There was a time when the BBC Holiday programme ruled the roost and presenters John Carter and Anne Gregg dominated our living rooms week after week with reports from succulent, often far-flung destinations. Anne, however, was never happier than when the director could be induced to make a film just across the Channel in her beloved France, especially if it featured a local market without a tourist in sight.
Tarragon & Truffles, a guide to the best French markets, is clearly a labour of love: an immense contribution on that unique dimension of French life. It could become as indispensable a companion as the Red Michelin. Even with the help of the French regional tourist offices, it must have been prodigiously difficult to collate the detail and capture the flavour of every important market, be they flea, fashion, food or foie gras. Small wonder that Anne has visited every corner of the country over the past 25 years, a love affair with France that she says began as a teenager, when she first took the train to Marseille and awoke to the smell of garlic and Gauloises.
In Tarragon & Truffles each region includes Anne’s choice of the best markets to visit, spiced with her eye for the faintly ridiculous or a test too far for the taste buds. At Cordes-sur-Ciel in the Tarn, for example, “’Medieval’ crafts abound and in summer there’s a distinct Maid Marion touch to the floaty numbers on the women’s fashion stalls”; while Cahors offers “a carton of museaux salad for lunch (only after I’d appreciatively crunched a mouthful of these gristly slivers did I discover museaux were pigs snouts)”.
With more than 300 pages, compelling fully integrated colour pictures throughout, and copious lists and indices, Tarragon & Truffles reaches parts of France that other French travel books rarely reach.
Tarragon & Truffles by Anne Gregg is published by Bantam, rrp £12.99.
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Photo of Anne Gregg by Henri Arden