“The gentle art of gastronomy is a friendly one. It hurdles the language barrier, makes friends among civilized people, and warms the heart.”
France has elevated gastronomy into an art form. Effortlessly, the relationships between the culinary canvas, traditions and culture are ever so present in Dijon and Burgundy. Every autumn, Dijon organizes and presents its International Gastronomy Fair. This year the fair started on October 31st and will proceed until the 11th of November. Each year, they invite a country as a valued guest and this year the honor went to South Africa. In particularly, the wines from the West Cape region displayed proudly in a section of the Vinidivio salon. Educational talks and discussions on the 3 centuries of viniculture and oenology history of South African wines from the West Cape region were also in the agenda.
The outdoor and indoor markets in the center of the city of Dijon also represent well the gastronomic possibilities of the region. The location is not far from Notre Dame Cathedral where its gargoyles stare ferociously at Dijon’s luscious market. Also close by is the Place François Rude (or du Barezai). Historically, the town council decided to build in 1868 a “modern” covered market. A contest ensued and the design that the dijonnais Gustave Eiffel’s (famous & innovative engineer/Eiffel Tower Paris & Statue of Liberty, US) firm had proposed was found to be the most interesting. Nonetheless, Eiffel was called to the Franco-Prussian war (or the war of 1870). Therefore, the final blueprints and designs for the structure were drawn by architect Louis-Clément Weinberger in 1869. He used a classic architecture style and modelled the Dijon indoor market after the Parisian “Les Halles.” The market was completed around 1875. A renovation to bring the market into current health, safety and comfort standards proceeded in 1994. Yet, Eiffel’s signature iron columns and the classic architecture of Weinberger continue to sustain this marvelous structure. The Dijon market is open: Tuesday (7h – 13h30); Thursday (7h30 – 13h/not all stalls are open on Th); Friday and Saturday (6h30 – 13h30).
Still, the Dijon market is so much more than a beautiful edifice! The composition of colors, smells, tastes and the vivaciousness of the proprietors create a scenic quotidian watercolor painting that is both alluring and blissful. There are fresh meats, fish, mollusc, crustaceans, multiple types of olives, oils, dried sausages, cheeses, honey, fruits, vegetables, legumes, breads, and as of this date, I am still discovering new products. On market days, the indoor market is encircled by a lively outdoor market, with independent stalls. Little specialty shops flourish along bordering streets with all kinds of commodities from food to clothing, antiques, marvelous used books and ancient post cards. Fittingly, I loose myself into fairyland at least for a couple of hours on market days.
What I have also discovered is that the proprietors in general welcome new customers with fine etiquette and “politesse.” Still, the most reassuring feeling is when you start buying from the same vendor every week. Then they masterfully win your heart with: “…I thought of you Madame, and I think you would love to try our new…etc…” Yes, they learn your tastes and really think of you! Furthermore, it is so refreshing to me that they are experts when it comes to their products. They will take time to explain to you the best way to eat or cook a particular item; they will also ask when do you intend to cook or eat the product, then they will pick for example the most appropriate product for your evening gathering. And it works well every time!
My love for the market in Dijon also fostered a love for learning the culinary artistry of the region. There are different venues in Dijon to learn how to master the “art of French cooking.” One such place is “La Cuisine de Madeleine,” 18 rue Chaudronnerie, behind Notre Dame Cathedral. Under the careful tutelage of a chef, it is a fun place to learn because you can join a group or sign-up with a group of friends. You choose the menu and learn to prepare it. Then at the end, you can taste your creations in a cozy and welcoming environment. Wine tasting is also part of your education! Accordingly, this culinary experience can be a source of delicious memories.