And are those tasteless squitty strawberries so essential on our plates out of season? There was a time when winter produce went with winter, and summer produce rhymed with summer. But nowadays (if we have the means) we too readily yearn to feed ourselves on exotic vegetables and fruits that may have been carried across the globe in carbon-belching aeroplanes, having often been grown in irrigated hot lands where many local people lack enough water to keep themselves alive.
It’s all crazy, and it doesn’t have to be. Why not regale yourself on a diet of seasonal vegetables and fruits, such as you will find lavishly displayed in Dieppe’s bustling street market every Saturday morning (and, by the way, the market now stays open until 1pm instead of 12.30pm).
Conjure up nourishing feasts with the potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbages, sprouts, leeks, salads, and the crunchy Normandy apples and juicy pears, you will find displayed there. If you see a notice marked ‘pays’ written against any particular product, this is informing you it was grown locally, perhaps in a field near Dieppe tilled by the very stallholder before you.
And, if you want something out of the English ordinary, in the winter months try the blanched submarine-shaped chicory (called endives in French) and the round roots of celeriac (céleri-rave) that are cheaper and fresher than equivalents you may find on the other side of the Channel.
True, farmers don’t grow bananas and oranges in Normandy, and we need to prevent the climate warming that would make them native at great cost to the planet. But it would be a pity never to eat another banana or orange: these fruits now mostly arrive in ships and their production and transport can be less environmentally damaging, and hopefully less exploitive of the producers, than air deliveries of exotic produce from water-starved lands.
So, good environmental shopping all year round! And remember that magic word ‘pays’ when you are checking the stalls in Dieppe’s Saturday market.
Lastly, perhaps you would join me in urging the Dieppois to discover the subtle taste of the humble parsnip. Most French people have never tasted, or even seen, a parsnip (unless one donated by such as me). They rarely even know the French world for the inimitable vegetable, which is panais. Learning is a two-way process.