Living Local in Lyon

What that means for me is gentle mornings at the market, enjoying all the wonderful local food that summer has to offer.

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Fantasy French Life in Lyon

When I do my Lyon Wine Tastings, people get an impression of my life as this French fantasy, and it’s fair enough. I absolutely do spend much of each week swanning around the market, choosing seasonal produce to bring home and cook.

I am totally living my fantasy French life! As I sit here right now, at about 8am on Friday morning, there is some crazy baked good smell wafting through my window. I think there might be chocolate involved. Whatever it is, I want one.

Ok the French fantasy is hard to maintain, you can read about that here!

Food from the Croix-Rousse market spread on granite counter: cherries, spring onions, green beans, raspberries, zucchini, cauliflower, strawberries, fresh peas in the pod, new potatoes, loaf of bread.
A classic summer market haul

I’m going to head out to the market in a minute, but I wanted to share a quick story as my blog post this week. It’s an anecdote about seasonality, living a market lifestyle, and the modern world.

Here for wine writing? Check out my recent guide to the Northern Rhône!

Picking Cherries from an Ancient Tree in the Lorraine

Freshly picked cherries in a green colander with a collie gazing at them from the background. Talk about local!
Fluffy dogs make everything better

Very few things are as satisfying and delicious as picking fruit and putting it directly into your mouth. I was lucky enough to enjoy some incredible cherries earlier this summer in Lorraine, Northeastern France.

My boyfriend’s dad lives in their ancestral village and has enormous cherry trees that were planted by his grandfather (or maybe great grandfather?). They don’t make them like this anymore, modern cherry trees are short and pretty contained, they’re much easier to pick!

At least that’s what one of my farmers at the market told me. Damn workers and their safety!

Cherry farmers can’t plant massive towering trees they once had because of labor laws, those trees are dangerously tall. There’s a reason we call those big machines that lift you up super high cherry pickers!

huge ladder in a hundred year old cherry tree
This tree was enormous

Picking and eating cherries from this ancient tree was a magical experience that made me feel connected to France, the earth, and this family’s history.

They were the best cherries I’ve ever tasted, and represented a perfect moment in time. Having this gift from a hundred year old tree reminds me that life can be slow, and paced.

It reminds me that there is much more to life and happiness than having cool stuff or planning the next great thing. It’s about right now, eating this fruit in the moment.

You really can’t get more local than that.

If you love French farmer’s markets, follow my personal insta!

Instagram, Millennials, and Modern Food Systems

Of course, since I am a millennial (an old one though, born in ‘87), I had to instagram my cherry picking experience. Almost immediately my little sister Annie sent me a message.

“JAM”

JAM refers to a jar of cherry jam that I made last summer.

jar of griotte cherry jam
Griotte jam, so good

A Special Jar of Hyper Local Sour Cherry Jam

Griottes are sour cherries, also known as Morellos in other places. One hot day last year I was on a farm near Lyon that had a big old griotte tree. This tree wasn’t quite as big as the trees in Lorraine but was of course special in its own right, and the owners kindly allowed me to pick a small bag of these sour cherries.

Sour cherries really are for doing stuff with, not just munching, cause of course, they’re sour. I had just enough of them to make a small jar of jam, so that’s what I did. I put a cinnamon stick in it, and a spent vanilla pod, and I just kind of dumped some sugar on top of them and cooked them.

local griotte sour cherries
Look at that color!

I thought it was too sweet and wasn’t super into it so it sat in my fridge for a couple weeks before Annie came to visit. She’s always had a thing for cinnamon and by the end of her two week visit the jar was empty! She was really into this jam. Really into it.

An Impossible Request

Ok so she was super into this jam, why is this a story? A few months later, in October, I get a text from Annie, now in Colorado.

“Hey can I have the recipe for that jam?”

Nope.

No girl, you can’t replicate a jar of jam I made from French sour cherries I picked myself!

You’d be hard pressed to find these cherries at an American farmer’s market during their growing season, and in OCTOBER?

Cherries have a season, yes you can buy them at the supermarket in America year round. What does an October cherry taste like? Probably a lot like a February strawberry. Like nothing.

Not trying to shame my little sister, but she just didn’t know. As an American college kid, she had no awareness of where her food came from, how it was grown, or the fact that cherries in October are pointless, sad, and terrible.

We just don’t educate our kids our ourselves about real food at all in the states.

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Seasonless American Food

In America, we are so used to having everything we want all the time. We have created and support a food system based on this, growing everything out of season, shipping unripe produce around the world, and eating tasteless crap all year round.

All food has a season! Produce grown outside that season either has a pretty rough carbon footprint and was picked a while ago, or it tastes like nothing and has little nutritional value.

Overhead shot of hands pitting a pile of griotte sour cherries on a red and white kitchen towel
Pitting cherries takes forever and is a mess, but it’s worth it!

So people are always like “oh wow you’re so lucky you have the market”, and that is totally true. But we all have choices, and choosing to eat seasonally is a small thing that many people can do that supports healthy food systems.

Educating yourself on what is in season isn’t all that hard either these days, it’s all online!

Local Jam

Since I love my sister and she keeps going on about that jam, when I did come across some griottes at the market last week, I had to buy a kilo.

I brought them home and tried to replicate that jam, but since it was never from a recipe to begin with, I doubt this jar will be the same. A kilo of cherries made one small jar, I’ll be sending it home with my parents when they come to visit next week to bring back to my sister.

Close up of local griotte sour cherries being cooked with a cinnamon stick in a pan.
so shiny

I hope she loves it, and I hope it inspires her to go to a farmer’s market and just see what’s out there right now. Summer is such an incredible time for local produce!

With that little rant over, I’m off to the market to live my fantasy French life!

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