicken if wanted ready for cooking.
The artisan cheeses were just gorgeous, especially if you like the goat and sheep milk ones. A young vendor who had piles of his own sheep cheeses of different ages did not have his origin in the rural world. His father decided eight years ago to leave his engineering job in Paris and to start producing cheese in the Larzac, a rather remote area quite far away. Now the family serves several markets with their products and the young son has no intention to go back urban, as he believes – despite the hard work – to have found his passion.
The little things
The typical French dried sausages came in many “flavours” with duck meat, nuts, pepper, smoked and many more. A perfect purchase for eating on the road with a baguette, just don’t forget your pocket knife.
And for the first time I saw organic purple “green” beans (see gallery). Unfortunately they turn green when cooked – of course still having a remarkable taste.
A few craftsmen: bring your knife to get it sharpened or buy an original clock from the 18th century – still working.
All in all: A great market – the mix of live animals, good products and rural traditions is impressive – also good for kids.
A little link list: