The Village: 'Mary Poppins' sells soda bread

Posted August 13, 2009

The Village: 'Mary Poppins' sells soda bread

Friday, I discover, is market day in Thaxted which brings a little frisson of excitement to the normally tranquil high street. The market may only boast a handful of stalls but that just makes it all the more endearing – like you’re being let in on the best kept secret. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in charm and fresh produce that really packs a punch.

Being Irish, I simply can’t resist potatoes or bread. Carbohydrates are wired into my DNA. When I spot the fresh bread stall, I light upon it with glee and, true to my roots, buy two of the Irish soda loaves. The stall owner is heroically battling with a summer squall, battening down the canopy as gusts of wind eddy and swirl around us. “I almost took off like Mary Poppins earlier on today,” she says, laughing raucously. As she wraps my soda bread, I imagine her floating high across the slate roof tops and church spire, smiling cheerily and proffering freshly baked loaves to help “the medicine go down”.

Further along the street I spot a young man, dressed in jeans, denim shirt and a crisp black and white apron, nonchalantly leaning in a doorway, surveying the street. As I hover in front of what turns out to be his stall, he darts from the doorway and emerges from behind the jars of honey (miel) and olive oil.“Oh, I do like my miel,” I say, emphasising the French word for honey, hoping to appear knowledgeable but sounding more like a menopausal attempt at flirtation. He takes this as his cue to inform me.

In a mixture of French and faltering English, he slowly describes everything on offer. His large, expressive brown eyes gaze intently at me as he assures me that it is the finest quality produce from Provence in the South of France. He is so charming and serious that I am tempted to buy his entire stall. However, I make do with just a couple of purchases – a ‘miel de fleurs’ and some lemon olive oil. I am so easily enticed by a Gallic charmer!

I pass the fish stall several times, eyeing up the sea bass. They look so good - if only I had the foggiest idea how to cook them. I delegated culinary skills to my husband very early in our relationship. We swiftly discovered that my forte is cleaning and washing up after meals, his is cooking them. As I deliberate, a woman confidently strides up to the stall, selects four and asks for them to be filleted. I watch as the fishmonger expertly prepares them for her and I resist a strong urge to tap her on the shoulder and ask what she actually plans to do with them. That night I mention the sea bass to my husband. He immediately reels off a list of options that leave me salivating and more determined than ever to grab some on my next visit.  

'The Village' Diaries


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